Year 12 exams in the time of COVID: 5 ways to support your child to stress less and do better



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Erin Mackenzie, Western Sydney University; Penny Van Bergen, Macquarie University, and Roberto H Parada, Western Sydney University

Year 12 exams can be stressful at the best of times; this is particularly true for the Class of 2020.

Here are five ways parents and carers of Year 12 students preparing for their final exams can support them.

1. Check in and listen

It is important to remember teenagers are often more resilient than we think. In most cases, they can cope well with challenges. But some students find exams more stressful than others, and some may also be worried about the influence of COVID on their future.

Research consistently shows parental monitoring that supports the autonomy of the young people is linked with their better psychological adjustment and performance during difficult times. This means checking-in with your teen, seeing how they are going and empowering them to use whatever coping skills they need.

Unfortunately, in times of stress, many parents use a high-monitoring low-autonomy style. Parents may still monitor their teen’s coping but also take over, hurry to suggest solutions, and criticise the strategies their child is trying.

This is a low-autonomy style, which may signal to the young person their parent doesn’t believe in their ability to cope.

So, to not come across as controlling or undermining their autonomy:

  • ask your teen, “How are you coping?”

  • listen to their answers

  • check you have understood and ask if they need your support.

  • Let your actions be guided by their response. If they say “I’m very stressed”, ask if there is something you can do. You could say: “Tell me what you need to do and we’ll work it out together”.

If they do the famous “I dunno”, say something like “OK, think about it, I’ll come back in a bit, and we can chat”. Follow through and let them know you will check in more regularly over the coming weeks.

2. Encourage them to take care of their physical and mental health

Support your teen to get exercise, downtime and sleep. Exercise helps produce endorphins — a feel-good chemical that can improve concentration and mental health.

Downtime that is relaxing and enjoyable such as reading, sport, hanging out with friends or video games, can also help young people recharge physically and mentally. If you see your Year 12 child studying for numerous hours without a break, encourage them to do something more fun for a while.

A change of scene can help avoid burnout and helps students maintain focus over longer periods of time.




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Good sleep is important for alertness, and teenagers should aim for eight to ten hours per day. Sleep also helps memory consolidation: a neural process in which the brain beds down what has been learnt that day.

Even short-term sleep deprivation, such as five hours across a week of study, can have a negative impact on teens’ mood, attention and memory.

To ensure your child priorises self-care, help them put together a routine. This may involve scheduling specific times for exercise, meals and downtime each day, and breaking up blocks of study time with short breaks.

Also negotiate a nominated time for them to turn their phone off at night. Stopping phone use one hour before bedtime can increase sleep.

3. Help them maintain connections

Connections with friends are critical for young people, especially during times of stress. Teens regularly talk about academic concerns online, and may use online support more when stressed. Research shows seeking support in person is more effective than doing so online, so try to encourage your teen to connect with friends in person if possible.

But also be aware of the risks. Talking with friends over and over about problems can actually make young people feel worse. Your son or daughter may find their friends are increasingly leaning on them for support too, which can exhaust their own emotional reserves.

Two girls sitting on swings and chatting.
Connections with friends are important for stress.
Unsplash, CC BY

Encourage your child to use time with friends as time away from studying. It’s OK to seek support from friends, but help your child think about when might be too much — and to have a balance of happy and serious conversations when they are together.

Encourage your child to continue talking to you and to ask their teachers for help with academic concerns.

4. Help your child understand their own brain

When asked, most young people report frequently using rehearsal — which involves simply going over textbooks, notes or other material — as a study technique. This is one of the least efficient memory strategies.

The more active the brain is when studying — by moving information around, connecting different types of information and making decisions — the more likely that information will be remembered. Active study sometimes feels harder, but this is great for memory.




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Encourage your child to study actively by making their own test questions, reorganising information into concept maps, or explaining the topics to you. It can also help to “intersperse” different study topics: the brain grows more connections that way. It also gets more practice reactivating the original material from memory.

5. Look out for warning signs

While most teens are resilient, some may more frequently report negative mood, uncertainties about the future or a loss of control. This is particularly true in 2020. You might hear evidence of “catastrophic thinking” (“what’s the point?” or “this is the worst thing ever”).

You can help by modelling hopeful attitudes and coping strategies. Reactive coping strategies are things like taking a break, selectively using distractions and going for a run to clear your head.




Read more:
Year 12 can be stressful, but setting strong and healthy goals can help you thrive


Pair these with proactive coping strategies, which prevent or help manage stressful situations. These include helping the young person get organised and reminding them that if they don’t have life figured out right now, that’s OK. Help them see opportunities that come with challenges. These include self-development (learning what they like and don’t like), self-knowledge (knowing their limits and character strengths) and skill development (organisational and coping strategies).

