Star-studded Animal Rights Documentary to Screen for Free in Wollongong.

Image Source: Dominion Media Photos

The UOW Vegan Society (VEGSOC) will screen animal rights documentary Dominion on Thursday 25th October at the University of Wollongong (UOW) campus.

The free screening aims to educate Wollongong locals on the animal cruelty committed by the Australian meat industry.

Priscilla Huynh, president of VEGSOC, wants to spread awareness and compassion for animal welfare by encouraging a vegan diet.

“We want to educate as many people as we can in the hope that they take action and align their actions with their beliefs,” Ms Huynh said.

sources-of-prot_33785590 (2)Jessica Butt, who had struggled to stick to a strict vegan diet, said Dominion helped her to commit. Butt believed the Australian meat industry killed animals humanely. After watching the trailer, she began to reconsider her values.

“I saw footage of the mother cow chasing her calf. It literally crushed me and a switch went off in my brain,” Butt said.

“I saw chickens, cows, pigs and fish all as my dog – a loving, caring, innocent being.”

“It [the film] turned me completely. I started crying before the movie even started. I didn’t stop the whole time.”

Thursday will be the third time VEGSOC screens the film. 120 people attended the first screening however, Hyun does not expect such a large crowd this time around. In an attempt to raise awareness on a mass scale, the official website for Dominion has offered free online access since October 10.

Chris Delforce, the documentary’s director, used drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the meat industry over seven years. It claims to be an honest portrayal of mankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom hence the film’s title.

The documentary is a sequel to Delforce’s 2014 Lucent which won multiple humanitarian awards for exposing the cruel standards accepted by the Australian pig-farming industry.

Dominion has had high-profile support with celebrities including singer-songwriter Sia, actor Joaquin Phoenix and actress Rooney Mara narrating the film.

As an animal activist, Delforce encourages fellow vegans to fight for animal rights. By providing them with useful information and proof, the director hopes vegans can better educate the public.

43629074_302338060589773_6292609709820084224_n
Ms Huynh protesting with another local activist in Wollongong.

 

Last year UOW was voted Australia’s most vegan-friendly university by PETA. VEGSOC hopes to keep this title in the new year with regular film screenings, BBQ fundraisers and educational picnic days.

Advertisements

Wollongong Couple Rescue Dudley the Pig from Slaughter

Wollongong couple Stacey Calder and Jessy Creer rescued a pig after a Gumtree farmer advertised pigs for slaughter. Dudley, now 160kg, lives in a large pen in the couple’s backyard.

Calder, a vegetarian with ambitions of becoming a veterinary nurse, refers to Dudley as her best friend. However, she often has to compete for Dudley’s attention when their dog Sirius is around.

“Dudley and Sirius love each other. Dudley will often cry when he isn’t around,” Calder said.

Adopting a pig has been a challenging but rewarding experience for the young couple.

“I’d love my own farm to rescue more animals,” Creer said.

“If only we could win the lotto.”

Education or Home Ownership? A Student Dilemma.

The Illawarra’s incessant rising house market is diminishing the dream of home ownership for many young Australians, particularly university students. Unlike previous generations, millennial’s are having to ask themselves, do I value education or home ownership more?

Mid-way through 2017, 60 minutes Australia discussed this struggle with Melbourne luxury property developer Tim Gurner. But with almost half a billion dollars to his name, the millionaire mogul was far from relatable.

Gurner implied that young people can’t afford to buy property because they’re wasting money on “smashed avocado and coffee” (S Levin, 2017). Unsurprisingly, the online backlash ensued.

sold-to-the-kid-eating-avo-toast-2-3466-1476583994-1_dblbig

Gurner went on to claim “They want to eat out every day [and] they want travel to Europe every year.” Given that no one living outside of the rich and famous can really afford this lifestyle; Gurner has dismissed the struggles of young Australians as self inflicted and irrelevant.

In 2017, the Mercury reported Wollongong to be the third most expensive city in Australia, surpassing Sydney in its price growth. Since entering 2018, the market is showing no signs of slowing. This is a problem for all wishful buyers who don’t want the instability of long-term renting. So why are university students more prone to giving up on the ‘Australian dream’ of owning their own home?

In 2011, the coalition abolished the year 10 school certificate in the hope that “…students will stay on to complete the HSC (High School Certificate).” (A Patty, 2011) Fast forward to 2018 and the number of students in higher education has increased significantly compared to previous years. From the outset, this looks fantastic, yet it is important to acknowledge the significant debt that comes with degrees and qualifications. The University of Wollongong’s average cost for bachelor degrees range from $26,448 – $32,400.

