Monthly Archives: January 2019

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EDITORIAL: When thin is far from healthy

Children as young as eight battling anorexia

A NEW day program at James Fletcher House for adults seeking treatment for eating disorders is a welcome addition to the Hunter Region’s specialist health services.

Designed to treat people without resorting to hospital admission – while catering for those at ‘‘high risk’’ having finished hospital treatment – the James Fletcher program will cater for eight people at a time over a 12-week course.

Against this, credible estimates have as many as 8000 people living with eating disorders in the Hunter, with as many as 1000 of that number being young people aged between 10 and 14.

As Hunter New England Health eating disorder co-ordinator Melissa Hart acknowledges, ‘‘family therapy’’ is still the key treatment for children with clinically significant eating disorders.

The two most significant of these conditions are anorexia nervosa – where sufferers become dangerously under-weight – and bulimia nervosa, or binge eating followed by purging.

The term anorexia was coined in the 1870s by Sir William Gull, a physician to Queen Victoria, but it has taken until the modern era to affect people in the numbers it does today.

Fletcher resident Amber Walter, who has opened up about her battles to encourage others, describes anorexia as a ‘‘sneaky, clever illness’’ that is ‘‘incredibly difficult to treat’’.

Its complexity means it is as much a reflection of our modern society as a condition affecting people as individuals.

Anorexia was originally found mostly among people whose pursuits required, or resulted in, a thin physique: high-level athletics, dancing and modelling are the three obvious examples.

But it long ago left those small cliques, and is now firmly established in the mainstream population, although it remains far more prevalent among girls and women than among boys and men.

For girls and young women especially, the importance that society places on looks – and its equation of being thin with being healthy – results in enormous pressure to conform to popular norms of appearance.

And now, on top of the countless magazines and their impossibly air-brushed cover models, comes the viral world of social media, with a whole new set of sites and images to heighten the impact on vulnerable teenage girls.

While some youngsters will grow out of an obsession with being thin, others will not, and the sad reality is that anorexia, at its worst, can be a killer.

The complex nature of the condition calls for proper funding of a range of treatments for what is clearly a significant public health issue. Parents concerned about their children should seek help and advice. And all of us should heed Ms Walter’s words highlighting the importance of ‘‘a community of acceptance and understanding’’.

MICHAEL McGOWAN: Port needs fresh start

Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie

ON Tuesday night, at the Port Stephens Council’s farcical meeting, the words ‘‘vote grabbing’’ kept coming up.

The councillors, in fits of indignation that kept bubbling throughout the three-hour verbal combat session, berated one another for putting on performances for the packed public gallery, and, presumably, for the ratepayers who would hear about it later.

The mayor, Bruce MacKenzie, accused councillor Geoff Dingle of vote grabbing for his opposition to the subdivision of 4.3hectares of Boomerang Park in Raymond Terrace. Cr Dingle, in turn, likened Cr MacKenzie’s support for it as same. If that’s true, they went about it the wrong way.

Tuesday’s spectacle was so unedifying that it would be hard to mount an argument that anyone in the room came out of it with their reputation improved.

From Steve Tucker’s public apology for disparaging comments he made about Peter Kafer before the state election, to Cr Kafer and Ken Jordan’s bizarre shouting match prompted by, of all things, their knowledge of crystal meth addiction.

Even some members of the gallery behaved churlishly, interjecting so frequently that at one point the meeting had to take a 15 minute adjournment.

From Newcastle, the view of the Port Stephens Council, when one is formed, is generally of an enigmatic basket case led under the quasi-dictatorial influence of Cr MacKenzie.

Events like Tuesday’s meeting might almost be dismissed as par for the course, but the truth is that it was a release that has been building. It was only the third meeting of its new term, in October 2012, that councillors voted to include a reference to Jesus in their council prayer at the behest of conservative Christian councillor Sally Dover.

Cr Dover had run third in the mayoral race and directed her preferences to Cr MacKenzie over Cr Dingle. The new prayer, and Cr Dover’s installation as deputy, were widely interpreted as part of the arrangement.

It was a cynical and predictably divisive decision, made only to appease an ally and assure an unbeatable majority in the chamber. It set the tone for the kind of forceful leadership that prompted Tuesday night’s unloading of grievances from the public, led by new Labor MP Kate Washington.

The imposing majority that Cr MacKenzie controls was detailed in the Newcastle Herald’s Bruce Almighty investigation last year, and he has shown no hesitation to use it.

