Lindop tips apprentice to be at her best in Diamond

Resuming … Glencadam Gold scores for Nash Rawiller at Broadmeadow in September.IN NOVEMBER Clare Lindop was quietly excited she had found a smart two-year-old which could have a promising career.
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Lindop, one of South Australia’s leading jockeys, has always been a hard marker and doesn’t get overwhelmed by a one-off gallop.

However, this time the youngster gave her the right feel and the juvenile was entered for a barrier trial at Morphettville. Hence Lindop was astounded when another filly flew past her in the middle stages to win comfortably.

On pulling up, Lindop leaned over to Lauren Stojakovic and asked the mature-age apprentice who this nuggetty but brilliant baby was. ”With a broad smile, Lauren said to me, ‘This is a filly called Miracles Of Life and, yes, she is very good’ and I said, ‘You’re not wrong,”’ Lindop said.

But Lindop was convinced the trial at Morphettville wasn’t the first hint that Miracles Of Life had speed. The two-time Adelaide premiership winner knew much work had gone into Miracles Of Life before then.

At Caulfield, Miracles Of Life is a $2.90 favourite to win Victoria’s top two-year-olds’ race – the $1 million Blue Diamond Stakes (1200 metres).

Argument has been raging over whether a two-kilogram-claiming apprentice at the age of 29 is capable of taking on the best jockeys in Victoria in a group 1 event.

Lindop sees Stojakovic in action every Saturday at Morphettville and is convinced connections have made the right decision. ”It’s funny, whenever a good horse comes from Adelaide to Melbourne the call is to put a Melbourne jockey on and perhaps in some cases that is correct, but not this time,” she said.

”Lauren has a perfect and complete feel for Miracles Of Life. She’s been with her every day and understands every little quirky part of her make-up. In the case of major two-year-old races like this, connections have made the right decision. It’s a two-year-old race where horses can be erratic because basically they’re very new to what they are doing, and an intimate understanding of a horse’s habits is just vital whereas tactics aren’t as important.

”It’s a different story if you’re coming over for a race like the Caulfield Cup … when you’re riding a seasoned racehorse and you’ve got to plan tactics and perhaps have a ‘B’ plan if things don’t go right. But in a Blue Diamond, it’s over 1200 metres and your main job as a jockey is to make your horse comfortable and relaxed, more than other races when they get older.”

When asked if she’d given Stojakovic advice, Lindop said: ”I think she’s had more than enough advice, you can get too much information. I’ve just said, ‘You know your filly’ and ‘enjoy the moment’.

”There are some big stables involved in the Blue Diamond and they’ll pull a few sneaky gear changes, which happens every year, but … she can use her barrier one to glide up and just sit on the pace.

”She’ll need a little luck on the turn into the straight to get a run but, again, we can’t forget they’re two-year-olds, who more than likely will roll or fan off the track, that’s why the importance of having them relaxed and happy for you is more important than what the ones around you are doing.”

Lindop has a full and exciting book of rides at Morphettville on Saturday. She has ridden four group 1 winners and won nearly every feature race on the South Australian calendar. Lindop is hoping Stojakovic keeps her feet on the ground and enjoys the moment.

”I’ve got great confidence in her, sure things can go wrong but things go wrong for the very best jockeys in Australia at times, so full credit to all those involved keeping Lauren on in such a race,” she said.

At 4pm on Saturday, in the tiny women jockeys’ room, Lindop will be cheering home a good friend who has worked hard for this day.

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It’s dust in the wind as Clarke passes the Don

CHENNAI: If Michael Clarke’s heart skipped a beat at the toss of the coin in the middle of M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, he could be excused. Batting third on this south Indian dustbowl, against a coterie of hungry spinners, will be difficult enough. Chasing even 100 to win in the final innings would have been about as easy as a foreigner driving a hire car in Chenani peak hour.
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Thankfully for Australia’s captain, it went his way, a win revealed once the specially minted Board of Control for Cricket in India coin was excavated from the red soil. As the pitch began to break out inside the first hour of the first Test on Friday, it was drummed home as no small victory.

A team of barefoot ground staff, armed with straw brooms, swept the barren deck for much of the session breaks, emitting a large puff of orange dust with each pointless swipe.

Australia should barely have been surprised; they have been here for two weeks and the only sign of life were the odd grass clippings sprinkled on the deck like coriander leaves on a stir fry.

Australia’s radical decision to include only the one specialist spinner, Nathan Lyon, in their XI was met with bemusement in some sections here, and the finished product of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee demonstrated why. India chose three – Harbajan Singh, in his 100th Test, Ravichandran Ashwin and the all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy opener.

The results were immediate: they were on by the sixth over of the day and by five minutes after lunch Ashwin had four wickets as Australia, after an enterprising start, lost 2-5 to fall to 4-131.

The tall right-arm orthodox claimed the prized wickets of Shane Watson (28) and David Warner (59), both leg-before, with his first seven balls after the break. Watson was left stranded by a dud bounce, while Warner was beaten by a darting off-break. If they had any complaints about the decisions, it was no good – India’s lack of trust in ball-tracking technology means there is no decision review system here.

Given the television pictures they could have seen in their hotel rooms of the Hyderabad bombings on the eve of the match, the Australians could be forgiven for being a tad shaky on day one regardless of the treacherous conditions laid out for them. They did not appear the slightest bit on edge in the first session of the series, however, racing to three figures before lunch led by Warner’s half-century.

Australia’s head coach, Mickey Arthur, had instructed his batsmen to take on India’s spin-oriented attack in the way that Kevin Pietersen did so effectively for England late last year.

They did exactly that from the beginning, with Ed Cowan channelling his partner Warner with an aggressive 29 that featured four boundaries and a six and ended in most uncharacteristic fashion: stumped, trying to skip down the wicket to Ashwin. His replacement, Phillip Hughes, never looked comfortable in his brief stay before chopping Ashwin onto his stumps trying to cut the off-spinner to the rope for six.

Warner and Watson, swapping helmets for baggy green caps, did not back off, though, and during their 54-run partnership Australia’s innings began to look settled once again.

Ashwin undid them both in quick time and Australia’s hopes were for the latest instance left largely with Clarke.

Like most Clarke innings of late, there were records, too.

An early single took his Test runs total past Sir Donald Bradman’s tally, and with a subsequent four from Ashwin he notched 7000 for the career.

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Hunt for Aboriginal talent starts at the Top End

Field of Dreamtime … the Tennant Creek and Alice Springs teams in the Imparja Cup.AT THE age of 47, Digger has seen better days. But with his Tennant Creek side in trouble against the old foe, Alice Springs, he strides proudly to the crease, his long, wiry beard barely moving despite the late afternoon breeze. For 20 years he’s padded up to face his arch-rivals in this annual clash. Now he wields the willow like a fighting stick, a series of dashing cut shots drawing roars of approval from the modest crowd at Traeger Park. The legs don’t move as fast as they used to, and when there’s a chance of a run out, he dives full length and barely scrapes into the crease. The crowd erupts. Even the Alice Springs fans jump to their feet and, as one, will him home.
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A modest 10 runs seems like a spectacular century, and as Digger trudges back to the dressing room the onlookers rise once more, showing their appreciation of an Imparja Cup legend.

As the game unfolded on Wednesday, a thoughtful Ross Williams watched on, remembering the day back in 1993 when it all started.

”I was actually sitting in the Tennant Creek Hotel and one of my cousins, Mervyn Franey, went through. We had a quiet beer – it was 48 degrees outside. I said to him, ‘You’re a member of the Imparja board of directors – is it possible that we can have a game between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs? I said most of us are families and a lot of our younger relatives and cousins haven’t met their family in Alice and it’d be a good way to get the connections going together again.’ ”

The pair had a friendly wager on which team would win and the Imparja Cup was born.

Twenty years later and 500 indigenous players descend on Alice Springs from around the country, competing in community and state competitions. But behind the celebrations there is a universal acknowledgement that the indigenous population has been largely ignored by Australian cricket since 1868, when the first Australian touring side, made up entirely of Aborigines, set sail for England.

Of the 432 baggy greens handed to Australian men, only one has been worn by a player acknowledging indigenous heritage – Jason Gillespie. The former Test fast bowler said he always knew of his background but did not realise its significance until it was revealed in a newspaper report.