Image Origin: The Conversation Australia

As an undergraduate at the University of Wollongong, I can vouch for others who struggle financially. Our HECS government debt, which sits comfortably in the back of the minds of most students, is just the tip of the iceberg. Include textbook costs (usually starting at $100) on top of stationary, parking fees, printing etc. it isn’t cheap.

Another demographic within the student community are the renters or people who ‘share-house’. According to the UOW student introductory page, the median rent for a 3 bedroom house in Wollongong is $470 per week accumulating to $2,037 a month. Mind you, I have never seen prices so cheap on the ‘UOW Buy & Sell’ Facebook page. Then of course, renters must add on the cost of utilities and internet etc. My point being, smashed avocado may just be a luxury us students occasionally give ourselves to say hey, you are doing alright, hang in there.

Research Proposal Plan: 

To gather authentic responses from students I will create a survey for them to answer online. I will also ask students for their view on home ownership and if it is still the ‘Australia dream.’ Because if the majority say no, than this research paper could point to a generation of willing renters and perhaps a permanent change in the Australian housing market where owning homes will be a thing of the past.

Through academic journal papers, news articles and data research, I aim to provide an honest and objective response to student opinion; making sure what they claim can be backed up by evidence. For instance, analyzing academic, food and transport costs at the University of Wollongong and how much this amount accumulates to throughout a students time at the university. Ultimately, I want to remain as objective as possible as I pose the question; ‘do you feel you are choosing your education over home ownership?’

References: 

Australian Education Network 2018 [online], Tuition Fees, University of Wollongong (UOW) Profile, accessed: 14/03/18, available: http://www.australianuniversities.com.au/profiles/university-of-wollongong-uow.html

Duke, J 2017, Wollongong revealed as Australia’s third most expensive city with price growth outpacing Sydney, Illawarra Mercury [online], accessed: 12/03/18, available: http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4425081/wollongong-revealed-as-australias-third-most-expensive-city/

Levin, S 2017, Millionaire tell millennials: if you want a house, stop buying avocado toast, The Guardian [online], accessed: 13/03/18, available: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/15/australian-millionaire-millennials-avocado-toast-house

NineNews.com.au 2017 [online], ‘Don’t buy $19 smashed avocado’: Melbourne property tycoon hammers millennials over spending habits’, accessed: 14/03/18, available: https://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/05/15/08/39/melbourne-property-tycoon-hammers-millennials-over-spending-habits#AefJMO779aIiZ4ud.99

Parr, N 2015, Who goes to university? The changing profile of our students, The Conversation [online], accessed: 14/03/18, available: https://theconversation.com/who-goes-to-university-the-changing-profile-of-our-students-40373

Patty, A 2011, Coalition to abort year 10 certificate, The Sydney Morning Herald [online], accessed: 14/03/18, available: https://www.smh.com.au/education/coalition-to-abolish-year-10-certificate-20110803-1ibos.html

 

Sit Down with an EX-Con

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” – Tony (Ex-convicted criminal)

It is fascinating the way in which people hesitate to talk to someone who has been through our judicial system. It is as if their experiences must be biased or a straight out fabrication. This article aims to change that perception, at least for the man I had the pleasure to get to know. To protect his identity I have named him Tony. By remaining somewhat anonymous, we eliminate the need to think through responses just in case his answers could get back to him.  Therefore this short interview is an honest portrayal of life after and during incarceration.

Since the late 1960’s to approximately 10 years ago, Tony has served fourteen years in some form of incarceration. His first offense was stealing milk money that people would leave on their doorsteps. Tony confessed he was a young surfer, a bit of a rebel at that and wanted some money for the day. After being caught in the act, he was sent to a state-run government ‘Boys Home’ where “systematic abuse was always going on”.

“It was a bit of a fucking rude-awakening for me”. Tony, like myself when hearing about his first convicted crime, did not expect to end up at a Boys Home. He explained how the facility ran on a point system where guards had the power to reward and take away points from inmates depending on their behavior. Although this seems like a constructive approach, it was a “vicious system” that surprisingly divided inmates from each other whilst successfully banding together guards and inmates who were “the best fighters”.

Although a juvenile facility, the Boys Home ran on divisions ranging from 1-6 to control the population. Tony remembers section 1 consisted of the strongest, quickest and best fighters while the others were mixed. To receive privileges and get ahead, members from group 1 would work with the guards.

