Mental approach key for Boks against Italy, says De Villiers

They improved on that with a 31-28 success over England last time out and De Villiers wants to ensure they keep their intensity high against what is on paper inferior opposition.


“It’s been a pretty tough week of training, the main message throughout is that we need to pitch up mentally,” De Villiers told reporters on Friday.

“The big difference between the Ireland and England games was exactly that — the mental preparation and the focus going into those games. We are very aware of it.”

De Villiers expects Italy to be fired-up, having lost all their previous 11 meetings with the Boks, and says starting well with points on the board could quell the home side’s early passion.

“We must make sure our reaction time is that half-second better than theirs, as it was against England and wasn’t against Ireland. We have to start well, play in the right areas and make sure that we get in front because as soon as they get a sniff it becomes a very long day.”

The Boks have received yellow cards in both their tour matches and De Villiers says they will do all they can to stay on the right side of French referee Jerome Garces.

“Our discipline is important, the previous two weeks getting yellow cards put us in tough situations,” he said.

“Even though I think we are pretty good with understanding what the referee wants and adapting to him, it’s those one or two situations that could cost you a game. We need to sharpen up on that.”

De Villiers is also looking for more precision from the side as an attacking unit.

“We had opportunities last weekend that we didn’t finish off and certainly there will be opportunities this week. It’s making sure you don’t go chasing the game from the very first minute, but get the structures right and capitalise on that.”

(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Toby Davis)

Qatar should stage World Cup only if exploitation stops – Champagne

The Frenchman said that FIFA’s capability to govern the sport could be threatened by the continuing controversy over the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments and that “sanctity of the World Cup” was also at stake

He also repeated his call for FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia’s report into the bidding process for the tournaments awarded to Russia and Qatar, to be published in full.


The findings were summarised in a 42-page statement published by FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert last week, which Garcia himself complained included misrepresentations. FIFA has said it cannot be publish the full report for legal reasons.

“It’s great to take the World Cup to an Arab country because Morocco bid four times, Egypt twice. If nothing has happened, we go to Qatar,” said Champagne.

“But we cannot go to Qatar if we don’t solve the issue of the exploitation of the workers, which means that the companies from the rest of the world have to be subject to strict regulations based on what has been said by Amnesty International and ITUC (the International Trade Union Conference).

“We have a network of exploitation of poverty which starts in the countryside of India and the valleys of Nepal,” he said. “The World Cup is a celebration. Imagine if we have this celebration knowing it has been on the exploitation of poverty.”

Qatar has been widely criticised over its treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry and says it is working to address the problem.

Although formal investigations have been started against some unidentified people mentioned in Garcia’s report, Eckert’s statement said there was not enough evidence to suggest that the bidding process needed to be re-opened.

“It seems that the very integrity of the vote is tainted, so we need to see what happened. We need to know, to protect the World Cup,” said Champagne.

“We need to rebuild FIFA’s image and I personally regret what happened last week because it has not helped at all.

“We still have time but we need to know what is inside Mr Garcia’s report, his findings, his recommendations as well as other things.”

Champagne was FIFA’s Deputy Secretary General between 2002 and 2005, he worked on special projects between 2005 and 2007 and was Director of International Relations from 2007 until he left FIFA in 2010.

He said that FIFA needed structural reforms to make it more democratic and transparent for the future, but said it was wrong to blame soccer’s governing body for everything.

“I will not join the chorus of people saying they should walk away from FIFA, wash it all away,” he said. “FIFA gets blamed for everything.”

“In Spain, when a player comes back to his club in after an international match, either injured or tired, the media call that the ‘FIFA virus’.

“But who is inflating the format of the qualifying competitions? Not FIFA. Who is creating new competitions which saturate the international calendar? Not FIFA.”

He added: “I’m proud of the years I spent in FIFA because of all the things we achieved, but we could do so much more. We could govern it so much better if we adopt the changes we need.

“Basically, FIFA has to enter the 21st century. The way it functions is still a well-made system but designed to function as it was in the 1970s and 1980s.”

