Monthly Archives: October 2018

How to stop procrastinating when it comes to exercise

Posted on 17/10/2018 by

Photo: Jakob HelbigAccording to ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Personally, not having a day-to-day, hour-by-hour plan would see my world collapse into chaos pretty quickly, so I’m happy to risk it going tits up after a punch in the face (thanks Mike), and I’m picking that you’d agree.

So yes, I’m a planner, particularly when it comes to fitness. I ask my 12 Week Body Transformation members to carefully map out every detail of their lives to accommodate training, shopping and cooking, as I know it is vital for success. But sometimes the world seems plan-crazy, with endless planning meetings and people employed just to maintain our diaries and to plan meetings to arrange more planning meetings. So while I get the importance of careful planning, sometimes it comes at the expense of planning’s little friend: action! Without action, planning becomes irrelevant. Those careful hours of preparation will then be unceremoniously flushed down the toilet of inactivity.

That is when I pull out my JFDI card. For the uninitiated, JFDI stands for “Just Do It” (flavoured with a colourful profanity that, I might add, is designed to express the urgency of the task at hand and a degree of frustration at its tardy execution). Like, for goodness sake: just get on with it! Stop procrastinating, making excuses, bitching and whingeing. Just. Freakin’. DO IT.

Exercise is the prime reason for whipping out the old JFDI card. If I hear one more, “I must get back to training” or “I must get fit so I can go to the gym” or “I must get flexible so I can get back to yoga”, I’m going to stick something sharp in my eye.

Weirdly, the agonising over getting started is often worse than the task itself. We can find ourselves self-flagellating over not getting on with it sooner, and bask in the strange sense of fulfilment we get when we stand up from a long spell in front of the computer and are greeted by stiff and sore leg muscles.

And now is the time. In just 28 days, it will be spring.

Michelle’s tipAdd a timeline to any plan you make – then stick to it!

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Sydneysiders choking on the air they breathe

Posted on 17/10/2018 by

Smog screen: Emissions from coal-fired power stations, motor vehicles and wood fire heaters have been identified as the main problem. Photo: Kate Geraghty Sydney Harbour

Ongoing exposure to air pollution will cut months from the life expectancy of Sydneysiders, a new report says.

Long-time city residents will have their lives reduced by an estimated 72 days for men and 65 for women by ongoing inhalation of fine particle pollution.

Emissions from coal-fired power stations, motor vehicles and wood fire heaters have been identified as the main contributors to the toxic cocktail, which causes an estimated 520 deaths in Sydney every year, based on exposure to 2008 levels, as well as being linked to cardiovascular and asthma hospitalisations.

Sydney’s air kills more people than traffic accidents. Last year the NSW road toll was 339.

The health risk assessment of air pollution in Australia report was released on Thursday by the National Environment Protection Council as part of its work developing mandatory national standards for fine particle emissions.

Barry Buffier, NSW Environment Protection Authority chairman and chief executive, said the effects of air pollution on human health were significant. He said the impact statement has been developed with all states and territories and was supported by a large body of scientific evidence and robust analysis.

For the past 15 years Sydney’s Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has measured the city’s air quality and surrounds with a particular focus on the tiny aerosols that circulate but cannot be seen.

David Cohen, the head of ANSTO’s aerosol-sampling program, said the quality of Sydney’s air had improved markedly from 30 years ago but that improvement had stablised since 2008. Professor Cohen said the ongoing reliance on coal-fired power generation and population growth tied to increasing vehicle usage threatened to reverse hard-won improvements.

The concentration of these particles varies during the seasons, but, as a whole, fine particle pollution has serious health implications. A study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal found that 2.1 million people died prematurely each year because of fine particle pollution, particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Most deaths were from cardiopulmonary disease and a smaller percentage from lung cancer.

Professor Cohen said the city’s pollution could be halved if emissions from coal-fired power stations, wood fires and diesel vehicles were turned off immediately “if we had a magic switch”. ”Between 50 and 60 per cent of the airborne sulphate in the Sydney basin is generated by the 25 million tonnes of coal burnt in the eight major power stations in NSW,” Professor Cohen said.

NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant has advocated her support for banning and phasing out solid fuel heaters in built-up urban areas as an option to control wood smoke.

The health risk assessment report, a collaboration between the University of Sydney, Southern Cross University, the University of Western Sydney and University of Wollongong, found if the amount of fine particle pollution was reduced by up to 17 per cent the impacts would be immediate. In the first year of reduced exposure, there would be 140 fewer deaths in Sydney, they estimated.

Researchers Professor Geoff Morgan, Dr Richard Broome and Professor Bin Jalaludin acknowledged  “the impacts of air pollution on health cannot be directly counted, and must be evaluated from estimates of health risk based on scientific research”.

Asthma Foundation NSW chief executive Michele Goldman said the move towards mandatory air quality standards was overdue and focused attention on the need to upgrade air quality monitoring.

“A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows Australia has failed to halt the dangerous rise in air pollution,” Ms Goldman said.  “These new standards will help us focus on the major sources of pollution, motor vehicles, wood burning stoves and power stations and various industrial activities and how to limit pollution from those sources.”

“This also presents an opportunity to overhaul our air quality monitoring systems. According to the EPA’s own listing there are only six stations capable of monitoring PM2.5 in the whole Sydney region, only two of those located in the main metropolitan concentration with none in the CBD. The foundation questions the EPA’s claim that the current arrangement will be sufficient to provide a true snapshot of Sydney’s air pollution.”

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Rats plague vulnerable elderly of Millers Point, UN told

Posted on 17/10/2018 by

Troubled waters: The former Sydney Ports Harbour Control Tower at Millers Point. Photo: David Porter Barangaroo Photo: David Porter

Hordes of rats up are “moving up the hill” as wharves are knocked down at Barangaroo and 600 public housing tenants are “forcibly displaced”, a United Nations aged care conference has been told in New York.

The rats are relocating to Millers Point, where bubonic plague broke out in 1902, and residents say they are using towels to barricade their bedrooms to keep them out.

It wasn’t exactly the image Australia was trying to present to the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing beamed worldwide on the UN’s own television network.

Earlier in the session, First Secretary (Human Rights), Australian Mission, Tanisha Hewanpola told delegates that Australia was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of older persons.

“Nationally Australia has introduced a range of policies and other initiatives aimed at strengthening the protection of older persons,” she said.

But Sydney lawyer Kim Boettcher, from the Aged-care Rights Service, didn’t seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet when she stood up to address the session on Thursday afternoon.

She told delegates of “a storm brewing on the edge of Sydney Harbour which epitomises the problem we face with no international legal instrument for older people in place”.

Over the past year residents had been door knocked and interviewed by the authorities with no legal representation, no attorney, no guardian or even a support person in the room, telephoned, texted and inundated with letters about moving out, Ms Boettcher said.

“As the wharves are being knocked down for the casino to be built, hordes of rats are moving up the hill and to the area where these people live.  Nothing is being done about the rats.” she said.

“It is clear that we need infrastructure, businesses and healthy national economies but not by breaching the human rights of older people.

“The residents are being asked to sign consent forms over a cup of tea and an informal chat, which would result in the handing over of all of their most personal medical, legal and family information …   It is left to attorneys and advocates to raise the alarm.

“It so easy to move people on once you know all about them and you can find an excuse to put them in an aged care home, under the care of the state guardian, in a mental health facility … but which isolates from their lifelong friends and community.

“One of the elderly residents told me last week that to relocate them away from their community, is ‘one step short of putting you up against a wall and shooting you because it’s saying you are of no value to society.  You are worthless.’ ” she said.

Lawyer Edwina Lloyd, who has been selected as the ALP candidate for Sydney, has also stepped in to defend the residents.

Ms Lloyd said the UN speech meant the Baird government’s disrespectful treatment of older people was now on the international agenda and that the performance of Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton had become a global embarrassment.

“If the sale of Millers Point residences continues, it will damage the state’s reputation as a modern, progressive and caring society that takes the rights of older people seriously,” she said.