“One day we were all out working on the field, there were no guards around so I took my chance and dropped my shovel and ran as fast as I could. One of the boys from section 1 came after me and chased me down, I was punished soon after and sent to solitary. I then knew how the game was played.”

 The guards would also return the favor by organizing certain groups to be left alone whilst turning a blind eye to the violence that would ensue.

 “You always knew there would be a fight when the guards called for toilet breaks and left group 1 and another group alone. Everyone knew someone was getting bashed. This was just one of the ways the guards would get their favorites to do their dirty work”.

I asked Tony whether things could have been different for him. Keeping in mind, he did re-offend and would later experience life inside some of Australia’s most notorious prisons. I posed the question, “If you had received community service, for arguments sake, rather than be sent away to the Boys Home, would things have turned out differently?’ Tony didn’t hesitate before agreeing wholeheartedly. And when we discussed the difference between adult prisons and juvenile facilities he casually responded, “the ball game doesn’t change, just the players”. In fact, many of the players had stayed the same. Stemming from his time at the boys home, entering prison was a lot easier for Tony than most others. People he shared his juvenile sentence with were now also adults who were facing tougher and longer sentences. This is where the point of this article becomes clear, the judicial system is not helping rehabilitate and reintegrate, in this case young offenders, back into society. Sending Tony to the Boys Home may have been effective, that is if the guards spent more time learning about the young man who had troubles at home and difficulty finding himself. Instead, they abused their power and set in place an ever-lasting power struggle between people like Tony and authority.

1fb4e486023c710d798bd41e3283b3ec
Long-Bay Jail, Sydney NSW Australia

ail in 1970’s Australia were derelict facilities flirting with sickness and disease due to their lack of hygiene. Tony recalls Long-Bay JailGoulburn Correctional Centre and Bathurst Correctional Complex  all used “shit-tubs” rather than actual toilets. If you did not use these tubs outside of your cell, you ran the risk of using it alongside cell-mates. Since eating regimes consisted inside the cells and the tubs were changed only once a week, this was an obvious concern. Tony admitted it stripped his humanity for some time, “you felt like an animal but that’s just the way it was in those days.” In contrast, today’s prisons have dramatically changed their exterior shell. Cleaner cells and more humane conditions improved living standards but the facilities themselves face a new set of problems, “When I re-entered prison it was a culture-shock. It was like things looked better but problems were still there. They are just run by gangs now and I can’t see that changing any time soon”.

Unlike the vast majority who struggle with life after incarceration, Tony was given a chance at life as a functioning member of society. Once released,

 “I was lucky. I worked on a water front where they don’t hold criminal records against you. They tried to get them on the straight and narrow…to earn legally. It’s common sense, if you don’t look after people they will look after themselves. They just need someone to believe in them and give them a start, sure 80% will fuck up but the 20% that don’t, deserve the second chance.”

shutterstock_132522605

After years of struggling with authority, probation restrictions and re-offending, Tony has proven to himself and his loved ones that he can function in the outside world. Yet its wrong to assume his reintegration owes thanks to his time in incarceration. The judicial system works to “….break you down and then you have to fight”. Time passes but feelings of resentment and frustration linger, “I’m still fighting them to this day” Tony admits laughing.

More information on BreakTheCycle AU – click here.

Phone Photography: A Human Right & An Ethical Dilemma.

Legal repercussions force us to re-think our actions. After all, laws are set in place to prevent crime as well as punish perpetrators which in turn provides emotional and/or financial compensation to the victims. Easy enough? Yet here is the kicker; ethical conduct, at least in regards to street photography, relies on individual choice rather than a punishable system. There is obviously less emphasis on how we consider our actions when we are not legally accountable. For example, I like many others held a “…mistaken belief that the consent of the parents or guardian must be obtained before children can be photographed” (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2017, p.2). The photographer has the choice to notify the parents or the child, or to continue on.

As the vast majority of western civilization are smartphone owners, we have convenient access to high quality cameras. It is therefore an individual code of ethics that we choose to conduct ourselves by. In a perfect society, we would be mindful of emotional, physical and psychological harm. But alas, society will never attain perfection. With this in mind, I took a photograph in a public space of a woman engaged in her media devices. *An important note: the iconic blue bar at the top of her laptop screen tells me she was logged onto Facebook.

Processed with VSCO with 7 preset
An image of a alfresco area OR a woman unknowingly captured?

