The end of Ramadan: Eid Mubarak



Ramadan is the holy month of fasting and worship for Muslims. We fast from dawn to sunset to increase righteousness and dutifulness to Allah (God). Once we have completed a whole month of fasting, we have our celebration called “Eid”, which is celebrated throughout the world by all Muslims. Eid is all about bringing all families and friends closer together.

Photos taken at my home, Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, and Tempe Park.

LINKS: Claudia’s photo of the interior of the Gallipoli Mosque was featured in the UK-based Islamic Arts and Architecture Magazine.
Also by Claudia Rusman: Choosing the hijab


Smoking: no easy answers

The shocking truth: smoking is bad for you. Photo: brixton21/flickr





Last week fellow TAFE student, punk rock fan and also-Nick, Nick Cavarretta, wrote a piece about the Australian Federal Government passing a law that dictates that all cigarette packets sold in Australia must now be sold in plain khaki coloured packaging, with makers’ logos and type shown only in a standard font and standard size. It’s a good article, you should read it. Someone at the BBC did, and asked Nick to appear on the radio with them.

This plain packaging legislation follows previous attempts to curtail the Big Tobacco* companies (*mainstream media capitals B and T, not mine) ability to market their goods effectively. There are bans on sport sponsorship and print marketing, and smoking in indoor and outdoor drinking areas at pubs and clubs is now illegal.

I have my own two cents to throw in regarding the latest Government intervention.

Anyone with half a brain and the ability to comprehend visual images is by now aware of a couple of things when it comes to smoking. First: it’s bad for you. Shocking I know but it’s the truth, I promise. It’s bad for the people around you too. Again, shocking but true.

The Federal Government has been working hard on anti-tobacco strategies. They have hit tobacco companies repeatedly with stricter legislation and higher taxes. Packets of 30 cigarettes now cost almost $20. And now we have this latest initiative.

I’m torn on what to think about it all. Smoking is a health issue highly prioritised in this country. And we all know the health implications. But this policy seems designed to stop young people from smoking because the packets are “ugly”. As if kids start smoking because the packets are awesome, and not because cigarettes are highly addictive and illegal for anyone under 18 to buy (“Take THAT Mum! I’ll smoke if I want to!”) Despite the science and surveys (which I bet aren’t conducted by anti-smoking campaign groups, or anyone with an interest with getting smoking banned altogether) I have my doubts about how effective plain packaging will be. If the image of a woman with mouth cancers isn’t going to stop a kid from wanting to stick a poop-stick in his mouth, is a brown packet? I smoked only sporadically during high school, probably smoking a total of five ciggies in three years, but I sure as hell didn’t do it because the packets looked “cool”. I did it because my friends did it. And if I spoke to them, I’d reckon that they didn’t smoke because the packets looked cool, either. I’d even go so far as to say I know exactly why they smoked. It was because parents did, or because friends did. It was peer group pressure, or inspired by a figure worthy of some respect puffing on coffin-nails.

So will the plain packaging have an effect? Will it stop younger people from picking up a deadly habit? I think the only way to stop smoking would be a total ban, an idea I’m not really comfortable with. If someone wants to dig themselves an early grave by puffing away, I don’t want to stop them. We are lucky to live in a country that (nominally) allows you to live your life as you wish. It’s a choice people make, and although I feel that choice may be boneheaded or selfish, I respect their right to make it. On top of that, I can only imagine the nightmare scenario of black market and smuggled cigarettes becoming some kind of hot-button political issue one day. (Prohibition anyone? Ask the US how that worked out.)

We may soon have a fantastic case for the overall banning of cigarettes in Australia, however. Tasmania’s Independent Upper House, the Legislative Council, has proposed a ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000. The proposal will now be looked at by the Tasmanian State Government.

It’s a radical suggestion to say the least. Again I’m not totally on board with a blanket ban, but if a ban is the only way to go, this is the one I see working best. The proposal has a significant lead-in time which would allow better education of the post-2000 crowd and plenty of time to placate the folks sure to be riled up by the idea. On the downside, I can see tobacco becoming like pot, with the cops conducting raids on plantations stashed in the middle of state forests.

There just doesn’t feel like there is an answer that is going to be perfect for all the affected parties. So should we go with the solution that leaves the least amount of people put out?

In the end we will wait and see. While I’m waiting, have you got a light?