Some teens may be struggling more than they let on. Look out for warning signs. These can include:

  • not participating in previously enjoyed activities

  • avoiding friends or partners

  • drastic changes in weight, eating or sleeping

  • irritability over minor things

  • preoccupation with death or expressing how difficult it is to be alive.

If these behaviours occur most of the time you are with them or seem out of character, consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. This is particularly so if your teen has a history of mental health concerns.

Some resources that may help if you are worried include Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 and Headspace

Your GP can also help to connect your teen with a suitably qualified professional.The Conversation

Erin Mackenzie, Lecturer in Education, Western Sydney University; Penny Van Bergen, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology, Macquarie University, and Roberto H Parada, Senior Lecturer In Adolescent Development, Behaviour, Well-Being & Paedagogical Studies, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is fast-tracking funds to Foxtel the best way to support the media during COVID?



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Johan Lidberg, Monash University

According to an ABC report, government funds were fast-tracked to Foxtel during the coronavirus pandemic.

This news will raise eyebrows, as the media — like so many industries — tries to survive the pain and disruption brought by COVID-19.

Why are some outlets missing out when others have their requests prioritised?

The Foxtel fast-track

The background to these latest Foxtel funds is a $30 million grant, controversially awarded to the subscription broadcaster in 2017.

This was to

support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation.

At the time, media reports noted the government did not adequately explain why it had given the funds to Foxtel.

Fast-forward to April 2020 and COVID-19 was wreaking havoc in the media sector. The federal government announced a support package for the media, but Foxtel missed out.




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However, as the ABC reported, after a letter from Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany, the TV service quickly received $17.5 million.

This included bringing forward $7.5 million of taxpayer money already granted to Foxtel. In July 2020, a further $10 million was awarded to Foxtel, with the same opaque justification as the 2017 grant.

The ABC was able to report the process behind these developments following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Foxtel supported as national broadcaster struggles

The Foxtel funds came amid yet another round of cost-cutting and job losses at the ABC. In June, the ABC announced 250 job losses to deal with an $84 million budget shortfall.

ABC logo against colourful light backdrop
The ABC recently announced 250 job losses.
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As of this week, the iconic 7:45am radio bulletin no longer features in Australians’ morning routines as a result of the cuts.

Meanwhile, regional media outlets have been particularly hard hit during COVID. We have also seen recent job losses at News Corp (who is a part owner of Foxtel) and Channel 10.

What support have media companies had during COVID?

The government announced a COVID-support package for the media in April.

This included $41 million in rebates for use of the broadcasting spectrum, targeted at commercial television and radio broadcasters.




Read more:
The government’s regional media bailout doesn’t go far enough — here are reforms we really need


A $50 million Public Interest News Gathering program was also announced to support public interest journalism delivered by commercial television, newspaper and radio businesses in regional Australia.

Is this the best use of taxpayer funds?

The reports of the fast-tracked funds to Foxtel beg the question, where is public money best spent? On the public broadcaster so it can maintain its crucial services (with another bushfire season around the corner) — or on a subscription-based commercial broadcaster?

When you consider the different support packages the Morrison government has launched as part of its pandemic response, there is one glaring omission — support for the national broadcaster.

The ABC is the most trusted media brand in the country. But instead of supporting it, to help us get through the pandemic, the Coalition continues to bleed it. This is the polar opposite to its support of News Corp-owned Foxtel, a relationship the government seems much more comfortable with and clearly prioritises.

Not enough information

When considering whether Foxtel deserves its funding, it would be useful to see a government-issued summary of how it used the first $30 million.

We have seen some reporting (again via FOI requests) of how the initial $7 million was used to boost sports coverage. But given this is taxpayers’ money, best practice would be open and transparent government reporting on how the funding is utilised.

It would also be useful to have an explanation of why the extra funds were provided now.

Unfortunately, information access and openness has not been the Morrison government’s forte.

We have seen a number of cases where the FOI process has been contrary to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, which holds that as much information as possible should be made available to the public.

Open filing cabinet, with paper files
The Australian government has been criticised for the high rate of FOI refusals.
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The blocking of FOI requests over Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s attack on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore is one recent example.

The recent requests to the Morrison government about Foxtel is another. According to the ABC, more than half of the hundreds of pages released were blacked out and 80% of the rest had substantial redactions. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s chief of staff, Ryan Bloxsom, was one of the FOI decision makers and justified the extensive redactions in this way:

I do not consider it would inform debate on a matter of public importance or promote effective oversight of public expenditure.

This is not just out of line with the aims of the FOI Act, it means Australians remain ill-informed about how and why tax payer money is being spent. Our public discourse is worse of for it.