(Editing by Mitch Phillips)

Advantage Hamilton in Abu Dhabi practice

The Briton, chasing his second title, was quickest in the afternoon and after-dark floodlit sessions at the glittering Yas Marina circuit that hosts Sunday’s decisive ‘duel in the desert’.


The bragging rights were limited, however, by the slender margin between the two with Hamilton 0.133 faster in the first session and a mere 0.083 in the cooler evening conditions.

He produced his best lap of one minute 42.113 after nightfall.

“I’ve just got to drive the way I usually do and what will be will be,” said Hamilton. “I feel good in the car. Undoubtedly, there is more time to find so I’ve got to go and chip away at it tonight.”

The other drivers waged a familiar battle to be best of the also-rans, but with an even greater gap than usual.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso, preparing for his last race with Ferrari, was third quickest in the opening session but a massive 1.7 seconds off Hamilton’s pace.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by 17 points but, with double on offer for the first time, the spectre of mechanical failure hangs over Sunday’s race.

The 2008 champion need only finish second, however, to be champion even if Rosberg wins.

Mercedes are also on course for a record 16 wins in a season, having already notched up an unprecedented 11 one-twos.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen filled third spot in the second session, when Alonso stopped on track without setting a time, but was still 0.782 off the pace

Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, was fourth fastest in both sessions as he geared up for a farewell to Red Bull before replacing Alonso at Ferrari.

Britain’s Jenson Button, maybe facing his last race in Formula One, improved to eighth for McLaren after a troubled first session.

Mercedes-powered Williams, who stopped their cars in the first session after they shed bodywork on track, had a normal second stint with Finland’s Valtteri Botttas fifth.

The first session also saw some less familiar names in action, with Britain’s Will Stevens slowest as he prepared for a race debut with administrator-run Caterham.

Hong Kong Chinese racer Adderley Fong gained some experience at Sauber.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

Obesity costs hit $US2 trillion: report

A new report shows the global cost of obesity has risen to $US2 trillion ($A2.


2 trillion) annually – nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism.

The report, released by the McKinsey Global Institute on Thursday, focused on the economics of obesity, putting it among the top three social programs generated by human beings.

It puts its impact at 2.8 per cent of global gross domestic product.

“Obesity isn’t just a health issue,” one of the report’s authors, Richard Dobbs, said in a podcast.

“But it’s a major economic and business challenge.”

The company says 2.1 billion people – about 30 per cent of the global population – are overweight or obese and that about 15 per cent of health care costs in developed economies are driven by it.

In emerging markets, as countries get richer, the rate of obesity rises to the same level as that found in more developed countries.

The report offers the stark prediction that nearly half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030 should present trends continue.

McKinsey says there’s no single or simple solution to the problem, but global disagreement on how to move forward is hurting progress.

The analysis is meant to offer a starting point on the elements of a possible strategy.

“We see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators,” McKinsey said in its report.

“Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era.”

Basketball – Barca, Olympiakos, CSKA reach Euroleague Top 16

Barcelona cruised to a 99-77 win at Bayern Munich and CSKA blew away visiting Alba Berlin 95-66.


Olympiakos edged Valencia 77-76 thanks to the last-minute exploits of playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis.

All three can now fine-tune their form for the Top 16, featuring two sections of eight teams, while other giants like Real Madrid and holders Maccabi Teal Aviv still have unfinished business in the preliminary group stage.

Spanoulis, who inspired Olympiakos to shock titles in 2012 and 2013, was instrumental again as he nailed a three-pointer to tie the score and then buried one of two free throws in front of a passionate Greek crowd.

“We showed character, heart and a winning mentality but the performance wasn’t good,” Olympiakos coach Giannis Sfairopulous told 南宁桑拿,euroleague南宁桑拿, after his team overturned a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Elsewhere, France guard Nando De Colo amassed 22 points, including four three-pointers from as many attempts, and American playmaker Aaron Jackson added 18 as CSKA raced into a 40-15 lead against Alba.