My beautiful left foot

Harry Kewell. Artwork by 3rd3m/deviantart




D.O.B: 22 September 1978 (33)

Position: Winger

Status: Player at Melbourne Victory

Clubs: Leeds United, Liverpool, Galatasaray, Melbourne Victory

National Team: Australia (56 games, 17 goals)


Leeds United: FA Youth Cup (1996-97), PFA Young Player of the Year (1999-00), PFA Team of the Year (1999-00)

Liverpool: UEFA Champions League (2004-05), FIFA Club World Championship (2005), FA Cup (2006)

Galatasaray: Turkish Super Cup (2008)

Australia: OFC Nations Cup (2004), Oceania Footballer of the Year (1999, 2001, 2003)

Harry Kewell is a player known worldwide, and especially in England. He was touted as one of the biggest talents in world football and at a very young age he had teams such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter and AC Milan chasing him. He is the only Australian player to date to attract so much interest from so many big clubs across Europe. At one stage Inter Milan made a bid of £25m for him, which Leeds United rejected.

Kewell is known for his pace and amazing finishing, and for that beautiful left foot of his, which helped Liverpool in their 2003-04 season. Unfortunately that was to be his only injury-free season, with Kewell making only 57 appearances in four seasons. Although always under an injury cloud, he continued to impress for his national team helping the Socceroos to their first World Cup since 1974, and also to the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Asian Cup final. Every game in which he has scored for the national team has resulted in either a win or a draw.

Who knows how good Kewell could have been without his injuries at Liverpool? But he still made his mark, playing part in both the European Champions League final and also the FA Cup final wins. He eventually departed for Galatasaray in Turkey, alongside fellow Socceroos Lucas Neill. At Galatasaray Kewell played regular football without many injuries, something he had been begging for during his time at Liverpool. He scored 23 goals in 61 games in Turkey, and was a fan favourite amongst the Galatasaray supporters.

In 2011 when he was released from Galatasaray the rumours had already began to circulate. Was Kewell going to return to Australia and play in the A-League? All Australian football fans wanted him to return; it would have been an massive boost for football in this country to see a legend like Harry Kewell return to Australia. And it did indeed happen, with Kewell signing for Melbourne Victory, bringing a much-needed boost to both the A-League and to Melbourne Victory. He started off slowly in the A-League and was quoted as saying the A-League was one of the hardest and strongest leagues he had ever played in. He had not exprected it to be as ‘tough’ as the European leagues, and was shocked to find out how hard it actually was. Victory had a poor season, and the criticism was harsh. But in in the second half of the season Kewell came to life with some impressive performances and ended the season with 25 games and 8 goals.

Harry Kewell will always be known for his maturity, respect, calming character and ready smile, and for always doing what’s best for his family. He is a legend to Australian football. Even more than that, he has come back to support the always growing Australian A-League and is still featuring for the Socceroos.



Plain packaging: do smokers care?

From December 2012, cigarettes in Australia will be sold in plain, khaki-coloured packaging. Illustration by Vectorportal/flickr.



If you’re one to read the news, you’ve probably noticed that the hot topic of the day is the removing of branding from a packet. That’s right, I’m referring to the plain packaging for cigarette packets. Now seriously, they have done “studies” that show people will be more likely to to quit smoking if they don’t have a logo on the packet. Apparently we are more likely to hide the packet if it’s olive green. I laughed so hard when I heard this news. Today I took the subject to the street (well, my work place and social media). The most frequent comments were: “who cares?” and “how would a plain package make you stop smoking, isn’t it the cigarette itself that’s addictive?” And I for one agree. Taking away a logo from a cigarette package makes just about as much sense as forcing drug dealers to not stamp a picture on ecstasy pills so people don’t feel like getting high any more.Or not allowing an electronics company to brand their TV so kids are forced to go outside and play. Maybe w eshould try removing the branding from fridges so our obese society loses weight.

Today the Australian Government are waving their “we did something” flag very high, as they announce their victory in the High Court against tobacco companies. They’re now pushing the message through the media that other countries should follow their lead. Not to mention that this is an opportunity to portray the tobacco companies as evil corporations. Please show me a good corporation. Tobacco companies have been banned from sponsoring sporting events, advertising in magazines, or on television and public billboards. They’ve been forced to slap horrific images of people in some hardcore make-upon cigarette packs, making gangrene look more like frost bite. Then we forced corner shops to close the shutters on the cabinets containing cigarettes so people can’t make any new decisions about which brand of coffin nail they wish to burn and destroy their soul with. The right to branding was revoked. So have all these measures really stopped people from smoking? Back in 1945, 75% of males and 26% of females smoked. In 2010 statistics showed that the number had declined to 16.4% for males and 13.9% for females. But what about young smokers? After all, isn’t this new law about the children? Well, a 2008 a survey shows that teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 make up a high percentage of smokers: 6.9% of males and 7.7% of females smoke. It’s possible that plain packaging just reduce the number of female smokers, as most men simply don’t care about branding. Only time will tell.