This makes funding public interest journalism even more important — especially in the regions where coverage of courts and local councils is the engine room of our democracy.




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Funding public interest journalism requires creative solutions. A tax rebate for news media could work


The Conversation


Johan Lidberg, Associate Professor, School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Government announces $2.5 billion package to support training and apprenticeships



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government has announced $2 billion – to be augmented by another $500 million from the states – for a skills package to boost training and job creation.

A $1 billion JobTrainer program will provide training or re-skilling for up to 340,700 school leavers and job seekers. Places for courses will be available from September.

This is to be funded on a 50-50 basis with the states. The government says there has been early support from most states after Scott Morrison raised the plan at national cabinet last week.

To get the JobTrainer funding the states will need to sign up to an agreement to reform their vocational education and training systems. Morrison has previously said the VET system needs to be simplified and better attuned to the skills employers are seeking.

The start of the courses would come just before with the scaling back of government COVID support measures. Not only are a huge number of unemployed in the job market but school leavers looking for jobs will find it extremely difficult.

The package also includes an extra $1.5 billion to expand and extend the wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees. This follows $1.3 billion announced in March.

The subsidy now supports 47,000 employers with 81,000 apprentices and trainees – the expansion will take this to nearly 90,000 businesses and 180,000 apprentices.

Eligibility will be widened from small businesses to medium-sized businesses with 199 or fewer employees. The subsidised apprentices will have had to be in place from July 1.

The program will also be extended by six months to the end of March.

The subsidy covers half the apprentice’s wages up to $7,000 a quarter.

Already $365 million has been paid out under the program.

The JobTrainer courses will be free or low cost and aimed at areas of need. These areas will be identified by the National Skills Commission in consultation with the states.

Morrison said: “COVID-19 is unprecedented but I want Australians to be ready for the sorts of jobs that will come as we build back and recover. The jobs and skills we’ll need as we come out of the crisis are not likely to be the same as those that were lost.”

Current sectors looking to expand their workforces include health care and social assistance; transport, postal and warehousing; manufacturing; and retail and wholesale trade.

The courses will be delivered by public, private and not-for-profit providers.

Speaking on Melbourne radio on Wednesday, Morrison again made it clear the government will avoid a hard cut off of assistance at the end of September. He said it would continue to provide income support to those who needed it.

“And obviously in Melbourne in particular, that demand is going to be very great now for some period of time.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What’ll happen when the money’s snatched back? Our looming coronavirus support cliff



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Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute and Nathan Blane, Grattan Institute

At almost 10% of gross domestic product, and a much larger per cent of government spending, Australia’s fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis has been one of the biggest in the world.

The government is spending an average of A$26 billion a month on programs that didn’t exist in February.

To put that in perspective, before COVID-19 the government’s total average monthly expenditure this financial year was going to be $42 billion.

While far from perfect, these emergency measures have been successful at supporting the incomes of many households and businesses.

But, as this chart shows, each and every one will be gone by the end of October, making October a very dangerous time for businesses and for the economy.

In his address to parliament on Tuesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke of a return to work as restrictions were eased.

But he noted that any new outbreaks of COVID-19 could see restrictions re-imposed at a loss of more than $4 billion per week to the economy.

Treasurer Frydenberg’s address to parliament.
MICK TSIKAS/AAP

Even if things go to plan, the harsh reality is that big parts of the economy are still likely to be doing less than they should for some time yet.

Most of the world has not fared as well as Australia in limiting deaths and the spread of the virus, which means global economic activity and demand will be weak for some time.

Businesses and consumers are likely to be cautious. Many will find themselves financially challenged because their loan and rent obligations were deferred rather than removed during the crisis.

Australia’s population growth will be much slower because of the reduction in temporary migration, hitting consumer-facing businesses and the broader economy.

Against this backdrop, the sudden withdrawal of massive government spending will leave an enormous hole in economy activity and the incomes of business and households.

The chart below shows that huge amounts of government support (more than 25% of gross domestic product) scheduled to vanish by the end of October.

It’s a recipe for a second downturn.

A much better approach would be to remove the measures slowly.

JobKeeper could be wound back in line with the recovery of individual businesses.

Reassessing eligibility after most physical distancing restrictions have been removed, particularly if the health situation is well controlled, seems sensible.

Support should end early for some, late for others

If the revenues of some businesses rebound to close to pre-coronavirus levels, they could come off JobKeeper early, before the September deadline.

But if the revenues of others remain weak because their operations are still constrained by health restrictions, the government could consider extending their JobKeeper payments beyond September.




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Targeting support to the firms that need it most in this way would be a better use of taxpayers’ money – and it would help stop the economy falling off a “cliff” in late October.