The German side fought hard to restore some respectability to the scoreline but were undone by superb long-range shooting as CSKA nailed 15 shots from behind the three-point arc while Alba managed just two.


“We dominated the boards and had high shooting percentages so I can congratulate my team for playing good basketball and staying focussed from start to finish,” said CSKA’s Greek coach Dimitris Itoudis.

Barcelona also stretched their perfect start to six wins after Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer Juan Carlos Navarro, Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar and Brazil guard Marcelinho Huertas each grabbed 15 points.

The Catalan giants dominated in all departments, collecting five rebounds more than Bayern and dishing out 24 assists while pouring in 12 three-pointers against the home team’s three.

Maccabi ground out a 79-73 win at French side Limoges thanks to a personal Euroleague record of 22 points by forward Sylven Landesberg who averaged 3.2 last season and 5.4 this term.

Fenerbahce Istanbul held off a late rally by Emporio Armani Milan to beat the Italians 80-74 on the back of 14 points by guard Ricky Hickman and 12 from centre Semih Erden.

On Friday, eight-times winners Real Madrid visit Zalgiris Kaunas and Galatasaray are at home to Red Star Belgrade.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Australian mining executives charged in US

The Australian heads of a platinum mine have been indicted in the US for conspiring to dump waste in Alaska’s Salmon River, which crosses a wildlife refuge.


The 28-page indictment handed down by a grand jury in the US District Court of Alaska portrays Sydney-based Bruce Butcher, the former chairman and chief executive of XS Platinum Inc, and former executive vice president Mark Balfour of Perth, as focused on the mine’s viability rather than the environment.

Butcher and Balfour, along with two US and one Canadian co-accused, allegedly concealed violations “to save costs and avoid regulatory scrutiny” while knowingly discharging “a pollutant, namely effluent from a platinum mine”, into the river.

Prosecutors have listed 23 “overt acts” by the defendants.

The Platinum Creek Mine, a no-discharge facility, was located on the Salmon River, an anadromous fish stream crossing the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge before entering the Pacific Ocean at Kuskokwim Bay.

The waterway is important for the spawning of all five species of Pacific salmon – chinook, chum, coho, pink and sockeye.

Emails allegedly written by or sent to Butcher, Balfour and other company employees were obtained by prosecutors.

“I would prefer we not be engaging the regulators at this stage on our so-called ‘zero-discharge’ plant as all that will do is immediately raise expectations to the point that that will become today’s standard,” Butcher allegedly wrote to Balfour and two other executives.

Despite knowing “for some time about the turbidity and porosity matters that we need to address”, Butcher wrote the company was “not in a position” to install a water clarifier at the mine, prosecutors allege.

A clarifier cleans and recycles process water and prevents discharges.

Authorities closed in on August 10, 2011 when a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist flew over the mine and Salmon River and allegedly observed turbid water all the way to Kuskokwim Bay.

XS Platinum’s former general manager Robert Pate, of the US, former chief operating officer James Slade, of Canada, and former plant operator James Staeheli, of the US, are also charged in the indictment.

The five defendants face counts of conspiracy, Clean Water Act permit violations, submitting a Clean Water Act false report and making a false statement.

The alleged overt acts include:

* On September 8, 2011, less than a week after receiving a violation notice, Slade wrote a memo to Butcher and Balfour stating the mine would “continue to produce 24/7 until the wheels fall off” and the “major focus is to produce enough concentrate to exceed the contract this season”.

* The company failed to alert authorities when an employee emailed the mine’s environmental manager declaring turbidity numbers in the river “went through the roof”.

* Authorities were not alerted when an employee emailed executives stating turbidity levels at a fishing hole downstream had exceeded legal limits and “the issue should be addressed before things get too out of hand”.

XS Platinum was incorporated in Delaware in 2007 and was a wholly-owned subsidiary of an off-shore limited corporation registered in Jersey, Channel Islands.

The Alaskan mine operated from 2008 to 2012.

The parent corporation was capitalised at $US34 million by more than 100 international investors primarily from Australia and Europe, but dissolved in September 2013.

