Parent peer pressure keeps kids from walking to school alone

Why don’t parents let their children walk to school, or go out alone without an adult?
Nanjing Night Net

Fear of strangers or hurtling traffic might be the obvious answer.

Henry, 11, Annabel, 8, and Tom Feeney, 10, walk to school by themselves. Photo: Darrian Traynor

But many parents are worried that other parents, friends and teachers will disapprove, and judge them, according to a comprehensive survey of Victorian parents from the Judith Lumley Centre at La Trobe University.

Almost 1800 parents of children aged nine to 15 were interviewed on the phone about the social, environmental and other factors that made them think twice about letting their children walk to school alone, or play in the neighbourhood without an adult.

And the perceived disapproval of family and friends was one of the strongest factors, says La Trobe researcher Shannon Bennetts.

“Parents are taking cues from other families in their school as a reference point,” says Dr Bennetts.

“Social norms and community norms are shaping parent’s decisions about letting their children be independently mobile.”

This finding was no great surprise to Erin Feeney, whose three children Henry 11, Tom, 10 and Annabel, eight, walk about a kilometre from their home to Balwyn Primary each day alone.

Their journey to school includes crossing a busy intersection.

The children began making their own way to school when Henry was nine, because Ms Feeney had to drop Annabel at an after-school class and didn’t want to pay for babysitting.

She “trained” them initially, walking behind them to observe how they reacted to traffic, and she still does not let them use a ball or scooter to prevent distractions.

They also have to ring by 4pm when they get home, and the neighbours have a key.

Some fellow parents were very positive, and offered to keep an eye on the children en route and report back if they weren’t being sensible.

But others told her she was doing the wrong thing.

“After it happened a few times I felt I had to justify it by explaining the training we had done with them,” Ms Feeney says.

“I shouldn’t have to justify it.”

“But I also had parents say to me that [not letting their own children walk to school by themselves] was more about them, about not being able to let go.”

One in four Australian children is now overweight or obese.

Strategies to encourage the state’s increasingly-sedentary children to walk to school have focused on forming “walking buses”, changing traffic and pavement infrastructure and signage to encourage walking.

But Dr Bennetts said strategies that focus on the built environment have been shown to increase children’s independent mobility in the short term, but don’t create sustained change.

It might be more effective to focus on the social factors, she said.

The research found parents with daughters and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were particularly concerned about strangers harming their children.

This reflects community awareness of violence against women and cultural differences about what’s appropriate for children, researchers said.

Giving a mobile phone to a child aged 10 to 13 – the transition age between primary and secondary school – meant parents were less fearful about strangers.

Ms Feeney says her children spend their walk talking to each other, and most of the feedback she gets from other parents is about how close her children seem.

“They walk along, heads next to each other, chatting away,” she says.

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Why Australia can stay recession-free for longer

Sydney NYE 2016. The 12am New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour, viewed from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. 1 January 2017. Photo: Wolter Peeters New lights installed for trials in the road and footpath that alert pedestrians on their mobile phones that the don’t walk lights are illuminated.Photo taken on the corner of Pitt and Goulburn Streets, Sydney.29th March 2017.Photo: Steven Siewert
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Australia is likely to lag the current global economic uplift, but strong population growth and a fundamentally resilient economy should see the country outperform other developed economies over the longer term, BIS Oxford Economics head of Australian economics Sarah Hunter says.

The relative underperformance of the local economy has been highlighted in recent days by the crossing of US two-year bond yields above their Australian counterparts -something that hasn’t happened in 20 years and which sparked worries that Australia risks being left behind in the changing global economic landscape.

“Relative to trend growth, the outlook here for the next couple of years is definitely less rosy than in the US, Europe and Japan – and generally the world,” Ms Hunter said.

While recognising these current trends, she said it was not a harbinger of longer-term woes for the local economy.

“I do still think the fundamentals here are better than pretty much any other developed country,” she said.

“Largely that is a population story, because the demographics here are just so good,” she said, pointing to the combination of strong inward skilled migration and the relatively high birth rate.

“Because of that the supply side is getting bigger and at a much faster pace than the US and certainly Japan. And so from an absolute GDP growth rate I think Australia will outperform when we look over the next 10 years.

“But when we look over the next two years it’s probably going to be about the same as the US.” Which, in historical trend terms, is a disappointing outcome.

Ms Hunter lauded Australia’s 26-year recession-free run as “impressive”. But rather than a never-to-be repeated anomaly, she believes it is a reflection of fundamental factors within the local economy.

“The structure of the economy here almost lends itself to that as an outcome,” she said. “It’s a currency swing momentum story.”

As an important sector such as mining is doing well, Ms Hunter said, this tends to have a dampening effect on other corners of the economy, such as tourism and manufacturing.

“Look over the last decade and clearly after the financial crisis the miners do really well as China turns on the taps. The Aussie dollar hits parity and goes beyond. That’s great news and income is flooding in; people are chipping out to WA to work there,” Ms Hunter said.