The JobSekeer supplement could also be phased out more slowly than the government currently plans.

JobSeeker should stay higher than it was

The treasurer should settle on a new level of income support – lower than JobSeeker with the supplement but probably $75 to $100 a week better than JobSeeker without the supplement – so that people on it are spared significant financial distress while searching for work.

It could also announce a range of measures to boost demand in the danger zones that will be created by supports coming off.

There are plenty of good options.

  • one-off cash payments to households, which we know have boosted spending

  • more spending on mental health services or programs to help disadvantaged students catch up on learning lost

  • infrastructure spending on shovel-ready projects with good returns to the community including social housing, roads and school maintenance

Debt will need to be managed over the medium term, but it shouldn’t constrain the government from implementing the policies needed to drive recovery.

On Wednesday the Office of Financial Management unloaded $19 billion of new 10-year bonds in the biggest bond sale in Australian history after receiving bids for more than twice that many.




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Were it not for JobKeeper, unemployment would be 11.7%, up from 5.2% in one month. Here’s how the numbers pan out


It will pay an interest rate of 1.025%, which is less than the rate of inflation.

Transitioning the economy from emergency settings to business as usual will not be easy, but there’s no imperative to do it suddenly.The Conversation

Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute and Nathan Blane, Analyst, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus TV ‘support’ package leaves screen writers and directors even less certain than before



Worst Year of My Life, Again!
IMDB

Kay Nankervis, Charles Sturt University

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced three measures last week to help commercial TV broadcasters deal with COVID-19 financial stress.

First, the spectrum tax broadcasters pay the government for access to audiences will be waived for 12 months.

Second, the government has released an options paper on how to make Australian storytelling on our screens fair across new and old platforms.

But it’s the third measure that is a shock: for the rest of 2020, all quotas requiring commercial TV networks to make Australian drama, documentary and children’s television have been shelved. Fletcher said networks can’t create the content because COVID-19 constraints have stalled most production.

But arts, screen directing and screenwriting bodies disagree. They say the quota pause across two financial years will cost jobs. And they’re worried this measure signals how the government will act on regulation options in the paper released at the same time.

4 ways forward

The paper from Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) explores two issues: firstly, how to promote Australian drama, documentary and children’s television across all home screen platforms; secondly, how to level the regulatory playing field across those platforms.

Commercial TV broadcasters have had to meet a 55% Australian content quota for decades – including sub-quotas of drama, documentary and children’s programs. Meanwhile, the global streaming services Australian audiences are flooding to, such as Netflix and Stan, do not have to meet any quotas. Nor do other digital platforms in Australia.

The Screen Australia/ACMA paper presents four possible ways forward:

  1. keep the status quo: leave commercial networks as the only platform bound to content quotas
  2. minimal change: ask streaming services to invest voluntarily in Australian content and revise what commercial networks have to produce (maybe axing children’s TV quotas)
  3. establish a “platform-neutral” system to compel and encourage Australian content-making across all of commercial television, digital platforms and global streaming services
  4. deregulation: no one – including commercial networks – would have to meet any content quota requirements.

There is still time for industry bodies to respond to these choices. But option 3, cross-platform incentives and Australian content rules for all, would appeal most to the arts sector. It is the only option of the four which genuinely promotes Australian storytelling on our screens and the jobs that go with it.

Streaming services such as Netflix and Stan will hate that proposition. They and other digital platforms will resist having to follow content rules.

Would hit kids’ show Bluey have been made without content quotas?
ABC

Levelling the field or throwing away the rules?

Commercial networks have long sought a level playing field – and the platform-neutral option offers that. But what they really want is the freedom the other platforms have now: to make and deliver whatever content they think audiences will watch. That’s option 4: total deregulation and all content obligations removed.

Deregulation would hurt Australian creative production jobs. A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study quoted in the Screen Australia/ACMA paper predicts that if quotas were dropped from commercial television, children’s TV production there would end, drama production would fall 90% and documentary making would halve.

Enter the government’s Relief for Australian media during COVID-19: commercial networks still have to broadcast 55% Australia content in 2020. But they don’t have to make drama, documentary or children’s content as part of that quota.

The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) – representing drama and documentary screen writers – has slammed the quotas pause. They say the government has abandoned creative workers to help a handful of media companies. They’re worried this trial deregulation will change the production landscape forever. And they accuse networks of using COVID-19 as “the excuse they need in their quest to end the quota system once and for all”.

The Directors Guild, Screen Producers Australia and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance are also anxious about screen jobs – and where the federal government will go on the quotas issue.

That’s understandable.