Wigan boss Whelan sorry for ‘anti-Semitic’ remarks

He had been quoted by the Guardian newspaper (南宁桑拿,


the guardian南宁桑拿会所,) on Thursday attempting to defend his hiring of former Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay who is under investigation by the FA for alleged offensive messages he sent while in charge of the Welsh club.

Whelan said one of the messages described Cardiff owner, Malaysian Vincent Tan, as a “chink” while in another Mackay made derogatory remarks about a Jewish football agent.

“If any Englishman said he has never called a Chinaman ‘a chink’ he is lying,” said Whelan. “There is nothing bad about doing that, it is like calling the British ‘Brits’ or the Irish ‘paddies’.

He added: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all, it’s telling the truth. Jewish people love money, English people love money, we all love money”.

Whelan later appeared on Sky Sports television to issue an apology.

“I would never upset any Jewish person because I hold them in the highest regard,” he said. “If anybody takes offence in anything I have said, please accept my sincere apology.”

Whelan’s original comments were condemned, with the Guardian quoting Chinese community leader Jenny Wong as saying that the Wigan owner was condoning racism.

Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out issued a statement questioning whether he was “a fit and proper person who should be running a professional football club”.

“The remarks act as another example of the culture which continues to exist within football and further proves that some in positions of power seem comfortable sharing those views either privately or publicly,” they said.

Former FA and Premier League executive Simon Johnson, who is chief executive at the Jewish Leadership Council, described Whelan’s comments as “disgraceful anti-Semitic language”.

One of Wigan’s sponsors, which has its logo on the back of their shirts, withdrew its support for the club on Thursday over this week’s appointment of Mackay.

In 2013, Wigan won the FA Cup and were relegated from the Premier League.

(Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Tony Jimenez)

State of emergency in Nigeria over: govt

The state of emergency imposed in northeastern Nigeria to crush Boko Haram Islamists has ended, the lower house of parliament says.


The development came on a day that saw police fire tear gas inside the parliament building, apparently targeting the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who defected to the opposition last month.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday asked lawmakers in the lower house and Senate to approve an extension of the 18-month emergency rule in three northeastern states: Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

He said the move was needed to sustain the pressure against Boko Haram.

But opposition lawmakers in both chambers have described the emergency rule policy as a failure, with Boko Haram making massive gains since May last year.

“Emergency rule is over as far as we are concerned,” said House of Representatives spokesman Zakaria Mohammed on Thursday.

He said the president needs approval from both houses of parliament to secure an extension and that members of the lower house resolved that the extension was not merited.

A vote was not taken and the decision came in a closed-door session, as Senate president David Mark ordered the closure of the parliament because of the disturbances inside the complex.

Experts have questioned the usefulness of Jonathan’s emergency decree, and the additional powers given to the military to carry out the 18-month offensive have never been spelt out.

The military was operating in all three affected states before the May 2013 declaration, which many saw as an attempt by Jonathan to underscore the severity of the Boko Haram conflict.

Northeastern US braces for more snow

The northeastern United States is bracing for another bout of potentially deadly weather, after a rare, mid-autumn blizzard killed at least eight people.


The pre-winter storm this week dumped more than 1.8 metres of snow in some areas, including the hard hit city of Buffalo in the western part of New York state.

Forecasters have predicted that the wintry deluge could set a record for the heaviest snowfall ever in the United States in a 24-hour time span.

The National Weather Service in its bulletin on Thursday, said an extra 60 to 90cm of “lake effect snow”, created when frigid air moves over warm lake waters, could fall on Thursday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who travelled to Buffalo on Thursday for a firsthand look, said at a press conference that it may even be necessary to cancel an NFL football game on Sunday between the local Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets – sacrilege in a sport that many fans insist is most enjoyable when the weather is at its worst.

“Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first,” Cuomo said.

“At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said – staying off the roads – would make a Bills game impractical,” he said.

The snow advisory will remain in effect through Friday, said the NWS, which warned of treacherous conditions, including near-zero visibility, and even the possibility of “thundersnow” – snow with thunder and lightning.

