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October, 2000

PATRIOTISM WINS GOLD IN NEWCASTLE...

The Olympics are over; some may breathe a sigh of relief, while others sadly ponder the missed brilliance of Roy and H.G in 'The Dream'.

No matter in which category you lie, we have all been affected by Sydney's hosting of the Olympic Games.

But what about the more localised news? How have we, as Novocastrians, experienced the Games? Have we all curled up in a bundle, content to watch it in the familiarity of the lounge room, or chosen to brave the queues, crowds and (shudder) public transport in order to "be a part" of Australian history?

There is no apparent answer. A spokesperson for the OCC has reported there are no statistics for Newcastle's Olympic ticket sales.

"There has been 6.7 million people nationally attending the Olympic Games but there are no figures to 'break down' this number into regional statistics," the spokesperson said.

Dr David Rowe, Associate Professor in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Newcastle attended some Olympic events and describes his experience of the games as "almost inescapable".

"I got on the train at Broadmeadow with everyone else and attended a few events. I was also observing what was going on at the various Olympic sites around Sydney," he said.

However, Dr Rowe's interest was arguably more in-depth than the typical Novocastrian. He and eleven other academics are currently involved in a three-year study funded by the Australian Research Council.

"Part of our study involves different experiences people had of the Olympics: the experience of being in the stadium or watching it on the television at home.

"But there are other experiences in between the two: many people were holding parties or attending public sites, cheering and forming a crowd as if they were watching the events live.

"I'm sure most Novocastrians would have gotten their 'Olympic fix'. There were so many ways to experience the Games right here: tune in to any station on the radio, turn on the television or do a search on the Internet and there it is," Mr Rowe said.

The convenience of the local media proved to be popular with many Novocastrians. Prime Television achieved record ratings in Newcastle for their coverage of the Olympic Games.

In figures provided by A.C Nielsen, 60.6% of viewers chose to watch the Olympic coverage on Prime Television throughout the second week of the games.

Brad Jones general manager for Prime describes their coverage of the Opening Ceremony as "probably the biggest television viewing in the history of Newcastle".

"On Friday 15th, for the Opening Ceremony, 272 000 viewers from Newcastle and the Hunter Region tuned into Prime," Mr Jones said.

Novocastrians have also spent longer periods of time watching Prime's regular coverage of the Olympic Games.

"Our typical night-time audience during the Olympic Games was what one would normally expect from, say, a State of Origin or some other popular sporting event. The difference with the Olympics was that we were able to maintain that large number.

" We had increased viewing for four hours a day, seven days a week," Mr Jones said.

Cathy Freeman in the 400m proved to be the favourite: 248 000 viewers tuned in to Prime Television between 8:00 - 8:30pm on Monday night. This far surpassed any other sporting coverage: in comparison, the men's 1500m only reached 98 000 viewers.

However, judging from the chaos at the Civic Theatre for ticket purchasing, many Novocastrians were not content to just sit back and watch the Games on television.

The Civic Theatre on Hunter Street, Newcastle, was experiencing heavy human traffic, many waiting for over four hours for their chance to experience the Games live.

Malcolm Calder, director of the Civic Theatre in Newcastle comments: "After the Torch Relay, there was a significant increase in ticket demand. For about two weeks, there was generally a four hour wait for tickets."

One of those people was Renee Rigelsford, a Newcastle University student. She describes the experience of the closing ceremony in Sydney as "intensely patriotic".

"Being part of the atmosphere was incredible. It's something you don't get to experience just by watching an event on television. It felt like, by being there, I was supporting my country and our athletes," she said.

Dr Rowe believes that it for these reasons that some Novocastrians were willing to face the crowds, expense and inconvenience of attending live events.

"When people reflect on their lives, they mainly remember the remarkable moments. Seeing the Olympics live, for many, is one of those moments.

"People wanted to say 'I was there' in future years. I know I had that sense of being a part of history in the making," Dr Rowe said.

No matter which way Novocastrians experienced the Olympics, the evidence available seems to reflect that we did all experience it, in some way or another. Perhaps that is the most important thing.

Australia has shown the world that we are more than a country of talented athletes. Our unique heritage and culture, combined with our talented performers and colourful citizens, made the XXVII Games of the Olympiad an event which Newcastle, Sydney and Australia can smile back on in years to come.

