For teachers, a camp is not a ‘free holiday’

Credit:Illustration: Megan Herbert

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For teachers, a camp is not a ‘free holiday’

As a primary teacher in a government school for nearly four decades, I was glad to read that teachers’ unpaid hours are at last being recognised (Sunday Age, 30/10). I loved school camps because kids and teachers saw each other in a different light, discovered new skills of leadership and, in many cases, went on to a lifetime of enjoying nature and adventure. I hated parents who complained out loud, and to their kids, about teachers getting a free holiday, paid for by them.

The unbeatable highlight was a parent, on their child alighting from the returning coach – or a day or two later, after the adventures had been told around the dining-room table – saying, “Thank you for taking Ben on the camp.“

Did you notice that my first example said “parents”, and the second said “a parent”? This pretty much sums up the situation. Some parents get it. Some do not. And my own kids know that it was tough to have no dad for a week, especially when that week was their birthday celebration. The things we do for love.
David Allen, Bayswater North

Unfair onus on schools to pay time-in-lieu provisions

The Australian Education Union has let down its members badly in its new workplace agreement with the Andrews government. The agreement provides government teachers with hour-for-hour time in lieu for out-of-hours work on school activities such as camps and excursions, but the union has not negotiated how this will be paid.

The government says schools have to provide time-in-lieu provisions out of their existing, inadequate budgets. Hence schools are forced to greatly reduce camps and extracurricular activities.

Lots of education happens outside school hours and feeds back into the learning in the classroom. Stopping the camps and extracurricular activities will reduce learning and greatly reduce the satisfaction that students have in their schools and teachers have in their jobs. The exodus of teachers will increase. The state government needs to be pressured to increase funding to pay for these new time-in-lieu provisions or reap the consequences.
Grant Nichol, North Ringwood

An acknowledgment of out-of-hours work

Attending a school camp has been a 24-hour commitment that teachers are never thanked for. I have gone to camp after school on Friday, returned on Sunday and been back in the classroom on Monday. I have spent Easter staffing a camp. I have sat in an emergency department with a student who needed medical attention and I have done this willingly, without expecting a reward.

It is time that society recognised the huge personal and emotional responsibility involved in looking after the children of others in what is not even part of a working week. Teachers have been taken for granted for too long. Congratulations on the move for time-in-lieu provisions, the least that would be expected in any other industry.
Megan Peniston-Bird, Kew

Understanding that one size does not fit all students

The federal budget includes yet more funding for mental health in schools. Before more money is spent in this area, the state government needs to examine how the current funds (more than $200million) are spent, and how to do so more effectively.

Currently, Victoria’s Mental Health Menu is supposed to allow flexibility for schools to select programs that will address their students’ needs, but it is yet another Education Department initiative that assumes “one size fits all”.

The menu only includes certain programs, and it will be 2024 before more can be added. Students in small, rural schools often have different needs and generally lack the access to mental health services that city students do. Schools should be a place where they can be supported. A thorough examination of all student support programs is necessary to ensure the assistance is getting to the students who need it.
Bronwyn Howell, school wellbeing co-ordinator, Alexandra


The central difficulty

Jacqueline Horan’s article (Comment, 29/10) is troubling. Sexual assault is the only area in the criminal law where there can be genuine doubt about whether any offence has occurred due to two reasons: doubt about actual penetration and doubt about a lack of consent. Accordingly, it is invariably a “she said, he said” situation. It is primarily for this reason that bringing offenders to justice is often difficult.

The red herrings introduced by Horan, such as the prevalence of false claims, serve only to distract from the central difficulty referred to earlier. For example, although analysis of the research on false claims does not justify a simplistic claim of “seldom”, it is simply the fact that sexual assault is the single area where false claims can be made that is the issue.

To state the obvious, people often lie when they see an advantage in doing so. To justify the public airing of claims in any form of media because of the foregoing difficulty is, to my mind, irresponsible.

There have been several changes implemented over recent years designed to make it easier to convict actual offenders. These can be legitimately debated. It may be that some would support a “reverse onus principle” in sexual assault cases (with an alleged offender having to prove innocence once a claim is made). This would certainly increase conviction rates – for both the culpable and the innocent.
Con Differding, former national co-ordinator of the National Crime Authority, Torquay

The CFA’s good people

As a CFA volunteer firefighter of nearly 20 years, I am horrified to learn of every instance of bullying, assault and misogyny that has been reported by your paper, as well as the fact that other members stood by and let this happen (The Age, 28/10). I hope this does not discourage new people from volunteering in the CFA.