This image not only illustrates the ease of photographing people in a public space, it validates our reality; we, who engage in social media, play a part in an ongoing cycle of victims and perpetrators. The crimes however, are subjective and depend on whether you fall into the category of victim or perpetrator. This woman may take great offense to having her image taken, all the while sharing or liking images and videos of strangers who have also been unknowingly captured. If we engage with such content because it’s funny or even insightful and bares no legal repercussions, what else do we grow to accept?

There is a plethora of graphic and disturbing content that swarms the internet. More recently, such content has been viewed and shared on social media platforms like Facebook. Although these sites have ethical codes which attempt to monitor harmful content, it is an unrealistic goal. Photo uploads alone total 300 million per day (Zephoria Digital Marketing 2017). And with Facebook’s introduction of ‘Facebook Live’ where users stream in the moment, the job of safeguarding content is even harder. The result is a desensitized generation and many are producing their own content to shock or humiliate.

In April 2017, 19 year old Serena McKay was beaten to death in a group assault. The incident was live streamed on Facebook which led to the arrest of two teenage girls. Another upsetting incident which was repeatedly shared and received international attention was the text messages between (then 17 year old) Michelle Carter and her ex-boyfriend 18 year old Conrad Roy III. Over a period of months, Carter had encouraged and verbally assisted in the planning of Roy’s suicide. The messages show a reluctant Roy get out of his carbon monoxide-filled truck and Carter demanding he “get back in…you just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it.” Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and faces up to 20 years incarceration.

Facebook users re-uploaded the video of Serena McKay and the text messages between Carter and Roy after they had been taken down. Although their efforts directly assisted police and lawyers in prosecuting the perpetrators, we should reflect on their lack of ethical responsibility. The video of McKay’s death was extremely graphic and upsetting to her family, community and friends. Yet, one could argue that the ends justify the means as her killers face jail time. This ideology has led to a new sub-culture of ‘Cop Watchers’ to combat police brutality in the NYPD division.

When an event unfolds, our first reaction is to capture it on our mobile devices. More often than not, this content finds itself on social media without the consent of people in the video/image. We are not held legally accountable for sharing such content even if it is graphic or shameful for those involved. Instead, we conduct ourselves by an individual code of ethics. Social media users mould this code to suit their own interests, whether it be to expose police brutality or to make their friend laugh. Regardless, we must acknowledge the immense power we hold in our hands as we actively share, like and comment without a second thought.

This brings me to my next venture; the Reflective Project. For this assignment, I will research further into this contemporary problem of personal devices and public space. Stolen identities created on social media accounts is a dangerous reality for many users. To explain, I will go through Facebook’s policies surrounding photo ownership and how it is a system that protects perpetrators. As this is a multi-media task, I could use videography to record either previous victims or have someone act out a scenario where their identity has been stolen. I have found some alarming statistics to validate this issue, such as their being 83 million fake profiles on Facebook (Zephoria Digital Marketing 2017).  Continue reading Phone Photography: A Human Right & An Ethical Dilemma.

VHS Killed the Drive-In (Star)

The drive-in theater, when first introduced to Australia in 1954, was an overnight success (Goldsmith 1999). With only a handful still in existence today, it begs the question why so? And more importantly, how did we let slip such an iconic cinema experience? Drive-in theaters offered patrons a public space in which movie-goers (in particular pubescent teens) socialized, ate choc-tops and flirted with adult liberties (like making out in the back of your boyfriend’s car). For many, it was the private conversations, personal experiences and the gathering of sub-cultures that shaped its atmosphere.

524c65c66aea6430ef0acf97ade109ef--vintage-kiss-vintage-couples
‘A couple making out at the Drive-In movie theater. Ohio, 1950s’ -Photo Source: Pinterest

New South Wale’s South Coast has always been a popular breeding spot for surfers. As depicted in the cult-classic novel Puberty Blues, those living by the coast in the 1970’s would often end their nights at the drive-in. Of course, actually watching the movie was not a priority. Once belonging to this sub-culture, Jenean (Nina) Draper was a vivacious blonde living in Kiama – an hour and a half south of Sydney. Nina recalls, “It (the drive-in) was a place where you could come for a laugh. The cars next to you would be bouncing up and down because they were having a root!” Just like the characters in the novel, Nina would catch a ride in her boyfriend’s Sand Man Holden Panel Van. It was not unusual to find three or more friends hidden beneath a mattress to avoid entrance fees, “…the guards would look in the back with a torch but the security was relaxed. People would even sneak alcohol and marijuana in, I suppose that explains the comical scenes that would take place!” 