“But if you go and ask the hoteliers, it’s just awful for them. [The high currency] absolutely crucifies them.”

While the end of the mining investment boom spelled trouble for cities such as Perth and activity in the resources sector, the economy’s flexibility has allowed for a relatively smooth transition, assisted by a weaker dollar and a well-timed housing construction boom.

At its most acute, the slowdown in mining investment over three years slashed around 1 percentage point off annual GDP growth, Ms Hunter said. “And yet the economy still grew – that’s amazing.”

While recognising that a recession is always possible, she emphasised that “the economy does very well at moving resources to where they are most needed and moving them comparatively quickly, and that’s the fundamental reason why there hasn’t been a recession here [in so long].

“I think it’s a real positive for the economy that it can manage those transitions without getting into more trouble. Yes, during the transition growth has to slow because people can’t just transport themselves from the east coast to Perth and vice versa, and capital doesn’t do the same, but it is incredible that that transition happens so smoothly.”

While Ms Hunter is upbeat on the local economy over the longer term, she sees an “orthodox” governor Philip Lowe not moving ahead of signs of a pick-up in wages and inflation.

“I think from that perspective they are not introducing any uncertainty and that is one of their big roles: to give the economy and markets a platform to work from, and they have done a good job of that. It’s orthodox and traditional, but it’s been very successful so far.”

Ms Hunter said while the “next move is definitely up”, she doesn’t see the RBA “moving until 2019 at the absolute earliest, and probably not until the back end of 2019”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Affordable housing plan needs more funding, says expert

A key federal government measure to boost the supply of affordable housing has little chance of success without additional support funding, experts say.
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The affordable housing bond aggregator will provide long-term loans to community housing providers, funded by investment from institutional players like superannuation funds.

However, with affordable housing rents set at below market rates, the government will need to bridge the gap to make the returns appealing to investors, according to British expert Piers Williamson.

“Subsidised housing needs subsidy,” said the chief executive of The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC). “[Government grants] are one of the things that are missing over here, it’s pretty key.”

As head of the THFC, an affordable housing bond aggregator operating in the UK for 30 years, Mr Williamson has been advising the Turnbull government on its National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).

“What we are prescribing is not sufficient to solve your problem, it is one of the elements,” he said speaking at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s National Housing Conference last week.

In addition to a much-need housing subsidy, Mr Williamson said getting the majority of community housing providers on board, to ensure lower financing costs, and having standardised regulation nationally, would be key.

“To an investor homogeneity is good,” he said. “There needs to be one standard.”

Related: More housing needed for key workers Related: Calls for higher affordable housing targets Related: Subsidy needed to boost affordable housing

While no institutional investor or bank has lost money lending to a UK housing association in 30 years, Mr Williamson said a government guarantee was also vital for encouraging investment.

“That helped us when the last property crash happened in the UK in 1992 … we were writing business like it was going out of fashion, we were counter cyclical to the banks,” he said.

“Banks are cyclical and I suspect both nations are going to go through a property cycle fall or two … investors get more conservative at that point, that might be where a guarantee in the context of the aggregators actually helps.”

Calls for a government guarantee and subsidy were backed by Jon Ross, the global head of public sector at Westpac, and Michael Swan, a senior portfolio manager for fixed interest and cash at Cbus.

“We do believe super funds should and can play a role in increasing the supply of affordable housing,” Mr Swan said.

“[But] it’s well understood that affordable housing falls short on investment return in comparison to other types of real estate investment, so we believe some form of government contribution, assistance or support would be typically required to bridge the gap between commercial and non-commercial returns.”

Mr Swan said as a consequence CBUS would encourage the government to guarantee bonds, which could help secure a larger pool of investors.

Mr Ross agreed, saying growth in the UK had been facilitated by government-backed bonds and funding to help close the gap.

“We can debate for a long time what form that funding takes. In the UK it was done through stock transfers and grants, in the US it’s through tax concessions … it doesn’t matter as long as we close the gap,” he said.

“When we close the gap the capital will flow, the market needs market returns,” Mr Ross added.

Calls for the guarantee were answered at the conference on Friday, when Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar announced that to provide stability and confidence, the government would guarantee the bonds. He also announced that the NHFIC would no longer terminate after five years.

However, there was no announcement regarding further subsidies, which Housing Action Network associate Carrie Hamilton said was critical to the scheme’s success.

“[There’s] the silver bullet fallacy, that we can solve everything with this bright, shiny new finance mechanism, but the only silver bullet really would be reintroducing stable and robust government investment to fund the feasibility gap and increase the supply of affordable housing,” she said.

“We’ve had some brief one-offs [in recent decades] during the GFC stimulus and with the NRAS [National Rental Affordability Scheme] but that’s the silver bullet we really need.”