”I must admit when I was first alerted to that fact [I was the only indigenous Test player] it absolutely blew me away but then I thought about it a lot more,” Gillespie said. ”Cricket Australia would love nothing more than an indigenous player and, with all due respect to myself, they want a full-blooded indigenous Australian playing in the Test side. That would be their ultimate goal, but how do you get there?”

The women’s game hasn’t fared much better. In 1958, South Australian fast bowler Faith Thomas opened the bowling for Australia against England and took the wicket of the English captain with a searing yorker that sent middle stump cartwheeling straight over the keeper’s head. Now 80, Thomas remains the sole indigenous woman to represent her country, but it is not the baggy green that stirs her pride.

”We’ve got the maroon and white one, the first team that went to England, I call that the black fella’s baggy green,” Thomas said. ”So when I go to schools I take that and talk about the first Aboriginal team, the first cricket team that went to England, and the kids have a choice of putting on whichever cap they want, and most of them go for that one … the Aboriginal baggy green, and that really makes me proud you know, that they want to sit on my lap and have their photo taken.”

The case of Eddie Gilbert illustrates the difficulties indigenous cricketers have faced. The Queensland fast bowler terrorised opposition batsmen in the 1930s and once famously dismissed Donald Bradman for a duck. Bradman compared Gilbert’s pace to Harold Larwood and several players considered him the fastest bowler of the time. But state laws forced Gilbert to obtain special permission to travel from his settlement, there were suggestions of an illegal bowling action, and it is widely believed prevailing racist attitudes played a part in preventing him playing for Australia.

If Gilbert were to emerge today, it would be a different story. Cricket Australia officials consider it a significant goal to increase the number of indigenous cricketers in state and national competitions. Early in the week, National Talent Manager Greg Chappell spent two days casting his eye over the current crop of state representative players.

”Cricket Australia’s quite serious about it,” Chappell said. ”There’s a big contingent from different departments here this week, not least of which is game development, which is really important because we’ve got to get indigenous kids involved in the game as early as possible”

Chappell is frank about the game’s failure in the past to produce elite indigenous players. ”None of us are happy about the fact that we’re only aware of one indigenous player having played Test cricket and that’s Jason Gillespie,” he said. ”We’ve had a number, probably a handful, that have played first-class cricket, a couple playing currently in Josh Lalor and Daniel Christian. It’s nowhere near enough when you consider the talent pool that’s there.”

Cricket Australia’s commitment to improve indigenous participation leaves it trailing far behind sports such as AFL and NRL, which have long been embraced by Aborigines. There are no Ben Barbas or Buddy Franklins at the highest level of cricket to inspire the next generation to pick up a bat or ball and, particularly in remote areas, high-quality equipment and facilities are scarce and expensive.

As Gillespie noted: ”The cost of just putting together a basic kit to play cricket – it’s immense. You’ve got your bat, your pads, gloves, whites, and shoes. Footy – you put a pair of boots on and you’ve got 40 kids running around and off you go. You don’t even need boots, you just start booting a footy around.”

Over the past week, representatives from several communities said they wanted more game development officers, indigenous officers, and regular clinics and competitions for children.

”Instead of just having cricket clinics during Imparja Cup, it’d be good to see more cricket development officers go out to more of the communities and spend more time with the kids, coaching, running the clinics,” Williams said.

Perhaps one answer lies north of Darwin, on the Tiwi Islands. Last year the Tiwi Islands put together a team to compete in the Imparja Cup’s community division, under the guidance of local sports and recreation officer Mick Rees.

”We basically put out onto the table what cricket was available, what formats and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ We didn’t go there and say, ‘This is cricket, this is how you play it,’ ” Rees said. ”We worked out the best format to suit was a super eights format that the guys play at Imparja Cup because we identified early that, if we’re going to be successful in building some sort of pathway, we need it to lead to high performance.”

A year on, player numbers have tripled, the Department of Sport and Recreation runs regular cricket clinics in schools, and a high-performance pathway has emerged.

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Lives ruined as doctor leaves trail of pain

The ‘ Bega Butcher’ … Dr Graeme Reeves. ”I used to be loved beautifully” … Carolyn DeWaegeneire is comforted after this week’s hearing.
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Tears tumbled down Carolyn DeWaegeneire’s cheeks as she thought of finally being able to give her mother the farewell she deserved.

DeWaegeneire said her life had stalled in the years she spent fighting for justice, after the former gynaecologist Graeme Reeves cut off her genitalia during an operation to remove a pre-cancerous growth in 2002.

After her mother’s death in May, DeWaegeneire couldn’t even travel to England to scatter her ashes.

”Until today I haven’t been able to leave my house in case the phone rings to say the appeal is going to be heard,” DeWaegeneire said after the judgment on Thursday.

”I’ve been waiting for that call all this time. Now, maybe I can go to England and take my mother’s ashes.”

The Crown appealed against the leniency of Reeves’s maximum 3½-year sentence for his treatment of DeWaegeneire and other patients, and the Court of Criminal Appeal this week handed him an extra 18 months’ jail.

Reeves successfully appealed against one charge of aggravated indecent assault against another woman, which was quashed.

DeWaegeneire isn’t the only one who has been waiting a long time for some kind of resolution.

Fresh claims were aired at a coronial inquest on Monday about Reeves’s treatment of 38-year-old Kerry Ann McAllister, who died a week after giving birth in the Hills Private Hospital almost 17 years ago.

Just 12 hours after a normal delivery on May 8, 1996, McAllister had a fever of 38 degrees.

Reeves, knowing her husband and other family members had a bug, diagnosed her with a virus and prescribed Panadol, the inquest heard.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Ian Fraser, said a review of the case showed: ”With every passing hour that diagnosis became unlikely.” Over the course of three days, McAllister’s temperature reached between 39 and 40.2 degrees, but Reeves rarely examined her, Fraser said.

The inquest heard when a nurse told Reeves she was concerned about McAllister’s soaring fever, he angrily said: ”I’m well aware of her temperature. She’s got a virus.”

On the day her temperature rose to 40.3 degrees, Reeves still did not examine her, Fraser said.

”He said he did not want to enter her room in case he caught the virus she had.”

On the night of May 12, her pulse was twice the normal rate and she was in pain so intense that another doctor prescribed morphine and ordered blood tests, Fraser said.

The inquest heard when the blood tests were irregular, Reeves consulted a haematologist and transferred McAllister to Westmead Hospital, where she was immediately given antibiotics.

However, she went into cardiac arrest and died in the early hours of May 14.

Reeves, with grey hair, a beard and a handlebar moustache, left his jail cell to appear at the inquest, where he acknowledged his misdiagnosis and mistreatment of McAllister.

”It’s my responsibility. There’s no grey area. I made a mistake which cost her her life. I can’t live with it … it happened and it can’t be changed.”

McAllister’s father, Harold Bundy, was emotional and his voice cracked as he stood before Reeves and the coroner to remember his daughter.

”Every year Kerry was a very visible supporter of the SIDS red nose day. Always with her own madcap humour but, equally, always with a deep and genuine concern for children who suffered,” Bundy said.

”She would have embraced any opportunity to help others and I believe [this] is such an opportunity.”

Bundy said he was angry at the health system, which he said gave practitioners an ”unreal status of near infallibility”.

A deputy state coroner, Hugh Dillon, referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration, finding that McAllister died from septicemia caused by an undiagnosed post-partum bacterial infection.

Reeves now faces the prospect of a manslaughter charge, the most serious offence to date in the long-running case.

Dillon acknowledged McAllister’s family had been forced to wait a long time for a public hearing, because Reeves’s matters had gone before numerous commissions and courts over the years.

Reeves, 62, graduated from medicine with honours and his work in obstetrics and gynaecology had been valuable in ”helping mothers and families in crises” and he had saved lives, according to a background that was set out in the appeal judgment.

He suffered a depressive breakdown in the early 1990s and his psychiatrist spoke of a personality change at home and work.

From there came a series of complaints about Reeves’s manner and the quality of his work, some of which were upheld by the Professional Standards Committee of the NSW Medical Board in 1997.