When Cr MacKenzie states that he is confident a controversial issue will pass the council, it is a faith well-founded in fact.

This, of course, is not an issue in and of itself. Voting blocs exist in every council, though hopefully, unlike Port Stephens, they are more faithfully disclosed before elections.

And it would be unfair on Cr MacKenzie and his disciples to ignore that they have achieved things this term.

However too many decisions – most notably the awarding in 2013 of a Williamtown sand lease to a Nathan Tinkler-backed company against the recommendations of council staff, a decision that continues to haunt them – seem not to have been made with just the interests of ratepayers in mind.

So, back to vote grabbing. Whether anyone was performing for votes, which is doubtful, it seemed clear on Tuesday that the councillors had next year’s local government elections on their mind. The question at this point is, will the new council look any different?

Both Cr MacKenzie and his most obvious opponent, Cr Dingle, are coy on the matter of whether they will run again. The truth, though they would be unlikely to admit it publicly, is that if they do, they may be motivated by their mutual and seething dislike for one another.

Cr Jordan’s landslide loss in the state election after Cr MacKenzie publicly backed him is at least a hint that his once-legendary appeal has dimmed, and Cr Dinglehas as many detractors as he has admirers.

Of the others already on the council, John Nell is perhaps the only one who enjoys the respect of both sides, but he is unlikely to want the job. Cr Tucker and Cr Jordan, both Liberal Party members, are the obvious candidates.

Tuesday night showed that this is a council in need of fresh voices, unburdened by years of grievances and allegiances.

Protesters outside Port Stephens council this week.

OPINION: Good blokes may not win premierships

THERE has been a lot of talk and focus on community engagement as a goal of the Newcastle Knights, and that’s fair enough.

Do you remember the scenes of euphoria witnessed at the civic reception, days after the 1997 grand final win? The thousands that were present and the hundreds of thousands throughout the valley could not have felt more a part of the club. That’s community engagement.

Today, we find a club that is ‘‘strategically focused’’ on regaining the community’s engagement. I reckon we should be more focused on winning and making the tough decisions that will lead to that.

In 1988 I became one of only 600 foundation members of the Newcastle Knights. I was at the Sydney Football Stadium for the grand final win against Manly in 1997 and in the front row screaming my lungs out when we won against Parra in 2001.

My wife says that I am a nicer person to be around when the Knights win. In short, I care, perhaps too much, about the red and blue.

As someone who is a member of the Knights community, the business community and the Hunter community generally, I feel the need to speak out about what is bugging me about the Knights.

I don’t know Rick Stone, but everyone says he is a good, if not great, bloke. Brian McGuigan sounds like a fine chap too, seems to get along real well with everyone. I have met Matt Gidley a couple of times and I know he’s a good bloke.

In the Knights’ opinion piece in this paper on Wednesday and reiterated at the members’ briefing on Wednesday night, there were a couple of things that caused me concern. It spoke of the importance of community engagement. It spoke of the Knights being a business. It spoke of restoring pride, of culture and of values, all of which I applaud and support.

But winning is not a by-product of this collective effort, as stated, it is the way to achieve community engagement, and that’s where I believe the club may have lost its way.

Winning will bring back the fans and make the problems disappear. Winning should be the ultimate aim, of course underpinned by values and culture.

The column also said that our team will include the best locals. I strongly support junior development as a focus, but shouldn’t it be a matter of performance not postcode?

The questions I ask of the club are: Have we let being ‘‘good blokes’’ get in the way of making tough decisions that will lead to success?

Has the management and board displayed enough of a steely edge to return us to being a winning club? Is the current culture at board and management level too comfortable and relaxed?

I don’t want our club to be mediocre and middle of the pack. I want the focus to be on winning, not just on being good blokes. Community engagement is indeed important, but it is not the end game. The end game is winning and being the most dominant force in the NRL. Engagement will come with that.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, the American Football coaching legend: ‘‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’’.

I don’t agree 100per cent but I think the current strategic emphasis and culture need to be disrupted and refocused.

Greg Mowbray is a business and leadership consultant, Knights tragic and foundation member.

OPINION: Changing the conversation

We need to give more support to people following a suicide attempt.WE’VE come a long way in Australia. When I first started attending national suicide prevention conferences over a decade ago, we were lucky to get 100 people in the room, with a pretty homogenous audience of researchers, policy makers and clinicians.