To understand the sudden drop in patronage and subsequent closure of most drive-in theaters we can look to Swedish geographer Torsten Hagerstrand. Hagerstrand’s conceptual framework of time geography analysed individual movement in time and space (Neutens, Witlox & Demaeyer 2007). More importantly, it outlined spatio-temporal constraints that could potentially affect an individuals daily activities. I am going to refer to such constraints and how they relate to the closure of Nina’s local drive-in: the Lakeline Drive-In Theatre.

  1. Capability Constraints. These refer to physical or biological factors such as the need to sleep or eat, access to mobility tools and the availability of temporal and financial resources (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Following the release of VHS tapes as a convenient way to watch movies at home, patrons lacked the physical desire to travel – resulting in loss of petrol and finances (Parkinson 1995).
  2. Coupling Constraints. These are restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time needed to coordinate with institutional logistics (schedules) or interactions with other individuals (appointments/meetings) (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Nina mentioned Lakeline as one of two drive-in facilities in the Illawarra. For many, this meant an allocated driver would need to pick up friends (often across long distances) to arrive at the venue together. This could be a nuisance to the driver, particularly after ‘Midnight to Dawn’ sessions as they would need to make the same stops during the early hours of the morning.
  3. Authority Constraints. These are limits imposed by external parties (rules and regulations) (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Lakeline, as many other theaters do, forbid minors from attending without supervision and provided a security presence. However, it was the introduction of random breath testing by NSW police that negatively impacted the theater (Parkinson 1995).
Instagram-e605a7
Photo Source: Memedroid

As outlined by Nina, the drive-in served as a place of dysfunction, fond memories and often romance. I know I despise its closure. Yet, perhaps the drive-in could only exist in a more innocent society; one before random breath testing and VHS tapes. It was a place where the social needs of the ‘puberty blues’ generation could be satisfied. And a time when you could be content in the arms of your lover, whilst laughter filled the air and the cars around you bounced enthusiastically.

Continue reading VHS Killed the Drive-In (Star)

Why Television Feels Like Home.

Historic moments, to those who experience them firsthand and to those who have learnt about such experiences – stand out as socio-spatial points in time. In layman’s terms, they make you reflect on where you were, who you were with and how you felt when such goings-on occurred. In 1956, Australians were introduced to a technological marvel – the television. A historic moment in itself, television also marked the substantial progression of the ‘public sphere’ (where citizens debate social and political issues of the day).

Different from its predecessor the radio; television combines visual and audio components to attract and engage viewers. Absorbing news, politics and pop-culture has never been easier. The television series Gogglebox airs the opinions of relatable Australians – documenting an active public sphere which encourages viewers to participate. We are entertained whilst subconsciously forming opinions and taking in information.

Gogglebox reiterates this idea of socio-spatial moments and the evident culture around watching television. Those featured on the program are relaxed; they speak freely in their living rooms. There is an aura of safety and comfort. For most of us, we too sit in our designated spot alongside family, a friend or partner and share this feeling. Whether we realize it or not, a space has been created around our television; we laugh, cry, debate and ultimately feel connected to the world and the person sitting beside us.

Dennis Turner, an elderly Illawarra man, remembers the introduction of television came shortly after Germany’s defeat in WWII. For Turner, and many other teenagers in the 1950’s, to remember television is to remember it as a distraction from the horrors of war. Turner’s own father served for Australia, “It wasn’t discussed…you didn’t know what was going on or if he would come home.”

Aged just 17, Turner along with his mates, would enter local pubs for the sole purpose of watching television, “they knew we were underage but they let us come in and watch with everyone else…I don’t think I even listened to what the person inside the television was saying, I was too busy trying to take it all in…it was amazing.” 

Reiterating this idea of socio-spatial moments and how they relate to television, we can look at iconic or historic moments aired on-screen. As the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death looms near, current affairs programs release ‘exclusive’ interviews and ‘never-before-seen’ images of the princess. Footage of the incident is used to remind viewers of how they felt when they first found out. My own mother becomes emotional when watching such reports, “I’ll never forget it. It was during the Olympics and you were just a baby. ‘Breaking News’ came across the screen and they said she was dead. I couldn’t stop crying.” 

Over the years, television has come to represent more than a device for entertainment. It has an assigned spot in our living rooms, making our relationship with the media more intimate. The culture surrounding television involves active participation in the public sphere but in the privacy of our homes. Socio-spatial moments we witness via our television can connect people, even on an international level. Still not convinced? Ask yourself: “Where was I when news of 9/11 aired?”