He was ordered to stop practising obstetrics and to continue as a gynaecologist only under supervision.

But by early 2002 Reeves had asked for work at Bega Hospital and he went through an interview process, acknowledging he had conditions placed on his medical registration, but not that he was restricted from obstetrics.

In April 2002 he was appointed as the visiting medical officer obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bega and Pambula District Hospitals, but told the NSW Medical Board he would not practise obstetrics.

During his employment he undertook caesarean sections, accepted referrals from GPs asking for specialist advice and treated 36 obstetric patients, including one who had a mid-trimester induction.

It was around this time that Reeves operated on DeWaegeneire, who believed that only a small flap of skin would be removed during surgery.

She recalled that as she was lying on the operating table, Reeves leaned over, put his face close to hers and said quietly: ”I’m going to take your clitoris too.”

On Thursday, surrounded by a media pack, DeWaegeneire was visibly angry and upset about what Reeves did to her.

She said it was ”beyond comprehension” how much he had changed her life.

”I used to be loved beautifully by my beautiful French husband. What Reeves did, he took all that part of me away and it haunts me.”

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Inglis fires early warning to rivals

Unplayable … Greg Inglis was in scintillating form.It wasn’t that long ago that Greg Inglis’s weight created headlines. Now the only weight on his giant 195-centimetre frame is that of expectation after he led the Rabbitohs to their first Charity Shield victory since 2009.
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His man-of-the-match performance signalled a warning to the other game’s elite – step up or he’ll take the mantle as the best player in the NRL.

A trimmer Inglis played a full game on Friday night and finished with a match-high 13 hit-ups plus a try assist, line break and an off-load to his name.

His enthusiasm on his kick returns highlighted his performance, with coach Michael Maguire impressed by Inglis’s first run in South Sydney colours this season.

“He is great,” Maguire said. “[Especially] the way he brings the ball back.

“I said it all last year that he is always crediting the boys in front of him that allows him to get the ball on the full or bring the ball back the way he does.

”He is a handy man to have down the back.”

Heading into this season with a full pre-season under his belt for one of the rare times since his debut season in 2005 has contributed to Inglis’s effectiveness.

“He came back last year probably later than usual but worked really hard,” Maguire said. “He did that again this off-season.

“He probably had a little bit longer this time which has allowed him to get his body right. He is feeling good about his footy and is enjoying his training. While he is doing that he is doing well for us.”

Although his side may have been on the receiving end of some multiple periods of Inglis magic, Dragons coach Steve Price still had praise for the hulking 26-year-old, describing the Queenslander as among the best three players in the world.

“He is a great player,” Price said. “He is a big unit and he is hard to handle.”

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Whatever happened to the middle class?

Class act … John Cleese and the two Ronnies examined social structure. “One of the most important things …. is the extent to which intelligent working people … became themselves little capitalists” …. former Labor minister Dr Neal Blewett.
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Success story … members of the Australian workers Union are doing well says leader Paul Howes.

Just over a decade ago, researchers at the University of NSW set out to find where most Australians located themselves on the nation’s economic totem pole.

The results were startling.

The overwhelming majority of the survey’s respondents, some 92 per cent, thought they sat in the middle 60 per cent of households ranked by income – a statistical near-impossibility, as the survey ranged across all income groups. In reality, around a third of those surveyed had misjudged how far above or below the centre they really were.

”Most Australians have a greatly distorted impression of where their incomes place them relative to others,” the survey team reported, with some surprise.

In 2006 and 2010, the team at UNSW repeated its soundings. How much better informed had Australians become about their circumstances relative to those of everybody else? The answer, it seems, was barely at all.

”The vast majority of people still think they lie in the middle of the income distribution,” says the university’s Professor Peter Saunders, who is about to publish the team’s follow-up findings.

”Almost no one thinks they are in the bottom , and even fewer think they are in the the top 20 per cent.

”When you start talking about the middle, or inequality or distribution, these are relative concepts and most people have no idea … I have asked my colleagues, where do they sit, where does a university professor sit, and they too have no idea.”

This ignorance presents a clear conundrum for governments, particularly if, like Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, you’re seen as planning an assault on so-called ”middle-class welfare” in the lead-up to an embattled budget. Because if everybody thinks they are in the middle, everyone gets nervous.

Economist and executive director of the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss, believes modern politicians have created a rod for their own backs, with a strategy that says ”no matter who you are, I feel your pain”. It has heightened voter expectations and created unnecessary political pressures.

”Even people on $150,000 people seem to feel poor,” he says. ”How on earth did we get to that?”

Saunders too believes that a constant pitch to a fuzzily defined middle has become a double-edged sword for Canberra. ”If middle Australia is portrayed as hurting or threatened in some way, then everyone thinks that’s them.”

Social researcher and author Hugh Mackay points out that ”average annual household income for the top 20 per cent of Australians is $330,000. This is not middle Australia. Yet there are people earning $300,000 a year, talking in a way that suggests a real sense of entitlement [to government benefits] and their kids are developing that too.”

Rebecca Huntley, of research company Ipsos, which publishes the regular social trends study Mind and Mood, recalls sitting down recently with a group who were on household incomes of $200,000 a year, living in expensive homes no more than five kilometres from the city centres of Sydney and Melbourne.

”What was so interesting,” she tells Fairfax Media, ”is that most of those people saw themselves as middle class. Some would say, ‘Well, we’re not rich’.”

And yet $200,000 a year puts them firmly within the top 5 per cent of all Australian households measured by income, according to Australian National University analyst Professor Peter Whiteford.

The flattening of income tax scales, which began under Bob Hawke in the 1980s but accelerated under John Howard and was perpetuated by Kevin Rudd, may have further clouded perceptions of what it means to be well off.

These days there are far fewer tax brackets and you have to be earning $180,000 or more before the top tax rate kicks in.

”The tax system no longer sends cues to high income earners that they have entered top earning echelons,” Denniss argues.

All the muddy political rhetoric and confusion about who sits where feeds into growing uncertainty about what constitutes middle class in today’s world. Once, as the famous British TV skit with John Cleese and the two Ronnies had it, the tall man in the bowler hat (played by Cleese) looked down on the man in the suit, who looked down on the man in the cloth cap.

The working class got its hands dirty at the bottom while the middle class toiled in white-collar jobs in the professions or middle management, and the upper class had the posh accents and most of the loot.

But in Australia, as in other advanced Western economies, those paradigms have been turned on their head. Today’s economy is very different from the 1950s, when nearly half the workforce was employed in manufacturing and agriculture, many in semi-skilled or low-skilled jobs. Now those two industries account for about one in 10 Australian workers.

At the same time the nexus between education, the social status of certain kinds of work and higher incomes has been weakened. These days a highly successful tradie with his or her own contracting operation in the western suburbs, employing others, is likely to exceed many professionals in income.

”One of the most important things that hasn’t been given enough attention is the extent to which intelligent working people or intelligent skilled tradesmen became themselves little capitalists,” former Hawke cabinet minister Dr Neal Blewett says. ”A lot of them in the past would have been active unionists. Now they are contractors, employers of labour. And as the trade union movement broke down there has been more and more opportunities for contractors to get in on the act.”

Huntley says when she surveys these people, they will ”call themselves tradies but they will also say, ‘Well I’m really running my own business and doing my own BAS every three months”’.

Leader of the powerful Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, acknowledged this week most of his members were doing very nicely, despite their traditional blue-collar designation. He told the Financial Review that his members tended to be older, mid-40s, and ”middle to high income depending on your definition”.

”The reason why workers get high money is not always education,” Phil Ruthven, founder of business analysis and forecasting firm IBISWorld, says.

”It can be driven by labour shortages, industries experiencing fast growth or union hegemony. The old ideas of where the money came from are pretty well gone.”

A social researcher in Sydney’s west, Dr Kate Huppatz of the University of Western Sydney, has heard similar stories from the women she has been speaking to for a recent book on gender and class.

One student had been working as an exotic dancer to fund her studies at an eastern suburbs university. She coveted the greater respectability that would come from working as an occupational therapist once she graduated. At the same time, she was loathe to give up the greater income she earned as a stripper.

Despite the fact many of her interviewees came from what once would have been described as a working-class background, Dr Huppatz says most prefer to identify as being middle ”because they see middle as average”.