And, on that note, I have only one thing left to say: 'Aussie Aussie Aussie - Oi Oi Oi!'

By Nadine Tisdell

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To make a donation to the RSPCA, click on the picture link



RSPCA: A Lifestyle Choice

Newcastle's RSPCA have re-homed over 2000 domestic cats and dogs in the last 12 months ending June.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been providing care of and homes for Newcastle's animals for over 80 years.

Newcastle Manager for the RSPCA, Sue Patchett, regards her work as 'a lifestyle choice as opposed to just being employed.'

'Being in a position to help sick or injured animals is very rewarding. The frustrations are that the wheels of the legal system grind slowly and, although there are heavy fines that can be applied under the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act (POCTA), most courts do not do so. We often feel our efforts are trivialized,' Mrs Patchett said.

The downfalls of such an imminent responsibility are high: for although the shelter has found homes for some of the animals, most are not so lucky.

More than 70% of cats at the RSPCA have been euthanased (put down) in the twelve months ending June 30th, 2000.

Desexing your cat at any early age is highly recommended by the RSPCA for all pet-owners.

'We are affected everyday by the irresponsible attitude of some animal owners who have undesexed animals producing kittens and puppies that end up in our shelter. These unwanted animals become our responsibility to find homes for or to euthanase,' Mrs Patchett said.

The statistics for dogs are somewhat better: just over 40% of the shelter's canines have been euthanased in the same twelve-month period.

Newcastle's RSPCA shelter can hold over 200 dogs and cats at any time but clearly these facilities cannot cater for the high demand of sick, injured or stray animals.

Mrs Patchett believes new facilities are needed, as the local shelter is 'old and deteriorated'. She is hopeful the RSPCA will relocate and build a new shelter in the 'not too distant future'.

'Under the new Companion Animals Act laws a stray dog or cat must be impounded to the council pound in the area in which the animal was found.

'Unfortunately neither the Newcastle or Lake Macquarie councils have any facilities for the holding of stray cats at this time. However, a dog found in either of these areas can be impounded to the councils at the RSPCA shelter during our normal opening hours,' Mrs Patchett said.

She also stresses that the RSPCA act 'as agents' for the council only: 'Stray dogs are the responsibility of the local council. We provide facilities for the holding of these council dogs and the release of them to owners. The RSPCA is separate and different from the council-impounding dog holding kennels,' she said.

One of the biggest downfalls for the RSPCA manager is seeing some of the pain and suffering that humans can inflict on animals.

'Motor vehicle accidents would rate highest on the list of the cause of animal injuries - inappropriate tethering, collars ingrown into an animal's neck, animal abuse, steel jaw trapping, skin problems and starvation are all problems that we routinely see and treat,' Mrs Patchett said.

If a motorist was to hit an animal they are required by law under POCTA to stop and render assistance or to report the accident to the local police.

The RSPCA has an emergency response animal ambulance available between 8am and 10pm, which operates within a 20km radius of the shelter.

The RSPCA rely heavily on donations and bequests to continue their work in animal welfare.

'Being a self-funding organisation, any profit from the clinic is channeled into the shelter operation,' Mrs Patchett said.

Donations can be made to RSPCA Newcastle, PO Box 46 Wallsend 2287 or in person to the shelter reception office.

The RSPCA is a registered charity and all donations over two dollars are tax deducible.

For local families thinking of buying a new pet, the RSPCA can offer dogs for $110 and cats for $70.

These prices include a vet check, first vaccination, worming, heartworm testing, micro chipping and desexing.

Although the shelter predominantly houses cats and dogs, it is not uncommon to find a wider variety of animals including sheep, cattle and horses.

The RSPCA is open for the public Mon.-Fri 9am to 4:30pm and Sat-Sun 8am to 2pm.

By Nadine Tisdell




August, 2000

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Mr Neil Boyd

Changes in local schools spark concern

Wallsend, Jesmond and Waratah will become the 'guinea pigs' of Newcastle-based high schools if the NSW State Government approves a collegiate in 2001, less than six months away.

A collegiate is formed through the combination of several high schools to form separate junior and senior colleges.

Jesmond High will become the senior high school, or Callaghan College, catering for the students from all three suburbs, while Waratah and Wallsend Highs will be enrolling students up to Year 10 only.

The NSW Teachers' Federation openly expressed their concerns toward the teachers and students if the collegiate is passed.

They have asked for a 12 month delay in the plans and have given the NSW Education Minister, John Aquilina, until Friday 4th to respond.

The Department of Education and Training (DET) believe the students' educational needs can best be met through implementing a collegiate in western Newcastle.

'Our responsibility is for student outcomes. It is the students point of view that we are taking,' Laurie Tabart, District Superintendent of DET, said.

'Jesmond, Wallsend and Waratah Technology High Schools will work in partnership with the Hunter Institute and the University of Newcastle to provide exciting new training and tertiary education options,' Mr Aquilina said.

By putting the mass of senior students in one school location, the department believes that many more HSC subjects could be taught to the students at a higher level.

Mr. Compton agrees that, at the moment, Wallsend High School (WHS) cannot cater for the educational needs of all its students; in particular, those wanting to do higher levels of specific subjects.

The NSW Teachers' Federation acknowledges the educational benefits of increased subject choices but believes the DET must demonstrate any educational worth before the proposal is put in place.

'While the proposal may have some educational merit, the DET's handling of the matter has been appalling. Teachers, parents, and most importantly our students, deserve better than this.

'Average class sizes will also be higher,' Jennifer Leete, Deputy President of the Federation said.

While Mr Tabart said Callaghan collegiate, 'has been the subject of much research and analysis', most teachers are not convinced.

The WHS Teachers' Federation Representative, Neil Bowd, said that the majority of teachers are, 'still to be convinced of, or even shown, valid educational research that demonstrates the benefit of collegiates'.

'It is not enough to quote enrolment patterns; it is not enough to make claims without providing the research to back them up. The educational landscape in NSW is, unfortunately, littered with the remains of failed experiments which have previously been promoted by the Department,' said Ms Leete on behalf of the Teachers Federation.

'There is an absence of research supporting the assertions of the Minister that this collegiate will enhance educational outcomes for students. Research, analysis and academic evaluation could identify potential shortcomings.'

The issue of consultation is controversial. Mr Aquilina (DET) said the new plan for a collegiate in western Newcastle was 'developed after extensive consultation'.

Jennifer Leete (Federation) argues this view: 'There has been a lack of consultation. Parents and teachers have been treated with contempt and have not been told the educational rationale for the proposal.

'Significant issues such as staffing and resource levels at the schools have not yet been decided. No step should be taken to implement the proposal until these matters have been resolved.'

Colin Ekert, Deputy Principal of WHS, does admit that, 'A lot of staff feel they don't have all the information they want. The general feeling is that the concept of the idea is great but some say there are still too many unanswered questions.

'What needs to happen is to make sure that those people who are undecided or concerned have those concerns answered.'

According to the DET, a collegiate in Newcastle will meet the long-term interests and aspirations of students. While this is an honourable goal, the federation believe short-term disadvantages such as lack of consultation and research could detract from the effectiveness of such a plan.

'If the proposal was deferred for at least 12 months, appropriate discussions could take place with parents and teachers, and a rational plan developed, involving definite and agreed stages of implementation and satisfactory funding arrangements organised,' Mr Bowd said.

Janene Wennen, local mother of two WHS students, believes that 'in the long run it will be a good idea but it is just trying to be pushed too fast'.

While there is a lot of controversy, both the DET and Teachers' Federation agree that due to the rapidly changing nature of the educational environment, students' needs should be the focus of further discussion.

One question that should be asked: 'Is a senior college the only way of improving education in western Newcastle?'

In some areas high schools have brought their timetables into alignment on certain days. This can give the senior students the access to a wider range of courses offered across the schools and local TAFE colleges. Working together, they have expanded educational opportunities for students without the inconvenience of travelling beyond their local school.

'Children need to go to their local high school. They have a role of providing a safe environment for the students while helping them build up a sense of belonging within the community,' Mr Perkins, teacher at WHS, said.

Whatever the outcome may be, one can't help but question the validity of a collegiate that has sparked such concern whilst it is still in the proposal stage.

In the end it will be up to parents, teachers and the community to ensure that the collegiate is worthwhile. Any change, particularly one as large as this, could have the potential to impact on students for many years to come.

By Nadine Tisdell
Elisa Korotkich

Copyright Hamilton Leader 2000

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Professor David Rowe

Picture link courtesy of www.rspca.com