But things have changed. This week the National Suicide Prevention Conference was held in Hobart with almost 400 people in attendance. Yes, it included researchers, policy makers and clinicians, but we also had politicians, commissioners, people working in Indigenous health, those representing the LGBTI community, workplaces, technology providers, media, and a very large contingent of people with lived experience of suicide who are changing the conversation.

In a climate where we are still waiting for the government to act on the National Mental Health Commission’s review of mental health and suicide prevention, you might expect some complacency. But there was very little of that.

Instead, people from all around Australia, across different industries and from varied backgrounds, came together to talk about what we need to do next in suicide prevention.

Here are some of the key points I took away from the conference that are relevant to all of us.

We need to take action when we know what to do. While further research is important, we have good evidence for a range of strategies that work in suicide prevention. What we need to do is better connect the research to our practice, and ensure that our work is co-ordinated at a regional level so it is relevant to local communities. It is not good enough to have a program that works operating in one location in Australia; it must exist in every region that needs it.

We need to acknowledge that suicide prevention is bigger than just one sector. It is about health services, schools, workplaces, the media, governments, families and communities all playing their part. But to play that part, we need to invest in good workforce development so all of these sectors have the knowledge and skills to contribute. No longer is suicide prevention training a skill that just some people need, we all need it.

We must value and listen to people with lived experience of suicide. They have a wisdom that quite frankly, money just can’t buy. We must ensure we keep them at the centre of our planning and delivery of suicide prevention approaches. We must also include them in how we communicate about suicide. Besides, who is better placed to get the message out to people who are doing it tough that things can be different?

We need to do more about supporting people following a suicide attempt. We know that a previous attempt is one of the biggest risk factors for death by suicide, yet too often people are turned away from services or discharged from a service without the ongoing support they need. If we want to turn around our national suicide rates, we must make this a priority immediately.

Finally, we need to acknowledge that until we address many of the underlying problems such as social disadvantage, family violence, childhood trauma, discrimination and racism, we will be ineffective. Everyone who cares about health, wellbeing and suicide prevention should care deeply about these issues and not stay silent about things that matter.

Conferences are a great time to reflect on current practice, learn from others and connect with new partners across diverse sectors. But the test of how effective these events are will be measured in the changes we enact together over the coming year.

If you are interested in learning more about suicide prevention locally, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health will be hosting a breakfast event on August 13, where I will be joined by international suicide prevention expert Professor Nav Kapur and chief executive of Suicide Prevention Australia, Ms Sue Murray. We will also launch the Hunter Suicide Prevention Collaborative – demonstrating the commitment from local services for local solutions.

For more information and tickets to the suicide prevention events on August 13, visit stickytickets杭州夜网

For more information on how to talk about suicide visit conversationsmatter杭州夜网 For support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline杭州夜网.au

Jaelea Skehan is director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health

TONY BUTTERFIELD: A stumble on the way forward

Knights CEO Matt Gidley, Knights Chairman Brian McGuigan and Knights Board member John Quayle at a meeting talking about sacking of Knights Coach Rick Stone. Picture: Simone De Peak THE Newcastle way?

The story of Rick Stone’s departure from the Knights has been well covered this week. And so it should, given his role at the helm steering the club away from the Tinkler iceberg and into less troubled waters.

But the ship has continued to suffer from the damage of more than a decade of bumps and gashes, rendering its financial keel exposed, an ownership structure in flux and its very future in doubt. The recent form of the team on the field and waning appeal off it has only served to hasten inevitable decisions for the new Knights board.

And so, presumably deferring to its football committee, which it must be said with unfeigned respect apart from John Quayle lack real football-specific experience, the board did what boards do – make hard decisions. Matt Gidley, as CEOs do, delivered the bad news to his employee, and Stone was sacked.

Some are saying it may have been the right decision done the wrong way.

Was it ideal to spear him now? With six games left in the season? Wayne Bennett was allowed to see his season out. Likewise, Geoff Toovey. Even Phil Stubbins. Was this really the Newcastle way?

I mean, the potential for a couple of wins with Bedsy at the helm, as great as it will be to see, hardly warrants denying a loyal club man a chance to finish what he started with the blokes he started it with. Not to mention leaving with some public sense of dignity – after all, he is a home-grown servant.

Now, what a private business does with its employees is none of my business – unless that business actively seeks to engage, entice and embrace me in cultural and economic exchange. Then I expect consistency and authenticity in management, whereby they, if only in my mind as a fan, become accountable.