We cannot root out this appalling behaviour unless more good folk come into the fold, willing to call it out and try to stop it instead of participating, or watching and keeping quiet.

We are not all like that. In my small brigade such behaviour is unheard of, and would not be tolerated by the good people I work alongside. “Bad apple” brigades which have let this happen or even encouraged it should be ashamed and face criminal charges.
Chris McLean, Porcupine Ridge

The overlooked residents

I am not surprised by the neglect of a public housing estate in Clifton Hill (The Age, 29/10). My elderly and frail mother lives in public housing. So-called urgent maintenance like leaking ceilings, burst water pipes and overflowing blocked toilets are, in her experience, never dealt with urgently. It takes an email to housing ministers or daily phone calls from myself to get things done. It is dispiriting and undignified. The system is broken. I am just glad my mum has me in her corner to help her.
Ange Mackie, Coburg

Such appalling neglect

What? It takes a social media post from a Greens candidate to suddenly get urgent repairs for years-long sewerage problems in a Clifton Hill public housing estate? That is disgusting. Is there an election looming?
David Everard, Nunawading

Battle for home ownership

The housing crisis is not just about supply – “A million homes won’t fix anything” (Comment, 27/10). Since the moment that policy makers allowed the housing market to become an investment vehicle over the right of Australians to own their own home, the crisis has worsened.

Anecdotally, we all know people who own multiple homes. Perhaps demand should be moderated by reviewing and cutting the financial advantages to invest, such as negative gearing or capital gains tax exemptions.
It is extremely disheartening that our children struggle to get into the market and our policy makers lack the political will to challenge those who continue to make significant capital gains.
Peter Baddeley, Portland

Needless terrible suffering

For three days I have sat beside my husband, watching him die. For three days, the frail 83-year-old man, his health terminally compromised by a major, painful, inoperable fracture, was unconscious. There was no hope of recovery in any form.

His circulation was failing – his hands were icy cold – and all his bodily functions were failing too. Every breath was a mighty struggle, racking his body, and breaking my heart over and over again. My husband would not have wanted this agonising, protracted dying, and the distress it was causing those of us keeping vigil.

Thankfully, he was in a wonderful nursing home, where the maximum permissible palliative medications were administered by the gentle, patient, loving staff.

But surely something more could be permitted. We would not let a sick, old dog struggle along like this. Surely we can have legislation providing that, if we give prior written consent, we can, if we ever come to this terrible stage, be given, with all the proper safeguards, a gentle means to ease us speedily on our way.
Muriel Porter, Camberwell

All praise post offices

Re “Australia awash with $50, $100 notes” (The Age, 28/10). The Reserve Banks refers to regional and remote parts of Australia, “where an increasing number of localities have no or only a few cash access points nearby”.
Well, thank goodness for our small-town post offices, now that the shameless major banks are closing more and more branches and ATMs. The good old post office has moved into the breach and now fills our financial needs with willing and cheerful staff.
Elaine O’Shannessy, Buxton

We won’t be conned again

Instead of “rebranding” their logos, why don’t Optus and Medibank alter how they collect and hold “their” data instead?

A simple change of logo, and time, will not dupe us in to thinking our personal information is theirs to use and on-sell at their will. How about our politicians help us to decide what private and sensitive information is actually needed and for what precise purpose?
Sean Kolednik, Box Hill South

Why aren’t heads rolling?