We’ve just seen the government dismiss Australian content quotas as “red tape”. We can only guess where its sympathy for corona-stressed TV networks will take us next.The Conversation

Kay Nankervis, Lecturer in Theatre, Media and Creative Practice., Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

For people with a mental illness, loved ones who care are as important as formal supports



People with mental illness are especially vulnerable after they are discharged from hospital.
From shutterstock.com

Emily Hielscher, The University of Queensland; James Graham Scott, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, and Sandra Diminic, The University of Queensland

People living with mental illness often require support from carers, such as family and friends, on a long-term and somewhat unpredictable basis.

But these support networks are not always in place. Geographical or emotional distance from family members, conflict with friends, and the tendency for people with mental illness to withdraw from others means these individuals are often isolated.

In two Australian surveys – a national snapshot survey of Australian adults with psychosis and another looking at adults with long-term mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis – only one-quarter reported receiving regular assistance from family or friends. About three out of every four people living with mental illness reported the absence of a carer or other informal support.




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For someone living with mental illness, having a carer or support person facilitates continuity of care and provides advocacy and support, particularly during and after episodes of acute illness.

People with mental illness are at their most vulnerable following discharge from hospital or other inpatient facilities. Reintegrating back into society can be challenging. And during this time, the risk of suicide is high.

It’s somewhat unsurprising, then, that people without a carer or support network face poorer outcomes in terms of recovery.

How does having a carer help?

Following hospitalisation for an acute episode of mental illness, people typically require assistance with a myriad of tasks.

They may need help with day-to-day activities like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. People in recovery may also need support to re-engage with the community, including returning to work or study.

They will likely benefit from assistance in adhering to care plans, including managing medications and attending follow-up appointments. A person recovering from hospitalisation for an eating disorder may need support from family members to ensure they are eating as much as they need to at mealtimes.

As well as these practical supports, someone recovering from an acute episode of mental illness requires ongoing emotional support which reaffirms their sense of self and capacity to recover.




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We surveyed 105 Australian mental health carers and found the most commonly reported care tasks were “providing encouragement and motivation”, “prompting their loved ones to do things”, and “liaising with health professionals”.

Carers spent the majority of their caring time providing emotional support, and the least of their care time assisting with activities of daily living, such as feeding and dressing.

Research has shown having a carer increases the likelihood of follow-up care and better health outcomes in the short and long term. Following hospitalisation, carers can recognise and respond to early warning signs of relapse and encourage better engagement in prescribed care plans.

And although it’s rarely considered part of the caring role, safe and stable housing is crucial for recovery. Most mental health carers also live with the person they are caring for.




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Looking after loved ones with mental illness puts carers at risk themselves. They need more support


What about discharged patients who don’t have informal supports?

The transition from hospital to home can be frightening and difficult. Patients tend to become accustomed to the day-to-day hospital routine and in turn can feel increasingly disconnected from the outside world. These challenges are exacerbated in the absence of support from health professionals, family or friends.

Without family or carer involvement at discharge, a person with mental illness may be more likely to relapse and be readmitted, falling into a “revolving door” pattern of multiple hospitalisations.

A support person can help ensure medical appointments are organised and attended.
From shutterstock.com

One study of older psychiatric patients found absent or dysfunctional family support was one of the strongest predictors of hospital readmission in the 18 months after discharge. Patients without reliable family support were nearly twice as likely to be readmitted to hospital than those who had dedicated family carers.

Similar results have been found in broader and larger samples. Among 1,384 adult patients admitted to a psychiatric hospital, unreliable social support at discharge was associated with an increased risk of being readmitted to hospital within one year.

Further, reduced social support and lack of continuity of care has been shown to be an important predictor of suicide following hospital discharge. For self-harm and suicide, the risk is most pronounced in the three months following discharge from hospital.

What needs to improve?

Alongside the absence of family support, lack of connection with community-based services and supports is similarly associated with poor post-discharge outcomes.

Discharge planning and transitional programs have been established to provide additional practical and emotional support to people with mental illness after they leave hospital. These have reported promising results in terms of preventing hospital readmission and promoting engagement with community treatment (such as psychological support services, medication monitoring, and alcohol and drug recovery services). Further research which identifies the key benefits of such programs is needed, using larger controlled studies.

Another solution is improving housing support for mental health patients after discharge. Programs such as Housing Mental Health Pathways in Victoria assist people with mental illness and a history of homelessness who have no suitable accommodation at the time of hospital discharge. More programs like this are needed.




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The time following hospitalisation is one of the most vulnerable for people with mental illness. More needs to be done at both a community and policy level to better support people during this period – particularly those without a carer or informal support network.