”That’s how middle is used in political rhetoric. You don’t see politicians saying middle class, they say middle Australia because we are uncertain of this term ‘class’ and perhaps even resent it.”

Social scientist Dr Keith Hancock, of Flinders University, also believes the numbers who wear the working-class label with pride are much diminished. ”That’s consistent with the dramatic fall in trade union membership (now around 18 per cent of the workforce) and maybe also the fall in membership of the Labor party,” he said.

Sensitivity around class is why some commentators are questioning Julia Gillard’s reversion to labels such as ”blue collar” in her recent pitch to manufacturing workers with an industry package aimed at shoring up the sector.

”Modern Australia”, she declared in a speech a week ago, could have a ”great blue-collar future”.

To some, this was a reversion to old class-speak.

”I think its very dangerous for any politician on either side to start talking class, or using code that seems to imply class,” Mackay warns. ”Its a kind of ghost, a fantasy figure, its not about bringing Australians together or saying something visionary about who we are.”

He draws a contrast with the Labor rhetoric of the Hawke and Keating years, particularly Hawke’s emphasis on consensus and reconciliation.

”Labor’s golden years in Australian politics in the mid ’80s to mid ’90s were all about a radically new paradigm. This [blue-collar talk] is about the old paradigms. We seem to have reached the point where the message is, ‘Don’t forget what we used to stand for, don’t forget the unions etcetera’. Well the more that is emphasised, the better the faithful will feel and the more the rest of the electorate will drift off.”

Blewett partially agrees. ”Gillard’s is, I think, a fairly desperate strategy because it has the danger of alienating whatever the middle class is, and I’m not sure how attractive that is given the weakness of the working class.”

Huntley says when she conducts focus groups among electricians, or garbage collectors or maintenance workers ”they have never described themselves as blue collar”.

”If blue collar is about physical work that is relatively low paid, you’ve got women, often migrant women doing that work, they are in cleaning and jobs like that. But it’s not unionised. It doesn’t really fit.”

Gillard has been on safer ground talking about ”working families” or more recently ”modern families” though the latter, Blewett feels, is ”an attempt to encompass both the working family and the middle family”.

She has also talked occasionally of ”everyday Australians”.

Blewett says her pitch ”is, of course, very strongly against a narrow upper class, the sort of $150,000 to $200,000 people” but the great mass of Australians may not read the rhetoric that way.

”I think she has been [hinting at] cuts in upper-class welfare or the very well-off segment of the middle class but as with all these things, it resonates further down the chain,” Blewett says.

Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, believes the term middle class has been largely drained of meaning other than as a way of denoting income.

”In an earlier era, the middle class was defined much more by cultural features than by financial ones; by education, say, or how you lived, the professions, the things that you valued culturally,” he says.

”There was quite a close parallel between the amount of cultural capital you owned, and the amount of financial capital you owned. That’s been washing out over the last 30 years, meaning it’s hard to find any criterion of middle classness other than a financial one.”

Lower down the middle bands, Huntley listens to her focus groups talking about what they think ”middle classness” means, and how they can attain or hold on to that place on the totem pole.

”I’ve sat in groups in the last 18 months, with people talking about the middle class being squeezed, and not being what it used to. They say things like, ‘We consider ourselves middle class but we don’t know if we can afford to keep the second car’, or , ‘We’re thinking of having a third kid but not sure about whether we can put a third through private school’.”

She adds ”They do recognise that part of [their anxiety] is escalating expectations, around things like travel, education, possessions, technology and all the rest, its driven by their own and society’s expectations of what the middle class should look like. But generally they are saying that for certain people to stay in that middle-class bracket, its becoming harder for some, even though both parents are educated and working.”

Such anxiety is real, but perhaps driven more by apprehension about an uncertain global economic future than by the reality of what most Australians have experienced over the past 15 years, the ANU’s Whiteford says.

The increase in household incomes in Australia since the middle of the 1990s was the second highest in the developed world at every level, from the poorest to the highest, he points out.

”The middle in Australia has had about the biggest increases in Australian history” while ”the richest 10 per cent of Australians have had the largest increase … around 60 per cent over the last 15 years”.

Despite this, Whiteford remains cautious about any attempt to cut middle-class welfare at the top of the mid-echelons.

”It depends how you define middle class and it depends on how you define welfare,” he argues. ”But if you just look at our social security payments and our family payments, Australia has the lowest middle-class welfare in the OECD … And if you look at the top 20 per cent of households, we give them a lower share of spending on social security than any other OECD country.”

On the other hand, he concedes that tax concessions on negative gearing and super are skewed to upper income groups . ”So it depends on how you define welfare.”

Professor Saunders believes that, while muddled, the escalating debate about middle-class welfare might force some clearer thinking about the levels of income above which people should not receive direct government assistance.

”Perhaps it should be the opposite of a poverty line. Perhaps an affluence line,” he suggests. ”If you are above that line, you shouldn’t get anything.”

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The secret world of anorexics

Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW estimates that there are more than one million pro- anorexia web sites. Advocate for a ban on pro anasites … Federal Labor MP Anna Burke.
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Woman standing with her arms crossed

Ana can be highly emotional and empathetic. She craves attention, although she often hides behind others. And she can be a complete bitch.

”Get back on track, you ignorant f—.

Lose it, Chub. Lose it. Now.

Cut and starve and drink.

This is who you are now.”

– Ana

”Ana” is not a real person but an identity, adopted as self, friend and foe, the embodiment of anorexia. Her speech is the self-talk and self-hate that typifies a condition that is all about internalising how you look – or think you look – on the outside, and clinging to the conviction that salvation lies in getting ever thinner.

Ana (short for ”pro ana” – pro anorexia) and her lesser known sibling Mia (or ”pro mia” – pro bulimia) are the subjects of countless posts on social media and dedicated websites, blogs and forums. In 2008, the Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW (now Butterfly Foundation) estimated there were more than a million such sites.

Pro ana is dedicated to encouraging and supporting those who identify with the community. There are tips on grim topics such as how to make yourself vomit (known as ”purging”, one involves dental floss and a lifesaver). There are images of skinny models, celebrities and users’ own ”selfies” (called ”thinspiration” or ”thinspo”). And there are heartfelt posts describing good days and bad, and real-time messaging from Ana ”buddies”.

Those who participate in the subculture appear to be overwhelmingly teenage girls and young women – although online it is impossible to be sure – using handles such as ”anything2bethin” and ”beautifulbones”. The tone of the sites combines the language of support groups and their cycles of hope, commitment, breach, despair and recommitment, with a slightly childish emo folksiness (poetry in scratchy fonts, artwork of waifs wearing knee socks) and a rather more grown-up pride in their perversity.

Coffee and smokes

and cold Diet Cokes,

That’s what pretty girls are made of.

Its manifest catharsis is profoundly shocking.

Emma, 21, has struggled with an eating disorder for five years (her surname has been omitted to protect her privacy). She has starved herself (”restricted”) for up to eight days at a time (”No food whatsoever and zero-calorie drinks. And I end up a mess after it. I do really want to stop it.”). She has seen a range of psychologists, counsellors, dietitians and support groups to help her break a cycle of fasting and bingeing, and deal with her related anxiety and self-harming.

While still at school, Emma told her friends about her messed up behaviours, but, after that one tearful night, they were never mentioned again. She feels lonely and isolated. She has to force herself to leave the house other than to go to work, and she avoids talking on the phone.

Having always done a lot of research online, Emma stumbled into the pro ana community at the beginning of the year.

”It’s actually nice to read,” she says. ”It makes me feel like I’m not alone, like other people are going through these things and people understand.”

Intelligent and articulate, Emma is ambivalent about the subculture. ”I go through stages where I think pro ana is a fantastic idea, and I get right into it, I read about it and I look for buddies. Then all of a sudden I’ll binge and then I’ll be, like, obviously, restricting isn’t a realistic plan for me.”

Her life is dominated by the disorder, she says, every day an exhausting struggle with whether she will try to eat normally or fast.

”Even if I try and eat normally, because I’ve developed a habit of bingeing, I’ll still binge. If [that] happens many times, I feel like I can’t do it any more, I need a break. And so I’ll go back to restricting. Pro ana is sort of there for when I can’t fight any more,” she says.