I cannot find out the number of executives who have resigned because of the massive damage caused by the cybersecurity failures of their companies. Surely it must be a lot of people by now.
Pete Hickey, Albert Park

Niceness isn’t enough

We were told Josh Frydenberg was a nice bloke and now we are being told the same thing about John Pesutto (The Age, 29/10). “Nice” was not enough for the voters of Kooyong at the federal election and it will not be enough to persuade the voters of Hawthorn at the state election.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

Leaders’ reckless largesse

It seems that Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy promise more and more each week as the election approaches. Each announcement promises expenditure of additional tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. How do they hope to fund these promises when by 2025-26, Victoria is forecast to have a net debt of $167.5billion – larger than the combined debt of NSW, Queensland and Tasmania – forecast at $159.2 billion. Such profligate promises are reckless and irresponsible – and if delivered, will require even more borrowing at higher interest rates.
George Greenberg, Malvern

City’s irresponsibility

Surely the City of Melbourne is not planning to utterly disregard our carbon footprint with a huge display of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. All those fumes, clouds of smoke and chemicals are so wrong for anyone who cares about the environment. To welcome 2023, surely we can move on to clever light shows, or give a drone performance another go.
Rilke Muir, Kensington

A master of painting

Jane Cadzow’s forensic criticism of the world of paint colour selection (Good Weekend, 29/10) is a little harsh on those of us who have a natural ability in this field. I blended Hog’s Bristle with Cosmic Aura and came up with a superb shade of low-sheen Hog’s Aura. It’s not hard if you put your mind to it.
Jim Pilmer, Camberwell

The unfairness of tariffs

Len Cox says “we have solar panels that generate up to 5500W and an electric heat pump hot water system. Hence our power bill is always in credit except for one occasion this winter when it was $7” (Letters, 29/10). He is lucky. Our solar panels – installed at great expense over three years ago – only yield us a feed-in tariff of 12 cents per kWh from a 6500 kw system. Nowhere near reducing our bills significantly. Why is there such a discrepancy in the tariff?
Jeanette White, Warrandyte

Solar, but only for some

Len Cox is not afraid of energy bills. Well, isn’t he lucky to be able to afford the alternative and be completely solar-powered? Unfortunately as someone who rents and lives on an aged pension, that option is not open to me.
Gay Graham, Alfredton

Our MCG deserves a roof

My son and I, along with tens of thousands of others, went to the MCG on Wednesday to watch the T20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Afghanistan. It was abandoned due to rain, as was Friday’s match between Australia and England. When is the world’s most famous cricket ground going to get a retractable roof to protect both players and supporting spectators? We expect rain to be plentiful during spring.
Bruce Grimwood, North Melbourne

Admirable role models

The Diamonds netball team have not lost their shine, rather they have dumped a magnate. Go girls, we need more people like you with the strength and integrity to follow their convictions. Take heed, politicians.
Judith Carter, Chelsea

Guy’s endless promises

No doubt Matthew Guy will be promising everyone a new kitchen sink soon.
Michael McKenna, Warragul



“First Australian ISIS relatives return” (30/10). I’m proud to be Australian. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, thank you.
Mary Keating, Flemington

There’s a strong rumour that Liz Truss will star in a revival of Yes Prime Minister.
Richard Wilson, Croydon

If the government builds 1million houses, how many of these will be snapped up by MPs to negatively gear?
Ian Hetherington, Moama

It’s way beyond refutin’. Let him be known as Shootin’ Putin.
Warwick Spinaze, Tootgarook

The “rocks being dug out of the ground” (Letters, 27/10) are rocks from the very ground of Australia, which we all “own”.
Kath Linforth, Sandringham


Brett Sutton is exceptional and so is COVID-19, Daniel Andrews.
Barbara Lynch, South Yarra

What’s the latest on the north-south pipeline? I trust it’s doing its bit with the floods.
Pamela Lloyd, Brunswick West

Hey, Jim, do you want to save billions? Don’t give any commonwealth funding for Dan’s ego project, the Suburban Rail Loop.
Andrew McLean, Glen Iris


Will the takeover of the music festivals by foreign companies (29/10) be called blueswashing?
John Mosig, Kew

The judge warned jurors in the Bruce Lehrmann trial 17 times not to do it. One did it. Welcome to the classroom.
Pam Cupper, Dimboola

″⁣What doesn’t kill me makes me..oh, spare me″⁣ (28/10). Yes, yes, yes and thank you, Kerri Sackville.
Muriel Hutchinson, Nar Nar Goon

“Gamble responsibly” – it’s a bit like saying “smoke cautiously”.
Rick Whitelaw, Anglesea

Fixing the many issues of the BoM’s mobile app and widget would have been a better use of taxpayers’ money than a rebranding exercise.
Peter Neuhold, Elsternwick

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