If this article has raised issues for you or you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Emily Hielscher, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland; James Graham Scott, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Senior Scientist and Head of Mental Health, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, and Sandra Diminic, Adjunct Fellow, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Just because both sides support drought relief, doesn’t mean it’s right


Lin Crase, University of South Australia

The bipartisan parliamentary vote to transform the A$3.9 billion Building Australia Fund into a pot of cash to drought-proof Australia, the Future Drought Fund, should not be taken as universal endorsement.

Labor opposed the idea before caving in, saying it did not “want to be painted as a party that opposes support for farmers”.

Rather, it simply shows that Australian politicians coalesce on some things: few miss the opportunity to be photographed with an affectionate child, and even fewer are willing to be critical of public funds being handed to drought-stricken farmers.

But support something (or feeling too scared not to oppose something), doesn’t necessarily make it the right policy.




Read more:
Drought is inevitable, Mr Joyce


Australian governments have sought to drought-proof parts of inland Australia through publicly funded irrigation schemes for much of the past century.

Whenever dryland farmers experienced drought, they were viewed as having experienced a natural disaster, even though the variability of dryland rains was well understood.

Then, from the 1960s, things changed.

First there was a growing realisation that public monies spent on irrigation were not the best means of dealing with a variable climate.

We’ve moved away from thinking about drought as disaster

Second, governments started to describe drought differently, culminating in a 1992 National Drought Policy that required farmers to be more self-reliant and absorb the impacts of drought as something to be expected.

The decades that followed continued this trend with all states and the Commonwealth agreeing on national principles in 2013. Concessional loans and a farm management deposit scheme with taxation advantages were available to help farmers, but would only be useful to those that were viable in the long term.

A Farm Household Allowance, set at the level of Newstart and available for up to four years in return for setting out a plan to improve the farmer’s financial circumstances, was also introduced in 2015 and refined in 2018.

Part of the thinking was that climate change is expected to make droughts more common and severe, although there are good reasons for encouraging adaptation to the existing climate in any case.




Read more:
Helping farmers in distress doesn’t help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma


However, getting the balance right between “supporting” farm businesses and encouraging them to adapt and be self-reliant isn’t straightforward, especially when the climate and political cycles coincide.

It’s hard to imagine politicians being fiscally prudent when they know they have access to a drought slush fund and are heading into an election during a drying phase.

So, what’s wrong with the new drought fund?

First, there is mounting evidence that farm businesses can actually benefit from drought in the longer term. This seems to occur because businesses that go through a drought develop coping strategies that when invoked in good years produce much greater profits.

That is not to say that droughts are financially a good thing – but it does mean that shielding farm businesses from drought runs the risk that they will not adapt.

Second, an obsession with drought undoes much of the good work done in reclassifying it as something to be expected rather than a natural disaster. Nearly all of the natural disaster payments made in the decade leading up to 2012-13 – one of the driest on record – were spent on rebuilding after floods and storms rather than droughts.

Third, while repurposing the Building Australia Fund as the Future Drought Fund is designed to appeal to rural and regional voters, it is unlikely to help them. Agriculture simply does not generate the jobs that it once did and public pronouncements about drought-proofing will not change the underlying economics of farm businesses and regional communities.




Read more:
Droughts, extreme weather and empowered consumers mean tough choices for farmers


Farming is generally helped by scale, and that means bigger farms with bigger machines displacing smaller farms. The upshot is fewer jobs and the shutdown of small towns, allowing only the larger regional centres to survive. Finding ways to manage this social phenomenon should be the priority rather than shielding farms from drought.

But it’s hard to be optimistic. Politicians love handing cheques to farmers as much as they love photographs with adoring children.The Conversation

Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Frydenberg is wrong to support Ivanka and Donald Trump on the World Bank. It’d be better to let it die


Mark Crosby, Monash University

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has offered support to Donald Trump’s pick for the World Bank Presidency.

David Malpass is currently Under Secretary of the United States Treasury with responsibility for International Affairs, and his previous experience includes being chief economist at Bear Stearns prior to their collapse.

Our Treasurers support is wrong headed.

No matter what the strengths of David Malpass, the next World Bank President should not be American.

After World War Two the victors designed many of our global institutions, including the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Major global institutions were headquartered in Europe or the United States, and there was an agreement that the World Bank President would be a US citizen, while the IMF would be headed by a European.

This cosy arrangement was fine for most of the 20th century, but is at odds with our 21st century world.

Trump’s unspoken ultimatum

It has been suggested that Trump would follow his usual negotiating tactics and withdraw support from the World Bank if the next chief is not American, which is presumably why some countries including Australia are likely to support Malpass.

The search for the US nomination was headed by Steven Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump, with Invanka Trump herself mentioned as a possible nomination.

Malpass may be a better candidate than the President’s daughter, but I doubt it.