Yet she is clear-eyed about pro ana’s hazards. ”It does scare me too,” she says. ”I [was] talking to someone on there once … and she was 13 or 14, and that just breaks my heart. I feel like saying stop, don’t get into this mess, get out of it while you’ve got the chance.”

Most eating disorder specialists and support groups are unequivocal about the sites’ dangers.

”I absolutely hate them,” says Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, the national support group for sufferers and carers. Those with long-term eating disorders don’t want to get well, she says. ”That’s one of the most horrific aspects of the illness.

”The sites say that [people] have chosen this as a lifestyle. We know that’s not true, that it’s a very serious psychiatric illness. Then they encourage them to remain true to behaviours that are doing them harm. I can’t see anything positive in that from any perspective.”

Two million people in Australia will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, the foundation estimates. Disorders last an average of 15 years, and about 20 per cent of sufferers never recover. It estimates the health costs at about $100 million last year, with an effect on national productivity of about $15.1 billion.

Physical damage can include anaemia, osteoporosis, an increased risk of infertility and kidney failure. The foundation estimates last year about 1828 sufferers died. Beyond the mortality rate and physical impairment, experts in eating disorders argue the behaviours must be understood as a mental illness because of the huge distress they cause.

Chairwoman of mental health at the University of Western Sydney, Professor Phillippa Hay, likens eating disorders to depression. ”In the course of human experience, it will be normal to feel low in the same way as someone with depression feels low. But for someone with a mental illness, [it] becomes overwhelming and prevents them from living full and happy lives and relating to other people. It’s the disability from the behaviour and emotion that constitutes an illness.”

Many sufferers are unable to work, have a relationship or live independently.

Internationally, there has been momentum in several countries to ban or attach warnings to pro ana sites, including France, Britain and the Netherlands. In Australia, the federal Labor MP, Anna Burke, called for legislation banning pro ana sites in 2008.

But how much harm do they cause? Emma says pro ana’s virtual solidarity is something she hasn’t been able to find in real-world support groups: She likes not being seen, and the ability to have text conversations when she needs them.

She prefers their support to that of professionals she has consulted. ”I’ve never liked the idea of paying to have someone to talk to. It feels like they’re only doing it because they have to.” Pro ana, on balance, has been more good than bad, she says.

Last year, a ground-breaking study of the personal experience of pro ana bloggers was published in the journal Health Communications. It found bloggers experienced positive effects of self-expression, catharsis and social support in coping with a stigmatised disease. They also experienced negative consequences: fear of disclosure and of encouraging disorders.

Researchers Daphna Yeshua-Katz and Nicole Martins concluded that, in light of the poor results of conventional treatments for eating disorders – those treated for anorexia have less than 50 per cent chance of recovering within 10 years – further investigation of the prevailing treatment protocols were warranted.

”Instead, the young [pro ana] women themselves are blamed for sabotaging their own recovery,” they argue. ”Our results suggest … the moral panic about the websites might not be appropriate.”

Parallels with pro ana can be found in the fat acceptance movement, which aims to change social and medical prejudices about those with large bodies. Both are trying to break down stereotypes that looking a certain way makes people bad, moral or aesthetic failures.

Like Gay Rights, Women’s Lib or Deaf Culture, these are arguably all identity movements that aim to recast as diversity those traits condemned as disease or disability and used as the basis for discrimination. If fat acceptance rightly seeks to de-stigmatise the large bodied, why couldn’t the same be true of pro ana? Because unlike obesity, the experts say, anorexia is a mental illness. The categorisations of mental illnesses, however, are not like the laws of physics. ”Disordered” behaviours can move in and out of the medical/psychological spectrum over time: homosexuality, notoriously, was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986.

Ethicist Stacy Carter, who works at the University of Sydney’s school of public health, says if anorexic behaviour has its roots in damaging experiences, it is legitimate to question ”whether that person is in a position to make good judgments about how to live a flourishing life.

”If the very nature of being anorexic is the state of being constantly miserable, then it would make more sense to do whatever you could to [intervene],” she says.

But if young women are attracted to pro ana websites, that immediately suggests they need a community they can identify with, she says. ”So shouting at them about it being bad to be anorexic and trying to shut down the sites seems to miss the very purpose of their engagement with the sites in the first place. Maybe a better way to think about it is, how can we provide that?”

Hay says a ”counter culture” of therapeutic applications that seek to do just that are emerging, including chat rooms and ”therapies that can be delivered ethically over the internet”.

But it is not just the technology that enables pro ana. It is also its uncensored, unsupervised nature.

In the weeks after interviewing Emma, I regularly check her activity on her favoured pro ana site. She’s back there most days but hasn’t posted a comment asking for, or offering, support since I first contacted her via the site.

I feel my anxiety about her is well intentioned. But I suspect she feels she’s being watched.

For help and support call 1800 334 673 or email support@ thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

For 24-hour help call Lifeline 13 11 14

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Henderson homes in on shot at national title

It’s a far cry from racing in front of 20,000 at an Olympic Games, but Canberra mountain biker Bec Henderson is still excited about competing at the national championships at Stromlo this weekend.
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Henderson is looking to defend her national women’s under-23 cross country mountain bike title on her home track, in front of family and friends.

It is her final year as an under 23 before she steps up to open class.

She was hoping the nationals would kick-start a big year, which will culminate at the world championships in Austria in September.

But first she wants to add another national title to her resumé´ on Saturday.

”I’m really happy to have a nationals back here at Stromlo because it’s my home town and all your friends and family are here to watch,” Henderson said.

”It’s not going to be the 20,000 spectators that we experienced in London, but it’s home ground and we know the course really well.

”It’s still good vibes and a really good atmosphere.”

Six months ago, Henderson and boyfriend-coach Dan McConnell were Australia’s sole mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics.

Henderson is not the only member of the couple defending a title on Saturday. McConnell is also the reigning Australian champion, but he broke his hand in October which forced him off the bike for three months. He’s only been back in training for 3½ weeks.

He’s hopeful it has been long enough to get his form back.

But he admits the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in March might be a more realistic goal – especially since he wants to peak for the world cups in Europe in May.

”I haven’t done a lot of racing lately … it’s not ideal, but I’m probably in the best shape I can be for the preparation I’ve had,” McConnell said.

”I’m not in great form, but I’m hoping it will be enough to get me through. I’m trying not to get too worked up about it. It’s not ideal and I’m far from my best.

”I’ve just got to try and have the best race that I can, and if that’s the win great, if not I can still look forward to a big year.”

In contrast, Henderson said she ”couldn’t complain” about her preparation, which included winning the elite women’s national series event at Thredbo two weeks ago.

”January was a bit up and down with organising a race and illness, but nothing serious and I’ve had consistent training,” she said.

”Thredbo, the last national round, went better than I could have imagined so it was a surprise to have better form than I thought.”

MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Stromlo Forest Park

Saturday: 9.30am: Cross country – Elite and under-23 women; 12:30pm: Cross country – Elite and under-23 men; 5pm: Downhill seeding runs – Men and women

Sunday: 10am: Cross country eliminator – Men and women; 4pm: Downhill – Men and women.

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Warburton axed by Ten after string of shows flop

LACHLAN MURDOCH’S hand-picked chief for the embattled Channel Ten network, James Warburton, was sacked on Friday night after little more than a year in the role.
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The move follows a string of programming flops and persistent poor ratings for the network controlled by some of Australia’s richest people, including the latest season of MasterChef.

Ten has appointed a senior News Corp executive and former advertising agency boss, Hamish McLennan, to take on the chief executive role on March 18.

The former advertising executive Russel Howcroft will take charge as interim chief executive. Mr Howcroft, who was last year appointed to a senior executive role with Ten, is widely known for his regular appearances on ABC television’s The Gruen Transfer.

Since joining News Corp in 2011 Mr McLennan has effectively worked closely with Rupert Murdoch running the media company’s office of chairman. Before joining News Corp, he was global chairman and chief executive of advertising agency Young & Rubicam.

Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement: ”The board would like to thank James Warburton for his hard work and contribution during what has been a difficult period for the company and for the broader media sector.”

Ten poached Mr Warburton from the Seven Network, a move at the time that angered Seven’s key shareholder Kerry Stokes. He started in January last year.

The Ten network held a highly public round of job cuts last year, which it blamed on difficult trading conditions, the impact of the Olympics and its weak ratings performance that led to a $13 million loss for the year.

About 100 employees were let go, including prominent personalities from its news operations, which were cut extensively. Ten’s chief programmer, David Mott, fell on his sword in August, after shows including The Shire, Being Lara Bingle and Everybody Dance Now, failed to find audiences, leaving Ten trailing Nine and Seven in audience ratings and revenue. Even former ratings juggernaut MasterChef is now trailing Seven’s offering My Kitchen Rules.

The pressure now is on the incoming chief, Mr McLennan, to lure younger viewers back to the network with innovative programming.

Mr McLennan said Ten was a media business with a strong balance sheet and excellent staff. ”I look forward to leading Ten through a period of creative renewal and financial growth.”

Late last year Mr Warburton was effectively put on notice over Ten’s poor performance by Mr Murdoch and the broadcaster’s trio of billionaire shareholders. Each of James Packer, Win Television-owner Bruce Gordon and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart tipped in more funds as part of Ten’s $230 million shareholder raising.

At the time of Ten’s annual meeting in December, Mr Murdoch was critical of the broadcaster’s programming shortfalls.

Ms Rinehart also has an investment in Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Ten’s shares were trading above $1.50 a share in November 2010. On Friday they closed at 29.5¢.

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Whatever happened to the middle class?

Class act … John Cleese and the two Ronnies examined social structure. “One of the most important things …. is the extent to which intelligent working people … became themselves little capitalists” …. former Labor minister Dr Neal Blewett.
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Success story … members of the Australian workers Union are doing well says leader Paul Howes.

Just over a decade ago, researchers at the University of NSW set out to find where most Australians located themselves on the nation’s economic totem pole.

The results were startling.

The overwhelming majority of the survey’s respondents, some 92 per cent, thought they sat in the middle 60 per cent of households ranked by income – a statistical near-impossibility, as the survey ranged across all income groups. In reality, around a third of those surveyed had misjudged how far above or below the centre they really were.

”Most Australians have a greatly distorted impression of where their incomes place them relative to others,” the survey team reported, with some surprise.

In 2006 and 2010, the team at UNSW repeated its soundings. How much better informed had Australians become about their circumstances relative to those of everybody else? The answer, it seems, was barely at all.

”The vast majority of people still think they lie in the middle of the income distribution,” says the university’s Professor Peter Saunders, who is about to publish the team’s follow-up findings.

”Almost no one thinks they are in the bottom , and even fewer think they are in the the top 20 per cent.

”When you start talking about the middle, or inequality or distribution, these are relative concepts and most people have no idea … I have asked my colleagues, where do they sit, where does a university professor sit, and they too have no idea.”

This ignorance presents a clear conundrum for governments, particularly if, like Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, you’re seen as planning an assault on so-called ”middle-class welfare” in the lead-up to an embattled budget. Because if everybody thinks they are in the middle, everyone gets nervous.

Economist and executive director of the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss, believes modern politicians have created a rod for their own backs, with a strategy that says ”no matter who you are, I feel your pain”. It has heightened voter expectations and created unnecessary political pressures.

”Even people on $150,000 people seem to feel poor,” he says. ”How on earth did we get to that?”

Saunders too believes that a constant pitch to a fuzzily defined middle has become a double-edged sword for Canberra. ”If middle Australia is portrayed as hurting or threatened in some way, then everyone thinks that’s them.”

Social researcher and author Hugh Mackay points out that ”average annual household income for the top 20 per cent of Australians is $330,000. This is not middle Australia. Yet there are people earning $300,000 a year, talking in a way that suggests a real sense of entitlement [to government benefits] and their kids are developing that too.”

Rebecca Huntley, of research company Ipsos, which publishes the regular social trends study Mind and Mood, recalls sitting down recently with a group who were on household incomes of $200,000 a year, living in expensive homes no more than five kilometres from the city centres of Sydney and Melbourne.

”What was so interesting,” she tells Fairfax Media, ”is that most of those people saw themselves as middle class. Some would say, ‘Well, we’re not rich’.”

And yet $200,000 a year puts them firmly within the top 5 per cent of all Australian households measured by income, according to Australian National University analyst Professor Peter Whiteford.

The flattening of income tax scales, which began under Bob Hawke in the 1980s but accelerated under John Howard and was perpetuated by Kevin Rudd, may have further clouded perceptions of what it means to be well off.

These days there are far fewer tax brackets and you have to be earning $180,000 or more before the top tax rate kicks in.

”The tax system no longer sends cues to high income earners that they have entered top earning echelons,” Denniss argues.

All the muddy political rhetoric and confusion about who sits where feeds into growing uncertainty about what constitutes middle class in today’s world. Once, as the famous British TV skit with John Cleese and the two Ronnies had it, the tall man in the bowler hat (played by Cleese) looked down on the man in the suit, who looked down on the man in the cloth cap.

The working class got its hands dirty at the bottom while the middle class toiled in white-collar jobs in the professions or middle management, and the upper class had the posh accents and most of the loot.

But in Australia, as in other advanced Western economies, those paradigms have been turned on their head. Today’s economy is very different from the 1950s, when nearly half the workforce was employed in manufacturing and agriculture, many in semi-skilled or low-skilled jobs. Now those two industries account for about one in 10 Australian workers.

At the same time the nexus between education, the social status of certain kinds of work and higher incomes has been weakened. These days a highly successful tradie with his or her own contracting operation in the western suburbs, employing others, is likely to exceed many professionals in income.

”One of the most important things that hasn’t been given enough attention is the extent to which intelligent working people or intelligent skilled tradesmen became themselves little capitalists,” former Hawke cabinet minister Dr Neal Blewett says. ”A lot of them in the past would have been active unionists. Now they are contractors, employers of labour. And as the trade union movement broke down there has been more and more opportunities for contractors to get in on the act.”

Huntley says when she surveys these people, they will ”call themselves tradies but they will also say, ‘Well I’m really running my own business and doing my own BAS every three months”’.

Leader of the powerful Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, acknowledged this week most of his members were doing very nicely, despite their traditional blue-collar designation. He told the Financial Review that his members tended to be older, mid-40s, and ”middle to high income depending on your definition”.

”The reason why workers get high money is not always education,” Phil Ruthven, founder of business analysis and forecasting firm IBISWorld, says.

”It can be driven by labour shortages, industries experiencing fast growth or union hegemony. The old ideas of where the money came from are pretty well gone.”

A social researcher in Sydney’s west, Dr Kate Huppatz of the University of Western Sydney, has heard similar stories from the women she has been speaking to for a recent book on gender and class.

One student had been working as an exotic dancer to fund her studies at an eastern suburbs university. She coveted the greater respectability that would come from working as an occupational therapist once she graduated. At the same time, she was loathe to give up the greater income she earned as a stripper.

Despite the fact many of her interviewees came from what once would have been described as a working-class background, Dr Huppatz says most prefer to identify as being middle ”because they see middle as average”.

”That’s how middle is used in political rhetoric. You don’t see politicians saying middle class, they say middle Australia because we are uncertain of this term ‘class’ and perhaps even resent it.”

Social scientist Dr Keith Hancock, of Flinders University, also believes the numbers who wear the working-class label with pride are much diminished. ”That’s consistent with the dramatic fall in trade union membership (now around 18 per cent of the workforce) and maybe also the fall in membership of the Labor party,” he said.

Sensitivity around class is why some commentators are questioning Julia Gillard’s reversion to labels such as ”blue collar” in her recent pitch to manufacturing workers with an industry package aimed at shoring up the sector.

”Modern Australia”, she declared in a speech a week ago, could have a ”great blue-collar future”.

To some, this was a reversion to old class-speak.

”I think its very dangerous for any politician on either side to start talking class, or using code that seems to imply class,” Mackay warns. ”Its a kind of ghost, a fantasy figure, its not about bringing Australians together or saying something visionary about who we are.”

He draws a contrast with the Labor rhetoric of the Hawke and Keating years, particularly Hawke’s emphasis on consensus and reconciliation.