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Nine patients woke up to find surgical instruments inside them

Nine hospital patients in NSW have had to undergo further surgery after medical instruments were left inside them in 2015-16, a new report reveals.
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The Auditor-General’s latest report on NSW’s health system shows there were 34 sentinel events – major adverse events that result in very serious harm or death to patients – in public hospitals in 2015-16, a third fewer than in the previous year.

“Even a small number of isolated sentinel events have the potential to seriously undermine public confidence in the healthcare system,” the Audit Office said.

On top of the surgical instruments left in patients, nine patients committed suicide, six women died because of childbirth complications and four people died after being administered wrong medication.

Three patients either died or suffered brain damage because of intravascular gas embolism, where air bubbles enter the blood stream and block blood flow.

The report also recorded three deaths or major permanent loss of function due to operations on the wrong person or wrong body part. There were no cases of this type in the previous three years.

On average, one sentinel event occurred for every 85,893 patients admitted to a NSW hospital in 2015-16.

Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord said the data showed the health system was under “enormous pressure”.

He demanded Health Minister Brad Hazzard to provide details around each sentinel event.

“The community only knows about the specific details when brave whistle-blowers or grieving families speak out,” he said.

But a NSW Health spokesman said more than a thousand patients a day have surgical procedures and the rate of serious harm is low.

“The number of sentinel events has been stable over the last decade despite the increasing number of patients treated,” he said.

“Of course, sentinel events should never happen, and to support this NSW public hospitals have a strong culture of identifying risks to patient safety and reporting incidents so improvements can be made.”

Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, a health systems researcher at Macquarie University, said it was extremely difficult to make inferences with very small numbers.

“So, sentinel events moving from 50 to 34, from 2015 to 2016, does not necessarily signify anything much when the numbers they refer to is so large,” he said.

“This is a well known problem, where the denominator is very big and the numerator is small. So shifts from year to year are really not a good indicator of how well the system is performing.”

The Auditor-General’s report also said five “health entities”, such as NSW Ambulance and Western Sydney, did not meet the Ministry of Health’s performance expectations in the past financial year, up from three the previous year.

Even though NSW Ambulance met the ministry’s target response time for imminently life-threatening incidents, its response times for potentially life-threatening incidents did not improve, remaining at about 11 minutes.

In addition, the rate of patients leaving emergency departments within four hours did not improve and NSW Health, on average, did not reduce the rate of unplanned hospital re-admissions.

Mr Secord called these “worrying trends”.

He also criticised the government for changing the target to reduce the rate of hospital re-admissions to be less than or equal to 5 per cent.

Based on the old criteria, only one out of 15 local health districts (LHD) would have hit the target. Based on the new one, eight LHDs achieved the target.

The Auditor-General also underscored excess annual leave, overtime payments and “weak” timesheet approvals as shortcomings in the state’s financial controls.

“Overall, NSW Health recorded an operating surplus of $407 million in 2016-17,” the report said.

“Eleven local health districts/specialty networks recorded operating deficits … four more than 2015-16,” it continued.

“Expenses across NSW Health increased by 4.4 per cent … lower than the expected long-term annual expense growth rate.”

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Union leaders could take fight against blackmail charges to High Court

Blackmail charges against the leaders of Victoria’s biggest building union might never get to trial even if the two accused men lose their next court challenge.
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Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union state secretary John Setka and deputy Shaun Reardon are trying to have the charges against them quashed and will take their fight to the Court of Appeal next year, having already had a magistrate and a Supreme Court judge rule against them and declare the charges legitimate.

With the case close to entering its third year before the courts, Mr Setka and Mr Reardon on Tuesday appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court, which heard the two men and their lawyers would take their fight against the validity of the charges to the High Court if the Court of Appeal ruled against them.

If the matter goes to the High Court, there is a chance Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions might decide the case is not worth prosecuting, the court heard.

“I just don’t know what the director’s position will be,” prosecutor Ray Gibson told the court on Tuesday.

Police allege Mr Setka and Mr Reardon blackmailed Boral executives Paul Dalton and Peter Head in April 2013 by getting building companies to stop using Boral concrete after the company ??refused to meet union demands.

Mr Setka, 53, and Mr Reardon, 49, were charged in December 2015 and last year tried to have a magistrate rule the charges were invalid under consumer laws governing industrial disputes.

But magistrate Kay Robertson found the criminal charges were valid, as did Supreme Court Justice James Elliott this year.

Lawyers for the two union leaders appealed against both rulings.

Mr Setka and Mr Reardon are due to face a committal – the hearing that determines whether they stand trial – in May next year, but must wait for the Court of Appeal ruling beforehand.

They are to go before the Court of Appeal in February.

Defence counsel Robert Richter, QC, said on Tuesday the pair would appeal to the High Court if the appeals court ruled against them.

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg??? set aside days in September next year for the committal hearing and extended the pair’s bail.

The case will return before a magistrate on March 1 for an update.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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