Malpass has been a critic of World Bank lending to China and at Bear Stearns he ignored warning signs of crisis in 2007.

But it’s not so much Malpass’ dubious credibility that is the problem, but the idea that the President should always be American.

The American might not be the best candidate

Important global institutions should be led by the best candidate. The views and expertise of emerging market candidates, particularly from larger economies such as China, India, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia should be taken more seriously.

In recent years the IMF would have been much better led by a non-European. The decision to bail out French and German banks at the expense of the Greek economy in 2012 was a poor decision made by the French head of the IMF.

The IMF rightly supported restructuring of banks and financial markets after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, but did not push for the same for European or US banks after 2008.

So what if Australia and other middle powers did not support Malpass’ nomination?

Better off withoug the World Bank?

A US withdrawal from the World Bank would probably see its demise. But so what?

The World Bank has become relatively toothless.

Last year China lent more money to emerging market economies than the World Bank.

And this is the point. China needs to be brought into the World Bank and other institutions more fully, not sidelined.




Read more:
A Trump-aligned World Bank may be bad for climate action and trade, but good for Chinese ambitions


Problems with governance and other issues with China’s Belt and Road initiative would be much better handled by a multilateral agency, whether that is a properly renewed World Bank or a new institution.The Conversation

Mark Crosby, Professor, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shorten would need non-Green crossbench to pass bills in Senate: Australia Institute


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A Labor government would likely have to rely on at least one Senate
crossbencher besides the Greens to pass contested legislation, according to an analysis from The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank.

The analysis, based in part on polling but also on
historical data, suggests that, at best, after next year’s half-Senate
election the ALP and Greens combined could have 38 senators – although more likely they would have 37.

To pass legislation, 39 votes are needed.

Releasing the analysis, the institute’s director, Ben Oquist, said this
meant “the Centre Alliance, or independents like Derryn Hinch or a
potentially re-elected Jacqui Lambie, are likely to wield significant
power”.

The 2016 double dissolution produced a very large crossbench. The
larger quota required in a half-Senate election will make it harder
for micro parties and independents, as will some changes to the
electoral system made in 2016.

Most of the non-Green crossbenchers face election – and defeat.
Victorian senator Derryn Hinch, from the Justice Party, told The
Conversation’s podcast that he had got about 220,000 primary votes
last time but now would need about 400,000. It would be “very tough”,
said Hinch, who is campaigning on the slogan “unfinished business”.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Derryn Hinch on a national ICAC and the Victorian election


The Australia Institute says the Coalition and Labor are each likely
to pick up two seats in each state. The Greens are “well-placed” to
win a seat in each of NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and
Tasmania, while One Nation is well-placed to win in Queensland.

“The remaining seat in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania,
and the remaining two seats in South Australia, are likely to be
highly contested,” the analysis says.

In detail, it says

…NSW – The Coalition, Labor and One Nation are competitive for the last seat.

… Victoria – Labor, the Coalition and Derryn Hinch are competitive for
the final seat.

…Western Australia – The Coalition and One Nation are competitive
for the last seat.

… South Australia – The Coalition, Greens, Centre Alliance and One
Nation are competitive for the final two seats.

… Tasmania – The Coalition and Lambie are competitive for the last seat.

“The polling by itself does not suggest that the Coalition will pick
up the third seat in any state, but our historical analysis suggests
that the Coalition is more competitive than the polls alone would
indicate”, the Australia Institute says.

“Another wild card is the high Independent/Other polling. Although
Jacqui Lambie and Derryn Hinch are contenders in their respective
states, there is also the outside but real possibility of independent
or minor party pick-ups in other states as well.”

The institute predicts a Senate after the election with the Coalition
having between 30 and 35, and the ALP 27-29. It predicts the Greens
having 8 or 9 seats, One Nation between 2 and 5, Centre Alliance 2-3,
Australian Conservatives one, and others between 0 and 2.

Since the last election the Senate has had many changes, in the wake
of the citizenship crisis and defections. The Morrison government
needs eight of the 10 non-Greens from the crossbench to pass
legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens.

Oquist stressed that predictions were harder than usual to make
because of the voting system changes and a volatile political climate.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

To help drought-affected farmers, we need to support them in good times as well as bad



File 20180808 191041 xb0wtk.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Farmers need help to plan for droughts, not just to respond to them when things get desperate.
Stephenallen75/Shutterstock.com

Jacki Schirmer, University of Canberra; Dominic Peel, University of Canberra; Ivan Charles Hanigan, University of Sydney, and Kimberly Brown, University of Canberra

With the New South Wales government announcing that drought is now affecting the entire state, the federal government’s crisis assistance payments have been described by some as too little, too late. The National Farmers Federation has renewed its calls for a national drought policy and drought experts have expressed concern about reliance on emergency handouts.