”Labor’s golden years in Australian politics in the mid ’80s to mid ’90s were all about a radically new paradigm. This [blue-collar talk] is about the old paradigms. We seem to have reached the point where the message is, ‘Don’t forget what we used to stand for, don’t forget the unions etcetera’. Well the more that is emphasised, the better the faithful will feel and the more the rest of the electorate will drift off.”

Blewett partially agrees. ”Gillard’s is, I think, a fairly desperate strategy because it has the danger of alienating whatever the middle class is, and I’m not sure how attractive that is given the weakness of the working class.”

Huntley says when she conducts focus groups among electricians, or garbage collectors or maintenance workers ”they have never described themselves as blue collar”.

”If blue collar is about physical work that is relatively low paid, you’ve got women, often migrant women doing that work, they are in cleaning and jobs like that. But it’s not unionised. It doesn’t really fit.”

Gillard has been on safer ground talking about ”working families” or more recently ”modern families” though the latter, Blewett feels, is ”an attempt to encompass both the working family and the middle family”.

She has also talked occasionally of ”everyday Australians”.

Blewett says her pitch ”is, of course, very strongly against a narrow upper class, the sort of $150,000 to $200,000 people” but the great mass of Australians may not read the rhetoric that way.

”I think she has been [hinting at] cuts in upper-class welfare or the very well-off segment of the middle class but as with all these things, it resonates further down the chain,” Blewett says.

Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, believes the term middle class has been largely drained of meaning other than as a way of denoting income.

”In an earlier era, the middle class was defined much more by cultural features than by financial ones; by education, say, or how you lived, the professions, the things that you valued culturally,” he says.

”There was quite a close parallel between the amount of cultural capital you owned, and the amount of financial capital you owned. That’s been washing out over the last 30 years, meaning it’s hard to find any criterion of middle classness other than a financial one.”

Lower down the middle bands, Huntley listens to her focus groups talking about what they think ”middle classness” means, and how they can attain or hold on to that place on the totem pole.

”I’ve sat in groups in the last 18 months, with people talking about the middle class being squeezed, and not being what it used to. They say things like, ‘We consider ourselves middle class but we don’t know if we can afford to keep the second car’, or , ‘We’re thinking of having a third kid but not sure about whether we can put a third through private school’.”

She adds ”They do recognise that part of [their anxiety] is escalating expectations, around things like travel, education, possessions, technology and all the rest, its driven by their own and society’s expectations of what the middle class should look like. But generally they are saying that for certain people to stay in that middle-class bracket, its becoming harder for some, even though both parents are educated and working.”

Such anxiety is real, but perhaps driven more by apprehension about an uncertain global economic future than by the reality of what most Australians have experienced over the past 15 years, the ANU’s Whiteford says.

The increase in household incomes in Australia since the middle of the 1990s was the second highest in the developed world at every level, from the poorest to the highest, he points out.

”The middle in Australia has had about the biggest increases in Australian history” while ”the richest 10 per cent of Australians have had the largest increase … around 60 per cent over the last 15 years”.

Despite this, Whiteford remains cautious about any attempt to cut middle-class welfare at the top of the mid-echelons.

”It depends how you define middle class and it depends on how you define welfare,” he argues. ”But if you just look at our social security payments and our family payments, Australia has the lowest middle-class welfare in the OECD … And if you look at the top 20 per cent of households, we give them a lower share of spending on social security than any other OECD country.”

On the other hand, he concedes that tax concessions on negative gearing and super are skewed to upper income groups . ”So it depends on how you define welfare.”

Professor Saunders believes that, while muddled, the escalating debate about middle-class welfare might force some clearer thinking about the levels of income above which people should not receive direct government assistance.

”Perhaps it should be the opposite of a poverty line. Perhaps an affluence line,” he suggests. ”If you are above that line, you shouldn’t get anything.”

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Labouring under old ideas as the ‘great divide’ disappears

Changing trend …. professionals have outnumbered labourers since the 1980’s.THE language of class lives on in Australia’s political debate thanks to cliches such as ”class warfare” and ”middle-class welfare”.
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But terms such as ”middle class and ”working class” emerged when the economy was very different.

Over the past 50 years Australia’s industrial base – a big employer for those traditionally labelled working class – has gradually declined as a share of gross domestic product and of employment.

In the Australia of 1933 labourers, farm workers and miners outnumbered professionals and managers by more than two to one. But by the early 1980s that had reversed.

The last census underscored this trend with the ”professional” employment category growing more quickly than other occupations. One in four workers in Sydney are now professionals. The city’s proportion of technicians and tradesmen fell from 12.7 per cent to 12.2 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Only about one in 12 Sydney workers are now in manufacturing.

Global economic forces, including a reduction of trade barriers and the rise of new manufacturing powers such as China, have contributed to these changes in the complexion of the workforce.

Consumer preferences and technical innovations have also played a part. Consumers and businesses now demand far more services in areas such as recreation, travel, education, finance and health. A raft of new services, such as communications and IT, has burst into being.

A relative decline in low-skilled jobs has been accompanied by a shift towards a better educated workforce and more high-skilled occupations. This has coincided with a dramatic increase in educational attainment. Retention rates to Year 12, for example, more than trebled between 1968 and 2010, from 23 per cent to 78 per cent.

The flood of married women into the workforce has also shifted the distribution of wealth and perceptions of economic status.

IBISWorld’s Phil Ruthven says the growth in workforce participation of married women – noticeable from the late 1960s – created a dynamic new cohort of double- income households. Many families vaulted from average incomes into what Ruthven calls the “well-off”.

The proportion of income accruing to the richest 40 per cent of Australian households grew markedly thanks to the influx of women.

“Its just silly to call that group middle-income,” he says. For him “middle income” households are those in the middle 20 per cent on the income distribution – that is, below the richest 40 per cent but above the poorest 40 per cent. However, that grouping accounts for only one sixth of household income in 2010, and an eighth of household wealth.

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The secret world of anorexics

Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW estimates that there are more than one million pro- anorexia web sites. Advocate for a ban on pro anasites … Federal Labor MP Anna Burke.
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Woman standing with her arms crossed

Ana can be highly emotional and empathetic. She craves attention, although she often hides behind others. And she can be a complete bitch.

”Get back on track, you ignorant f—.

Lose it, Chub. Lose it. Now.

Cut and starve and drink.

This is who you are now.”

– Ana

”Ana” is not a real person but an identity, adopted as self, friend and foe, the embodiment of anorexia. Her speech is the self-talk and self-hate that typifies a condition that is all about internalising how you look – or think you look – on the outside, and clinging to the conviction that salvation lies in getting ever thinner.

Ana (short for ”pro ana” – pro anorexia) and her lesser known sibling Mia (or ”pro mia” – pro bulimia) are the subjects of countless posts on social media and dedicated websites, blogs and forums. In 2008, the Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW (now Butterfly Foundation) estimated there were more than a million such sites.

Pro ana is dedicated to encouraging and supporting those who identify with the community. There are tips on grim topics such as how to make yourself vomit (known as ”purging”, one involves dental floss and a lifesaver). There are images of skinny models, celebrities and users’ own ”selfies” (called ”thinspiration” or ”thinspo”). And there are heartfelt posts describing good days and bad, and real-time messaging from Ana ”buddies”.

Those who participate in the subculture appear to be overwhelmingly teenage girls and young women – although online it is impossible to be sure – using handles such as ”anything2bethin” and ”beautifulbones”. The tone of the sites combines the language of support groups and their cycles of hope, commitment, breach, despair and recommitment, with a slightly childish emo folksiness (poetry in scratchy fonts, artwork of waifs wearing knee socks) and a rather more grown-up pride in their perversity.

Coffee and smokes

and cold Diet Cokes,

That’s what pretty girls are made of.

Its manifest catharsis is profoundly shocking.

Emma, 21, has struggled with an eating disorder for five years (her surname has been omitted to protect her privacy). She has starved herself (”restricted”) for up to eight days at a time (”No food whatsoever and zero-calorie drinks. And I end up a mess after it. I do really want to stop it.”). She has seen a range of psychologists, counsellors, dietitians and support groups to help her break a cycle of fasting and bingeing, and deal with her related anxiety and self-harming.