“At the very least, Minister Upton should front up and talk to the people she is displacing.  They have written to her, called her and even gone to her office, but she will not even pay the tenants the basic courtesy of speaking to them.

“The Baird government has underestimated the resilience and determination of the Millers Point community.  They don’t intend on going anywhere.

“But Mike Baird can step in right now, fix the mess and the stop the sales.  He can stop pressuring tenants to leave their homes, and start supporting this beautiful but vulnerable community.”

Opposition spokeswoman for housing and local government Sophie Cotsis said the government had no plans for the area or for new housing.

“Where are the proceeds going? There is no allocation in the budget,” she said.

“If any of the money was to go back into the public housing system that would be in the 2014/15 budget and I can’t find a reference to the proposed sale. My concern is this is just going to be a massive fire sale and the taxpayers of NSW will lose.

“Which other properties are the government going to sell around the city? Will they be selling places at Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Redfern and Waterloo?

“Housing will be an election issue. This government is selling off more public housing properties than they have built. They have halved the housing budget and they are not serious about building public housing if they were they would have had a proper strategic plan. The auditor general made a recommendation last year in July to the government to release a social housing policy and we are still waiting for it.”

A statement from the Department of Family and Community Services said rats were a perennial problem for the inner city and that the department has not received any reports of increased rodent activity in Millers Point.

It stated the IPad offer was not linked to the Millers Point project and was part of an incentive offered to public housing tenants across NSW to take part in a customer survey about internet and smartphone usage.

Of the minister’s involvement it said an independent project facilitator, Lynelle Briggs, had been appointed by the NSW Government to manage the Millers Point project.

It stated: ‘All proceeds from the sales will be reinvested in the social housing system as required under the Housing Act 2001.This will be in addition to Government’s current budgeted program for new supply of social housing in 2013/14, which  includes commencing 276 new builds and forecasts completing 379 in that period.’

It said the Millers Point properties were increasingly unsuitable for public housing, with many of the older premises presenting problems for tenants with mobility issues and that they were isolated from local amenities.

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Life’s tough when you are homeless and have a dog

Posted on 16/10/2018 by

Don’t give up: Alex Anderson and George. Photo: Brendan EspositoLife’s tough when you are living on the streets. It’s tougher trying to find a bed for the night when you have a dog in tow. Most hostels don’t welcome canine sleepovers. But for Alex Anderson, it’s a tale with a happy ending. On the eve of Homeless Persons’ Week, he is no longer part of the statistics which in March showed a 26 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets of Sydney. Mr Anderson was living in Jubilee Park,  Glebe where he had settled for six months after a relationship breakdown. Now he lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Pyrmont, he has qualified as a forklift truck driver and is about to start a job.

He is also about to become a YouTube celebrity after the charity Professionals 4 People and crisis accommodation hostel Jewish House in Bondi made a heartwarming movie about the transformation of his life.   It starts with Rabbi Mendel Kastel convincing Mr Anderson in February to leave his pitch in the park, sees him arrive at the hostel, get a haircut and new clothes. Even George, his dog, got checked over by a veterinary surgeon. Asked about life in the park, he said: “I used to have to stay awake all the time in case I woke up to find my dog had gone. Quiet but not really quiet. Wondering whether someone was going to come and rob you or not. “I wasn’t going to give my dog up. I’d like to thank Jewish House, without them I wouldn’t be able to have kept George.” Of his new apartment, he said, “It’s the Taj Mahal.” With some advice for others sleeping on the streets, he added: “Don’t give up. Never give up. If I can do it, anybody can do it. You have just got to find one person who will help you.” Professionals 4 People, which connects young professionals with charitable organisations that require their services, has launched a campaign called #time4good encouraging people to get involved with their communities. Founder Lyndi Polivnick said: “I could have spent my time watching TV but I thought I’d do something a bit useful. It has been so worthwhile. I think the video might go viral.” Rabbi Kastel, the CEO of Jewish House, said: “People who are homeless deserve to be treated like everyone else – with respect and care. That is why it is so encouraging to see young professionals using their spare time to support the homeless, a disadvantaged group of people who are very often overlooked by society,”

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Skipping school for just one day affects NAPLAN results, study finds

Posted on 16/10/2018 by

School of life: Leonie Percy, her son Lael, and partner Jarko Laukkanen. Photo: James AlcockLike SMH Student on FacebookEducation: full coverage

Missing just one day of school has negative consequences for a student’s academic achievement, the first major study linking poor attendance to lower NAPLAN results has found.