With droughts predicted to grow in frequency and severity in the future, we need to support farmers and their communities to adapt to these changes.

To best support the well-being of farmers and farming communities, we need to support them not just when they are in the middle of a drought, but also when the rain comes and the dust has settled. An emergency response is important, but on its own is not enough – our farming communities deserve more. It needs to be accompanied by long-term coordinated support, delivered through the whole drought cycle, that helps farmers prepare for drought, cope with drought when it is happening, and recover rapidly afterwards.

Prolonged droughts harm the health and well-being of people in farming communities, although research also shows that not everyone is affected to the same extent, and some not at all. This means we need to learn from past experience in choosing what actions represent the best and most effective investments.




Read more:
Farmers experiencing drought-related stress need targeted support


Providing farmers with emergency assistance when drought is at its worst helps to alleviate the most acute hardship. But multiple inquiries and research studies (see here, here and here) have concluded that this approach is not enough.

To truly support the well-being of farming communities facing the threat of drought, we need to invest more in actions that support their preparedness and resilience before drought hits, rather than waiting until conditions are at their worst before offering help.

The hydro-illogical cycle

Doing this requires breaking the “hydro-illogical cycle”, in which a severe drought triggers short-term concern and assistance, followed by a return to apathy and complacency once the rains return. When drought drops off the public and media radar, communities are often left with little or no support to invest in preparing for the next inevitable drought.

The hydro-illogical cycle.
US National Drought Mitigation Center, Author provided

Farmers need proactive, long-term access to drought preparedness schemes well in advance, before the effects of drought begin to bite. Farmers who use programs such as the farm management deposits scheme, which allows them to put aside surplus income in good years and draw on it in difficult ones, have higher well-being during droughts than those who access emergency assistance provided during drought.

Our research has also identified some other ways to protect farmers’ well-being during challenging times. These include investing in forward planning for drought, supporting farmers to invest in “drought-proofing” measures suitable to their farm, and creating networks through which farmers can share their knowledge about what works to cope best with the financial, psychological and social challenges they face.

These things are not a “fix” for drought; a drought will always have significant impacts. But they can help reduce the severity of impacts, and the time taken to recover. However, to really be effective, these actions need to be invested in between droughts, in addition to investing in emergency support during drought.

We can learn a lot from the actions that farmers are already taking. Thousands of farmers have spent years investing in drought resilience, for example by changing pasture types and water management practices, and by changing how they plan for and manage periods of low rainfall.

This investment often goes unsupported and unrecognised, and has to be done among the ever-present pressures of challenging market conditions, low profit margins, rising costs, the need to repay debts incurred in the last drought or flood, and the myriad daily pressures of farming. We need to better reward farmers who make these investments, and to offer incentives for continued investment in this type of action between droughts.

Regenerative farming

One investment being made by many farmers across Australia is the adoption of regenerative farming, in which the entire farming system is re-oriented with a goal of better using natural ecosystem processes to support production, and of better matching production to land capacity through different climatic conditions.

Early research findings suggest that engaging in regenerative farming can improve drought resilience. But shifting to use of this approach to farming takes a lot of time and investment; before asking farmers to make fundamental changes to the way they farm, we need more research that critically examines when, where and how different farming systems can help safeguard against drought.




Read more:
The lessons we need to learn to deal with the ‘creeping disaster’ of drought


As well as helping farmers invest in actions to increase resilience to drought, we also need to consider the best ways to support those who are suffering severe psychological and financial stress. For many farmers, supporting them to cope with drought and stay in farming is the best decision. But for others, the best decision can be to leave farming altogether.

The decision to leave farming is understandably one of the most challenging times in a farmer’s life, and often happens when their well-being is low and they are experiencing psychological distress. This means that the quality of help they receive during this time can make a big difference in how well they cope. Services such as the Rural Financial Counselling Service have a vital role to play at all times (before, during and after drought) in giving advice to farmers weighing up the agonising decision to stay or leave.

If you want to help farmers, keep supporting relief funds – they provide essential help during the worst of drought. But also tell your local politician that you support investment in long-term programs that help farmers improve their resilience to the next drought, and the one after that, and that recognise and reward the investments farmers are already making in doing this.

The ConversationIf we truly have our farmers’ well-being at heart, we should be taking drought action in wet years as well as dry, and in good times as well as bad.

Jacki Schirmer, Associate Professor, University of Canberra; Dominic Peel, PhD Candidate in Public Health, University of Canberra; Ivan Charles Hanigan, Data Scientist (Epidemiology), University of Sydney, and Kimberly Brown, PhD Researcher, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.