On another side, this is a very good day for many underground businesses. They no longer have to try to forge the logo of a tobacco company. It’s easier than ever for people to push their illegal product into legitimate corner shops direct from the truck. Apparently the black market for cigarettes tripled last year and I’m not surprised, with pricing being pushed up and up. I remember a time when you could buy a packet of 30s for $6. Now a packet of 25s costs $16. All in just 10 years.

So with all that said, I still stand by my comment that in the long run, nobody will care what the packet looks like. This has been said before with the disease pictures, and before that it was the big block text. Maybe this time the “three strikes and you’re out” rule will come into play.



This article was picked up by the BBC and Nick spoke on radio about the subject. You can listen here:

Hoist with their own petard

Main photo: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, by Andrew Feinberg/flickr



If you’re anything like me, you probably have more than a passing acquaintance with Facebook and its various pages, profiles, likes and comments.

If you’re like me, you also like nothing more than seeing a deserving public takedown. Somewhat like what Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jonah Hill and Daniel Craig all had to say about the Kardashians, but with a bit more of a moral high ground as opposed to just being bitchy.

Now Facebook has become the new battleground for consumer and viewer anger, and nothing could make me happier. I first noticed it during the Olympics, when posts started popping up in my timeline letting Channel 9 know exactly what the majority of people with eyes, brains and a functioning ability to communicate effectively thought of the God-awful Olympics coverage they were crapping out. If it wasn’t just mind numbing re-showing after re-showing of Sally Pearson’s hurdles gold medal race. It was totally ignoring the last stages of the men’s Sailing 470 class gold medal race. (By the way, the Australian Sailing team was the most successful at this years Games. Bet you didn’t hear 9 say that.)

I’ve also seen Vodafone cop a hammering for obvious and telling reasons, Target get flamed for selling “tramp” clothing for children, Qantas panned for its crap-tacular service and dodgy handling of the grounding of aircraft, and Coles criticised for ripping off Australian farmers … while running ads saying they support them. And then there’s Kyle Sandilands.

But by far and away the most poignant and compelling of these Facebook Occupy movements has been the story of Linda Goldspink-Lord. Goldspink-Lord is the mother of Molly Lord, a 13-year-old teenager who died in a quad-biking accident on the family’s property in Kembla Grange near Wollongong on July 11. Goldspink-Lord claimed that as she sat next to the body of her dead child, a reporter from Channel 7, Paul Kadak, was on their property searching for someone to interview. While this was going on an Ilawarra Mercury photographer was taking photos using a telephoto lens, and the Channel 7 News chopper was buzzing the grieving mother as she sought solace with her daughter’s horse. All these claims were made in a Facebook post by Mrs Goldspink-Lord herself on Channel 7′s own Facebook page. A screen shot is below:

Channel 7 deleted the post. Although they have “publicly” apologised on their Facebook page, they did not contact Mrs Goldspink-Lord directly to discuss the issues she raised, or the conduct of their news crews on the day. The Illawarra Mercury also apologised for splashing a photo of a private and tragic moment all over the newspaper’s front page.

Five years ago this woman’s pain at the sensationalising of her daughter’s death would have been seen only in the letters column of a local paper or somewhere equally easily dismissed. Now she has the power to deliver a message that more than 30,000 other people read and endorsed, and countless others had undoubtedly seen, to spread her message as far as she could. It’s debatable that she will succeed in returning some civility, integrity and a higher level of professionalism to the practices of the major news networks. But using Facebook as a forum gained her exposure to a huge audience who could see in the Lords’ story the seedy underbelly of the Australian news media.

Social networking is a double-edged sword for institutions. If you’re not in touch with your viewers or customers it can make for a very uncomfortable experience. Frankly, I just enjoy watching them squirm when they are rightfully called to task for a shoddy job.

The people are speaking. Time for the institutions to listen.
Related podcast: The Triangle on STR – Are you addicted to Facebook?