It follows that these decisions of senior management, not unlike the way players are expected to interact in the community or represent on the national stage, must also be in accord with those very same values that they say make our club unique.


In that regard, the irony wasn’t lost on the gathered journos who attended Monday’s media scrum when the ‘‘Newcastle Way’’ was rolled out in the form of a strategic vision for the club. With all that was going on, it probably lacked for a bit of timing. Every journo was naturally focused on the here and now, rather than any road map to the future.

When the dust has settled, Matt Gidley will get his chance to better spread his positive message for the future. But for now and Rick Stone, former coach of the Newcastle Knights, it can rightly be said he did his best with what he had.

His contribution to the club, and the game, to this point, is a testament to his work ethic, his generous nature and his love of a sport he played with his old man.

And, while he may walk away disappointed in his treatment this close to Mad Monday, he’s not the type to dwell too long on things he can’t control. Rather, I expect he’ll focus on his family and how fortunate he has been to step out on the big stage for his home town and fulfil a dream. Bali sounds nice.

Thanks Rick and good luck.

COMETH the hour, cometh the man. Danny Buderus has taken the reins of the Knights and he, least of all, knows where things might end up. But he’s as game as ever and I reckon would have been mad to knock it back. I mean, it’s what he does.

What players and management do now in response to the situation they helped create is a matter for them. But there will be strained relations indeed in the stands if players and support staff don’t aim up for their new first-grade coach and No.1 son, Danny Bodacious.

WITH the NRL competition starting down a long home straight, players and fans alike wouldn’t be human if they didn’t sneak a thought about what might be. You’ve seen the opposition and you have decided – we can do this. We can win this thing!

I thought as the competition rounds wind down to the long weekend in October, I’d touch each week on the history of grand finals starting with the very first decade and a bit:

1908 – A nine-team competition in a fledgling professional code does well to attract 4000 paying spectators to its first grand final at the old Sydney Showground. Souths are too good for Easts led by H (Jersey) Flegg in the start of a great rivalry that simmers to this day.

1909 – The unthinkable – Balmain refuse to play the GF as a curtain-raiser to a ‘Wallabies v Kangaroos’ exhibition match. Souths duly turn up to kick off, regather and score to claim another title. Incidentally, the first Newcastle team actually beat Souths in the last round only to go down to them in the semi-final. This was Newcastle’s last game in the big time for 79 years.

1910 – The Newtown Bluebags beat the mighty Rabbitohs on countback after a 4-4 draw.

1911 – The Glebe club has its one and only chance of winning a grand final before its demise in 1929. Hopes for the inner-city club rest squarely on his shoulders of 1908 London Olympics gold medal-winning Wallabies captain Chris McKivat. Alas, selected to captain the Kangaroo tour leaving two weeks before the finals, McKivat and his foundation club are to remain forever uncrowned, losing 11-8 to Easts in the first of their three consecutive premierships.

1912 – Easts become the first team to win the premiership without playing a final. Their captain, Dally Messenger, mesmerises crowds wherever he plays, having stood down from rep duty. Continuing to build his legend, a penalty kick at goal of more than ‘‘65 yards’’ is one of the highlights of the year as the old leather ball dissects the posts for a dramatic 9-8 win over arch enemies Souths.

1913 – Easts again win the premiership without playing a final as an indication of the skills brought to bear by Messenger and the finest team of the game’s early years. After three premierships as captain, Messenger retires having set in place the cornerstone of a not-so-grateful game.

1914 – The emergence of Souths ‘‘wonder winger’’ Harold Horder (19 tries in 14 games) is enough to get the Bunnies back in the winners’ circle. Again no final is played before WWI breaks out across Europe and thoughts turn to the mother country, duty and travel.

1915 – Balmain storm the competition undefeated to win their maiden premiership.

1916 – The Tigers’ dominance continues, winning the grand final in all three grades for the second year running. In first grade, ghosts of indignities past spur on the Tigers to down the cocky Souths 5-3 on July 26 at the SCG.

1917 – Arthur ‘‘Pony’’ Halloway captains the Tigers to the title after they led the field throughout. No final is played and Souths again are runners-up.

1918 – Harold Horder continues to score tries, setting a record of 21 that stands for more than 35 years. Souths are again premiers without playing a final.

1919-20 – League legend Halloway again takes the Tigers to consecutive premierships, capping off an amazing career at every level of the game. A testimonial game is played that nets the veteran 100 pounds.