The snowfall is equivalent to around a year’s supply of snow in just two days and could yet prompt a federal disaster declaration, local officials said.

Bishop cautious on Greste pardon prospects

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is cautious about the prospects of Egypt granting an early pardon to three jailed Al-Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste.


Ms Bishop says it would be good news if President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi changed his mind about a pardon before the court appeal process is completed.

“If there is a move for (Mr Greste) to be released earlier we certainly welcome it,” she told the Nine Network on Friday.

She said Australia had been making representations at the highest level.

Australian authorities were previously told the appeal process needed to run its course before any potential presidential intervention.

An Egyptian court is scheduled to hear an appeal on January 1.

But Mr Sisi has left the door open on a pardon.

“This issue is under study,” he said in an interview with France 24 on Thursday.

Asked if it might happen soon, he said: “If we find that this is appropriate for Egyptian national security, then we will do it.”

Mr Sisi last week signed a decree allowing for the extradition of foreigners charged with a crime or sentenced in Egypt.

In June, an Egyptian court handed down jail terms of between seven and 10 years to the three journalists.

Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian Mohamed Baher were convicted of supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false information.

Sisi has previously stressed that he does not interfere in Egyptian court rulings but he has mentioned more than once that he wished the journalists had been deported rather than prosecuted.

When adopted children forget their birth language, it may not be entirely lost

By Monika Schmid, University of Essex

How robust are languages learned in childhood but disused later in life? A new study by researchers at McGill University and the University of Montreal has found that the forgotten birth language of adoptees can apparently leave its traces in the brain, many years after the adoption has taken place.


International adoption is rapidly on the increase in Western countries. Children who were born and raised initially in one linguistic environment are transplanted to a family and community that uses a new language. Typically, the transition to this new language is made astonishingly quickly, with the first language usually being forgotten within months 鈥?and sometimes despite the adoptive parents’ best efforts to provide opportunities to help the child retain the birth language. Surprisingly, this pattern can be seen not only in infants but also among children as old as nine years at the time of adoption.

What adults remember

As adults, adoptees are often unable to even recognise the very basic vocabulary of the language to which they were exposed in childhood. In one study of young adults in France who were born in Korea and adopted aged three to nine, upon hearing sentences in several different languages, they were unable to determine which of the utterances were in Korean, as opposed to Japanese, Polish and other languages. Brain scans of the same Korean adoptees revealed that their neural activity while listening to their birth language did not differ from that of French speakers who had never been exposed to Korean (as would have been expected if the early exposure had left a neurological 鈥渋mprint鈥?.

The idea that the birth language 鈥?the language you once used and understood, the language your biological parents spoke, the language that you may associate with your heritage 鈥?has vanished entirely from your brain is an intriguing thought, and a troubling one for many adoptees.

Can we not at least assume that the birth language will be easier for an adoptee to re-learn than it is for others to acquire it from scratch? This is what is known as the 鈥淪avings Paradigm鈥?/a> 鈥?the assumption that even information that is apparently forgotten is still there somewhere, and only needs re-activating.

The findings by researchers are, thus far, not encouraging: while studies have shown adoptees may have a minor advantage at learning how to discriminate and produce some of the speech sounds of their birth language (and in some cases none at all), early language exposure does apparently not lead to better performance on grammar or vocabulary.

Sounds stick out

Children learn the phonology of their birth language at a very early age: within months the infant鈥檚 perceptual system becomes attuned to those speech sounds that can make a meaningful difference as opposed to those that do not. For example, in English the difference between 鈥渓鈥?and 鈥渞鈥?is phonemic, meaning that the words 鈥渞oad鈥?and 鈥渓oad鈥?mean different things, and English infants will quickly come to discriminate these sounds.

In some other languages, there is no such distinction between 鈥渓鈥?and 鈥渞鈥? and children growing up exposed to such a language have lower sensitivity to this contrast. Languages such as Chinese furthermore use the intonation contour of the syllable for meaning-making, so that the word 鈥渕a鈥?can have different meanings, dependent on whether it is carries an intonation contour that is high-level (鈥渕other鈥?, high-rising (鈥渉emp鈥? low-dipping (鈥渉orse鈥? or high-falling (鈥渟cold鈥?.

This is the contrast tested in the recent Canadian study. Chinese adoptees in Montreal who were adopted around ten years ago, before they were two years old and who now only speak French, were compared with both monolingual Francophone Canadian children and with French-Chinese bilingual children. Unlike in the study of the Korean adoptees in France, these children did not listen to actual (meaningful) speech, but to nonsense syllables that were pronounced with different intonation contours as well as to humming with the same intonation pattern.

Only an ear for intonation?

Under these conditions, while no actual linguistic processing was going on, brain scans revealed that the adopted children seemed to recruit the same brain regions to process the intonational patterns as did the Chinese-French bilinguals, areas that are typically associated with the processing of tonal languages. Meanwhile, the monolingual French children showed an entirely different pattern of neurological activation.

This suggests that the early adoptees retain the knowledge that intonation patterns can be used to distinguish lexical meanings. For the monolingual French children, this type of information is more typically associated with utterance-level information, such as distinguishing the statement 鈥淛ohn is here鈥?from the rising-intonation question 鈥淛ohn is here?鈥? and they consequently recruit different brain areas for processing it.

Does the fact that the early exposure to Chinese has left such a demonstrable trace in the brain mean that these children will find it easier to re-learn this phonological contrast, with which learners with no childhood exposure to Chinese typically struggle?

A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen in the Netherlands suggests that it might not be as straightforward as that. While Chinese adoptees in the Netherlands are better than monolingual Dutch children at producing these tones, they have no advantage at perceiving, and thus discriminating, them 鈥?not even after they were trained on the task. Notably, the speakers in this study were severed from their birth language for only about half as long as the people in the Canadian study.

Taken together, these studies suggest that a birth language may indeed leave a persistent trace in the brain, but that the advantage for speakers who were exposed to a language at an early age is probably limited to relatively narrow phonological features and does not include the wider areas of lexicon or grammar.

Monika Schmid receives funding from NWO (Netherlands), the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) and ESRC.

Vic election a showdown on future of TAFE

Vocational education has emerged as an unlikely battle ground of the Victorian election, with the major parties at odds over the future direction of TAFE.


The coalition says technology is superseding the need for “bricks and mortar” technical colleges, and online course delivery can provide a broader array of training better tailored to job needs.

Labor is promising an infusion of cash to reopen TAFE campuses which closed as a result of the government’s changes to funding arrangements in 2012.

Premier Denis Napthine says overall funding for the vocational education and training sector has increased from $800 million in 2010 to $1.2 billion in 2014.

The coalition has no plan to reopen closed TAFE campuses.

“I think the focus on bricks and mortar and buildings doesn’t reflect the new 21st century education and training,” Dr Napthine told AAP.

He said a re-elected coalition government would provide 850,000 training places for Victorians, and students needed more choice, courses better suited to their job needs and more modern technology.

“They might want to be working in the dairy, and doing online training about their agricultural future,” he said.

“I think more and more vocational education and training will be about following the needs of the students and meeting their needs, rather than some of us older people, if you want to call it that, who see training as about bricks and mortar.”

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews says Labor, if elected, would get money flowing immediately to stabilise TAFE, reopen campuses, and it would audit the sector.

“I don’t think they (the coalition) value TAFE and I don’t think they understand it has a broader charter and obligation to the community,” Mr Andrews told AAP.

” … They’ve got to provide for a broader range of people to meet a broader need.

“Without a strong TAFE system we will not ensure that people can transition from one industry to another and we’ll hold back a generation of young people.”

First Contact’s Bo-dene: ‘I can’t believe I was so naive and ignorant’

After experiencing firsthand for a month the harsh realities that Aboriginal people face, I couldn’t wait to return back home to Melbourne.


I was exhausted and emotionally troubled at the realisations I had made over the past few weeks and couldn’t wait to be supported and be able to share my journey with my husband.