The price of homelessness




Twilight glistens across the city. Wind tumbles down Martin Place. Precious pearls and Armani coats are locked away, cosy and safe behind the glass of shop windows. Adorning the shops’ steps, beneath tattered blankets Sydney’s homeless sleep. Tonight 22,000 Australians will sleep rough. 220,000 Australians will access homelessness services this year. 80 per cent of families seeking refugee will be turned away. And 2 in 3 children won’t receive support.

Last week marked National Homeless Persons’ Week. Events were held across all states to raise awareness of our national crisis. The week focused on educating communities about intervention and prevention. Narelle Clay, National Chairperson of Homelessness Australia, said early intervention is vital in preventing chronic homelessness.

“We need to pay attention to the risk of homelessness,” she said. “The number of women and children living inside their home but every night fearful of violence is another way of thinking about homelessness.”

Not-For-Profit organisations collaborated to call on the Federal Government to extend the state-federal National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) beyond June 2013. Under the $1.1 billion agreement, all states committed to halving homelessness by 2020. But funding is due to be cut from next year’s budget.

In a statement released by Mission Australia, Service Impact Director Eleri Morgan-Thomas said homeless service providers had received clear signals from state governments to prepare for funding cuts.“The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness has developed and improved 180 homeless services around the country,” she said. “Even with that unprecedented level of funding Australia’s homeless situation remains serious. That’s because, prior to the NPAH, Australia under-invested in homeless services and social housing over a generation. That will take more than four years to turn around.”

Without NPAH, many homeless services providers will close, increasing the strain on public housing and state-run shelters. One in 200 Australians will experience homelessness, and with the rising cost of private rent that number is predicted to rise.
Related story: Down and out in Sydney

Stories, senses and spheres: Sydney Biennale



With a little hustle and bit of bustle, hordes of curious art buffs cram onto the ferry bound for Cockatoo Island. Once an orphanage, then a shipping yard, now the historic island plays host to the 18th Biennale Sydney.  This year’s Biennale, entitled “Stories, Senses and Spheres” transports audiences into an eclectic world where modern art collides with history and fantasy.

Weaving through the island’s industrial dwellings a sense of death becomes compelling, almost tangible. Nestled between the towering cement pillars, illuminating the eerie darkness sits Cal Lane’s “Domesticated Turf”. A plasma-cut shipping container, it fuses masculine material with a feminine design, serving as a commentary on the social conventions that define gender.

A few paces on Peter Robinson’s emotive creation on the death of industry seems to have spectators divided. His parasitic polystyrene sculpture weaves between derelict turbine machines conveying a stark message ofthe fragility between freedom and oppression.

Canadian artist and architect Philip Beesley’s “HylozoicSeries” functions like a lung, with kinetic branches and slow release vials of frankincense. Above, paper ball balloons mechanically rise and fall, like the chest of a sleeping child. As audiences drift past below they trigger sensor lights which flicker dancing shadows against the dark, cold Industrial Precinct.

Trekking up the steps, take a moment to catch breath and the view – a unique angle to admire some of the harbour city’s most iconic landmarks. Breathing restored, stroll towards Cecilia Vicuna’s coloured, hanging, knotted wool. “Quipu Austral” explores the artist’s native South American roots and her interconnectedness with the earth. The long untamed wool hangs limp, tied only to the wooden rafters giving onlookers a sense of mortality.

Inside the cottage is Junling Yang’s animation installation “Class in the Class.” The artist collected graffiti found in children’s textbooks; extrapolating those themes he created three separate stories which explore fantasy, capitalism and war. At first the simple drawings convey an element of humour, but as the stories unfold audiences are forced to grapple with concepts of globalisation, obesity, destruction and death.

The whimsical vortex that is Biennale Sydney has eaten the day away, fed the brain and planted many seeds. As the ferry dashes back to Circular Quay take a second to stand upon the deck, wind in your hair, sun on your face, and embrace the reality of this majestic city with all its “Stories, Senses and Spheres.”

Back at Circular Quay duck your head into the ground floor of MCA, which is currently exhibiting a few more artists as part of Biennale. Lee Mengwei’s “The Mending Project” is a community engagement installation offering the opportunity for anyone to be part of Biennale. Simply leave an item in need of mending and Lee Mengwei will mend it, leaving the thread connected to a spool suspended along the wall. The concept explores our interconnectedness with community and the idea of belonging.

The 18th Biennale of Sydney runs at various venues until September 18.


18th Biennale of Sydney: