That's me on an early training run in Byron Bay when I weighed over 100 kg.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last jaunt for 2012

Very satisfying 17.5 run/speed-walk today. Started off down Johnston Creek to Bicentennial Park, through the pretty back streets of East Balmain, out around the northern section of Iron Cove on the Bay Run, up Hawthorne canal then meandered back through Leichhardt. Most of it was pure barefoot and only the last few kilometres with Xeros (huaraches).

The soles of feet are a bit sore, but no doubt they will get tougher. I was very pleased however not to have any knee or heel pain at all. This is real progress. This will be my last run of for 2012. Looking forward to next year very much.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Violence against women must stop!

It was so sad to learn that the 23-year-old girl who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus in New Delhi died yesterday.

I can only hope her loss will catalyse some positive action to stop violence against women. Every day, thousands of women and girls are abused and murdered. We must do anything we can to prevent such horrible and senseless violence. Anything.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rethinking boat-people

My little post yesterday yielded a lot of "well how are supposed to deal with boat-people then" rhetoric. I think Julian Burnside's suggestions are eminently sensible.  I have repeated them here in full. Please see his website for more intelligent discussion on the subject.

Let’s rethink our treatment of boat-people
If I could re-design the system, it would look something like this:
•      boat-arrivals would be detained initially for one month, for preliminary health and security checks, subject to extension if a court was persuaded that a particular individual should be detained longer;
•      after initial detention, they would be released into the community, with the right to work, and a right to Centrelink and Medicare benefits.  Even if none of them got a job, it would be cheaper than keeping them locked up;
•      they would be released into the community on terms calculated to make sure they remained available for the balance of their visa processing;
•      during the time their visa applications were being processed, they would be required to live in rural or regional areas of Australia.  Any government benefits they received would thus work for the benefit of the rural and regional economy.  There are plenty of towns around the country which would welcome an increase in their population.
It would take a bit of political selling, although I suspect that rural and regional Australia would be quick to see the benefits of this approach. 
Consider the economics of it. 
The cost of mandatory detention is $150,000 to $450,000 per person per year, depending on place of detention.  Nauru/Manus detention costs are more variable because there is a large fixed cost, so per-head costs vary as numbers detained vary.  As at 2005, Nauru cost $1650 per person per day ($602,500 per person per year).
If we adopt the alternative proposed above – no long-term detention, process protection claims while the person lives in the community in rural or regional areas, then the cost (via Centrelink payments) would be about $16,380 per person per year, even if you assume they depend wholly on welfare support.  And all that money goes into the regional community.
There are plenty of country towns which would be glad of the economic stimulus of a boost to their population.  Who knows, in a couple of years we may be calling for more boat-people!
Given that more than 90% of boat people are found to be refugees, the fact is that we are spending vast amounts of money (way more than a billion dollars a year) locking up innocent people who will, most of them, end up with a legal right to stay here.  But by the time they join the community, they have been badly damaged - by us.  The more damaged they are, the less they are able to contribute to the community.
Some basic facts:
  • boat-people are not illegal – they break no law by coming here seeking protection;
  • there is no queue in the places they are fleeing from (the address of the Australian Embassy in Kabul is a secret, for security reasons);
  • the number of boat-people is small by any standard.  It averages around 1500 people per year. In 2012 it might get up to 20,000 but will probably be fewer than that.  For comparison, the annual intake of permanent new migrants is around 220,000 each year;
  • the number of boat people in 2012 is the equivalent of less than 3 weeks’ natural population increase in Australia;
  • most boat-people are keen to work and to settle into the community;
  • boat arrivals are not  a failure of border control.  About 4.5 million people enter Australia each year with visas, most of them for short visits. If 20,000 arrive without visas in one year, that means border control works in about 99.95% of cases.  Success 99.95% of the time can’t really be called a failure.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

5 things and 100 comments refugees didn't want for Christmas

Sara Saleh has written a touching piece in The Punch about asylum seekers suffering appalling conditions in Nauru. Equally as heart breaking are the many malevolent comments from Australians. The whole refugee issue seems to bring out the worst in some.

To me it's about a principle:
we should treat others how we would like to be treated if we were in similar circumstances

Sara has pointed out how we are treating others who are asking, no begging, for our help. Is this the best we can do? I hope not. It is certainly a complex issue, but surely we can be more humane and more compassionate in our discussions and collective decisions.

Where the money goes

Every cent that I raise will be donated to Amnesty. Travel and accommodation costs I will (pardon the pun) foot myself.

Amnesty spend the money wisely. A detailed breakdown can be found here.

However, in summary, this is how your gift can work:

  • $30 can contribute towards sending out urgent action letter to protect individuals at imminent risk of grave human rights abuse
  • $50 can contribute towards funding researchers to conduct an in-depth interview with human rights victims in a conflict situation
  • $100 can contribute towards launching life-saving appeals to defend a prisoner of conscience against torture and ill treatment

So please give generously to this worthy cause.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Barefoot means Barefoot

Reading an article on the BioMechanics of Barefoot Running I was reminded about the purpose of barefoot:

"Without sensory feedback between the sole of the foot and the surface of the ground…the runner may not have the complete neural cueing to convert to a forefoot strike pattern" 

In other words, barefoot means barefoot. I now carry Xeros on my runs and put them on only when the ground is too hot or too stony.

Your letters set me free

This letter sums up what Amnesty can achieve:

"My name is Birtukan Mideksa, and your letters set me free.

I once had no hope of freedom. A single mother and former opposition party leader in Ethiopia, I was arrested in 2005 and sentenced to life in prison after my political party participated in protests disputing the result of national elections.

I had committed no crime. I was targeted only for peacefully expressing my political views. Yet at the time I suppose I was lucky to be alive: security forces had responded to the public outcry with deadly force, killing 187 people and wounding 765 others.

The government in Ethiopia thought it could silence dissent by locking opponents away forever. I had been in solitary confinement in Kaliti Prison for months when Amnesty supporters came to my defence. When my case was featured in the Write for Rights campaign, thousands of people called for my freedom.

Your letters were my protection during the worst time in my life. You were my voice when I had none. Your letters kept hope alive at the darkest hours of need.

Thanks to Amnesty International, I regained my freedom in October 2010.

I am so grateful that your letters and action worked for me. Now I urge you to keep up your life-saving work by taking action for others. I offer my voice for Amnesty International, and I hope that you will do the same."

Full version here