And school attendance patterns established as early as year 1 can predict how often a student will show up to class right through high school, according to the research.

The average public school student in NSW misses almost three weeks of school each year. Australia is alarmingly slack when it comes to school attendance, with high school students skipping more days of school than almost any other developed country.

On Monday, the harmful effects of that absenteeism will be exposed by the results of a study to be presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research’s annual conference.

An analysis of the attendance records and NAPLAN results of more than 400,000 students from Western Australia found any absence from school leads to a decline in academic performance.

The study dispels the belief there is a safe level of absence students can get away with before their grades will suffer.

“We were able to show that actually every day counts and days that you’re missing in year 3 and year 5, we can detect that all the way through to year 9,” the report’s co-author, Stephen Zubrick, from the University of Western Australia, said.

“A 10-day period of unauthorised absence in a year is sufficient to drop a child about a band in the NAPLAN testing.”

Year 3 numeracy achievement in 2012 declined by 1.6 NAPLAN points for every unauthorised day of absence in the first two terms of that year.

The most startling finding,  Professor Zubrick said, was that students arrive in year 1 “with their school attendance careers already in their pockets”.

“For most children, year 1 sets the pattern for what school attendance will look like in the future,” Professor Zubrick said. “You’re learning more than reading and writing. You’re learning to show up.”

Absence was found to have a greater impact on writing than it did on numeracy and reading.

While poor attendance is a problem across the socio-economic spectrum, families in affluent areas often interrupt schooling for overseas holidays.

Professor Zubrick insists his message is not about finger wagging or guilt trips, but says “we do need to recognise that when a child is standing on the Eiffel Tower, so to speak, they may be learning a lot about the world but they’re not necessarily learning everything they’d be learning at school.”

The average attendance rate for NSW public school students in 2013 was 92.6 per cent – about 14 days off per year – and has been relatively consistent over the past decade. Attendance is much poorer among high school students with the average student missing 20 days per year.

Julie Townsend, the headmistress of St Catherine’s School in Waverley, said the girls’ school had a “very strict” attendance policy and did not consider a family holiday to be an appropriate reason for missing school.

“We [tell parents] that we only teach for about 185 days a year and we expect that they take their holidays during the very generous holiday period,” she said. “If the parents go – and that’s just happened this week – we call them in and we talk about the breakdown of our relationship and that our values aren’t aligned. We take a very hard line on it.”

She said acceptable grounds for leave could include compassionate reasons, health complications or the commitments of elite athletes.

In a major international survey of 15 year olds, conducted by the OECD in 2012, almost one-third of Australian students said they had skipped at least one day of school in the previous two weeks.

That means Australian students skip school more frequently than any other developed country except Turkey and Italy. In high-performing countries such as Japan and Korea that figure was less than two per cent.

The NSW Education Department’s school attendance policy states principals have the authority to grant students exemptions from school for up to 100 days per year. Reasons can include family holidays if they are “in the best educational interests of the child”, employment in the entertainment industry or participation in elite sporting events.

Ross Tarlinton, the headmaster of St Joseph’s College, said it was always his priority to maximise a student’s attendance but he would make exceptions for ill-health, family or sporting commitments and occasionally travel.

“I had a boy who went with his father who was doing some pro bono medical work in a Third World country for a short period of time to have that experience and I let him go,” he said. “That boy came back so rich for the experience. ”

The head of SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Jenny Allum, said understandingthat you have to show up even when something else might be more desirable is an important life lesson.

“School isn’t something you normally or mostly do. It’s something you always do,” she said.

”If you’re making a commitment to something else over school, boy that better be important.”

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