It was the furthest thought from my mind to find out that my house was half empty when I got back, and that he had left me while I was away. My world fell around my feet and I just stood there looking at my now lifeless house that I had fantasised about returning to during the most challenging parts of the previous weeks. My outlook on life had changed, and it seemed too that my life had changed without me even having a say in it.

I never imagined that after only three years of being married, my husband would leave the moment I was away. I couldn’t comprehend the humiliation I would feel when everyone found out, and I questioned if I even had the strength to start a new life. If I hadn’t done the trip, I know that I would not have been able to handle the prospects of being alone.

‘I can’t believe the ignorance I showed and the disrespect I showed’

The trip showed me that I do have the strength to stand on my own two feet, as I met so many people who seemed to defy the odds in their situations and succeed. I felt connected to people all over Australia that I had met along the way and I felt part of something larger than myself.

If I was able to connect with so many inspirational people, surely I could handle this. There was such a big world out there and so many people in worse situations than I had found myself in. I had to be brave and draw inspiration from the amazing women I had met, especially June Oscar in Fitzroy Crossing, to not surrender to adversity.

Fitzroy Crossing made me question everything that I thought. I can’t believe I was so naive to think that everybody had the opportunity to escape those cycles, when in the Aboriginal community there is so much trans-generational trauma, displacement and employment shortages still happening, everything that I had thought. I have always been a strong advocate for personal choice, and had constantly challenged every community we stayed in during the trip as to why they had never made the choice to change their situations and get out of the vicious cycles of alcoholism, violence, unemployment and housing problems.

I have experienced firsthand the effects that alcoholism can have on your family and the sheer terror of being homeless. I thought that if my family could get out of it, then surely everyone else could. My time in Fitzroy Crossing showed me that many Aboriginal children are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and that they can lack the ability to make sound choices a result. I always thought myself to be smart, but to have never considered such a vital link in the cycle that is impacting Indigenous societies, I was ashamed of myself.

‘I met so many people who seemed to defy the odds in their situations and succeed’

Before the journey, I would never have thought that my biggest life inspiration would come from Aboriginal people. Looking back, I can’t believe the ignorance I showed and the disrespect I showed by not even taking the pro-active approach to find out more and just believing everything that I had been told.

To have access to knowledge and education, I should have tried to find the truth. I always thought negatively about Indigenous Australians, blatantly disregarding their heritage and honestly having no real facts to fuel my claims. It is not okay to regard the First Australians as being ‘wasters’ and I am ashamed of myself for proclaiming that. If I could go back to the beginning of my trip, having learnt what I had by the end, I know that I would have approached the people and communities very differently. I now realise that I had approached the journey with a set mindset, despite having thought I was being open-minded.

It wasn’t until I met Lucas at Roebourne Regional Prison that my bigotry started to slowly chip away. I did not care to listen to what any of the inmates had to say as I had already made my mind up that I didn’t care for their personal stories. I had painted Lucas to be just a crim, and felt somewhat shocked that his intentions for leaving school were to help his parents through a separation. I felt a connection with him, and I couldn’t believe that an Aboriginal inmate of a jail in the Pilbara shared a common story with me.

I felt the pressures of family breakdown since I was about 13 and I know how hard it is to try and keep your family together. It is devastating to watch the support and love of your family disintegrate before your eyes, and I am only lucky that I had my older brother Jared to look after me. Unlike Lucas, who had no one to keep him on the right path and no role models to look up to, I had my brother. I never realised that I would share so many connections with Aboriginal people. I always thought that there was some huge divide that could never be crossed. But I was wrong.

The journey showed me that instead of many non-Indigenous Australians showing prejudice towards Aboriginal people, we can draw strength from their resilience and determination. I would not have been able to face the next phase of my life without having met such incredible people and being welcomed into their homes. Meeting these amazing people has changed my life in ways that I could never have expected.

Bo-dene appears on tonight’s final episode of First Contact at 8.30pm on SBS ONE. She will be reunited with her fellow participants on a special live episode of Insight at 9.30pm.

Watch the first two episodes of First Contact on SBS On Demand and follow the conversation on Twitter.