While still at school, Emma told her friends about her messed up behaviours, but, after that one tearful night, they were never mentioned again. She feels lonely and isolated. She has to force herself to leave the house other than to go to work, and she avoids talking on the phone.

Having always done a lot of research online, Emma stumbled into the pro ana community at the beginning of the year.

”It’s actually nice to read,” she says. ”It makes me feel like I’m not alone, like other people are going through these things and people understand.”

Intelligent and articulate, Emma is ambivalent about the subculture. ”I go through stages where I think pro ana is a fantastic idea, and I get right into it, I read about it and I look for buddies. Then all of a sudden I’ll binge and then I’ll be, like, obviously, restricting isn’t a realistic plan for me.”

Her life is dominated by the disorder, she says, every day an exhausting struggle with whether she will try to eat normally or fast.

”Even if I try and eat normally, because I’ve developed a habit of bingeing, I’ll still binge. If [that] happens many times, I feel like I can’t do it any more, I need a break. And so I’ll go back to restricting. Pro ana is sort of there for when I can’t fight any more,” she says.

Yet she is clear-eyed about pro ana’s hazards. ”It does scare me too,” she says. ”I [was] talking to someone on there once … and she was 13 or 14, and that just breaks my heart. I feel like saying stop, don’t get into this mess, get out of it while you’ve got the chance.”

Most eating disorder specialists and support groups are unequivocal about the sites’ dangers.

”I absolutely hate them,” says Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, the national support group for sufferers and carers. Those with long-term eating disorders don’t want to get well, she says. ”That’s one of the most horrific aspects of the illness.

”The sites say that [people] have chosen this as a lifestyle. We know that’s not true, that it’s a very serious psychiatric illness. Then they encourage them to remain true to behaviours that are doing them harm. I can’t see anything positive in that from any perspective.”

Two million people in Australia will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, the foundation estimates. Disorders last an average of 15 years, and about 20 per cent of sufferers never recover. It estimates the health costs at about $100 million last year, with an effect on national productivity of about $15.1 billion.

Physical damage can include anaemia, osteoporosis, an increased risk of infertility and kidney failure. The foundation estimates last year about 1828 sufferers died. Beyond the mortality rate and physical impairment, experts in eating disorders argue the behaviours must be understood as a mental illness because of the huge distress they cause.

Chairwoman of mental health at the University of Western Sydney, Professor Phillippa Hay, likens eating disorders to depression. ”In the course of human experience, it will be normal to feel low in the same way as someone with depression feels low. But for someone with a mental illness, [it] becomes overwhelming and prevents them from living full and happy lives and relating to other people. It’s the disability from the behaviour and emotion that constitutes an illness.”

Many sufferers are unable to work, have a relationship or live independently.

Internationally, there has been momentum in several countries to ban or attach warnings to pro ana sites, including France, Britain and the Netherlands. In Australia, the federal Labor MP, Anna Burke, called for legislation banning pro ana sites in 2008.

But how much harm do they cause? Emma says pro ana’s virtual solidarity is something she hasn’t been able to find in real-world support groups: She likes not being seen, and the ability to have text conversations when she needs them.

She prefers their support to that of professionals she has consulted. ”I’ve never liked the idea of paying to have someone to talk to. It feels like they’re only doing it because they have to.” Pro ana, on balance, has been more good than bad, she says.

Last year, a ground-breaking study of the personal experience of pro ana bloggers was published in the journal Health Communications. It found bloggers experienced positive effects of self-expression, catharsis and social support in coping with a stigmatised disease. They also experienced negative consequences: fear of disclosure and of encouraging disorders.

Researchers Daphna Yeshua-Katz and Nicole Martins concluded that, in light of the poor results of conventional treatments for eating disorders – those treated for anorexia have less than 50 per cent chance of recovering within 10 years – further investigation of the prevailing treatment protocols were warranted.

”Instead, the young [pro ana] women themselves are blamed for sabotaging their own recovery,” they argue. ”Our results suggest … the moral panic about the websites might not be appropriate.”

Parallels with pro ana can be found in the fat acceptance movement, which aims to change social and medical prejudices about those with large bodies. Both are trying to break down stereotypes that looking a certain way makes people bad, moral or aesthetic failures.

Like Gay Rights, Women’s Lib or Deaf Culture, these are arguably all identity movements that aim to recast as diversity those traits condemned as disease or disability and used as the basis for discrimination. If fat acceptance rightly seeks to de-stigmatise the large bodied, why couldn’t the same be true of pro ana? Because unlike obesity, the experts say, anorexia is a mental illness. The categorisations of mental illnesses, however, are not like the laws of physics. ”Disordered” behaviours can move in and out of the medical/psychological spectrum over time: homosexuality, notoriously, was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986.

Ethicist Stacy Carter, who works at the University of Sydney’s school of public health, says if anorexic behaviour has its roots in damaging experiences, it is legitimate to question ”whether that person is in a position to make good judgments about how to live a flourishing life.

”If the very nature of being anorexic is the state of being constantly miserable, then it would make more sense to do whatever you could to [intervene],” she says.

But if young women are attracted to pro ana websites, that immediately suggests they need a community they can identify with, she says. ”So shouting at them about it being bad to be anorexic and trying to shut down the sites seems to miss the very purpose of their engagement with the sites in the first place. Maybe a better way to think about it is, how can we provide that?”

Hay says a ”counter culture” of therapeutic applications that seek to do just that are emerging, including chat rooms and ”therapies that can be delivered ethically over the internet”.

But it is not just the technology that enables pro ana. It is also its uncensored, unsupervised nature.

In the weeks after interviewing Emma, I regularly check her activity on her favoured pro ana site. She’s back there most days but hasn’t posted a comment asking for, or offering, support since I first contacted her via the site.

I feel my anxiety about her is well intentioned. But I suspect she feels she’s being watched.

For help and support call 1800 334 673 or email support@ thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

For 24-hour help call Lifeline 13 11 14

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Henderson homes in on shot at national title

It’s a far cry from racing in front of 20,000 at an Olympic Games, but Canberra mountain biker Bec Henderson is still excited about competing at the national championships at Stromlo this weekend.
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Henderson is looking to defend her national women’s under-23 cross country mountain bike title on her home track, in front of family and friends.

It is her final year as an under 23 before she steps up to open class.

She was hoping the nationals would kick-start a big year, which will culminate at the world championships in Austria in September.

But first she wants to add another national title to her resumé´ on Saturday.

”I’m really happy to have a nationals back here at Stromlo because it’s my home town and all your friends and family are here to watch,” Henderson said.

”It’s not going to be the 20,000 spectators that we experienced in London, but it’s home ground and we know the course really well.

”It’s still good vibes and a really good atmosphere.”

Six months ago, Henderson and boyfriend-coach Dan McConnell were Australia’s sole mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics.

Henderson is not the only member of the couple defending a title on Saturday. McConnell is also the reigning Australian champion, but he broke his hand in October which forced him off the bike for three months. He’s only been back in training for 3½ weeks.

He’s hopeful it has been long enough to get his form back.

But he admits the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in March might be a more realistic goal – especially since he wants to peak for the world cups in Europe in May.

”I haven’t done a lot of racing lately … it’s not ideal, but I’m probably in the best shape I can be for the preparation I’ve had,” McConnell said.

”I’m not in great form, but I’m hoping it will be enough to get me through. I’m trying not to get too worked up about it. It’s not ideal and I’m far from my best.

”I’ve just got to try and have the best race that I can, and if that’s the win great, if not I can still look forward to a big year.”

In contrast, Henderson said she ”couldn’t complain” about her preparation, which included winning the elite women’s national series event at Thredbo two weeks ago.

”January was a bit up and down with organising a race and illness, but nothing serious and I’ve had consistent training,” she said.

”Thredbo, the last national round, went better than I could have imagined so it was a surprise to have better form than I thought.”

MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Stromlo Forest Park

Saturday: 9.30am: Cross country – Elite and under-23 women; 12:30pm: Cross country – Elite and under-23 men; 5pm: Downhill seeding runs – Men and women

Sunday: 10am: Cross country eliminator – Men and women; 4pm: Downhill – Men and women.

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