A Sydney GP who was hit in the groin by a ski-lift at Perisher has been awarded more than a million dollars in damages.
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Kirrawee doctor Ghita Nair-Smith suffered serious injuries after being struck from behind by the handrail of a chair lift while she and a friend were waiting to travel to a ski-run on July 18, 2003. She remained painfully straddled on the armrest and was eventually pulled into her seat by a friend.

The 54-year-old doctor said she noticed the safety bar had not been raised and was threatening to knock them over as the chair turned the bullwheel of the lift. She said the lift operator grabbed the safety bar at the last minute, causing it to move out of alignment and wedge between her legs.

Perisher claimed the lift operator raised the safety bar in a safe and timely manner, but that Dr Nair-Smith and her friend unnecessarily panicked and she moved out of alignment with the designated loading point.

A judge found in the GP’s favour in July, ruling the ski operator was negligent and had breached its duty of care.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones ordered both parties agree on a damages sum but had to intervene when they came up with wildly different calculations. He awarded Dr Nair-Smith $1,192,597.50 last week, excluding interest.

The court heard the collision damaged ligaments around Dr Nair-Smith’s groin and lower back, causing her significant ongoing pain and, as a consequence of that, a psychiatric pain disorder. This had restricted her functioning, including her ability to work full time, participate in recreational activities, travel and have sex.

Included in the sum was $50 a week for a cleaner for the rest of her life, $235,032 for seven hours of domestic assistance a week provided by her family, $13,576 for equipment such as a special mattress and a kitchen renovation and $975 per week – or $325,000 – for the one-and-a-half days a week she can no longer work.

Justice Beech-Jones rejected some aspects of Dr Nair-Smith’s case, including that she had post-traumatic stress disorder or that she needed specialised pain-relieving injections.

Perisher disputed that all of the expenses were due to the accident, arguing the GP had underlying injuries, including a persistent knee injury from a previous skiing accident and lower back pain.

Justice Beech-Jones has ordered both parties to prepare interest calculations and legal costs.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Figures show primary and secondary enrolments in all four of the state’s priority Asian languages grew between 2010 and 2012. Photo: Bob PearceFull SMH Education coverageRelated story: Geography loses as HSC students map their futures
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Senior high school students in NSW are giving up on Asian languages at an astonishing rate, despite growth among younger students.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of high school students learning Chinese grew by 42 per cent to almost 10,000. Yet, over the same period, the number of HSC students studying the language shrunk by 27 per cent. And figures released last week show just 902 HSC students studied Chinese this year, a 5 per cent drop from last year.

The president of the Board of Studies NSW, Tom Alegounarias, said it was likely students were not convinced a language gave them the competitive edge it once did.

”To the extent that studying a language is a functional advantage for interacting globally, the paradox is that as the world globalises, you don’t need another language and people are aware of that,” he said. ”Everyone that goes to China knows you can get around pretty well with English.”

Figures provided by the NSW Department of Education and Communities show primary and secondary enrolments in all four of the state’s priority Asian languages grew between 2010 and 2012. A large proportion of those high school students would have learnt the language as part of the state’s compulsory 12-month course.

But the proportion of students continuing to more advanced study in the senior years continues to slide, with Fairfax Media revealing last week that the rate of students studying a foreign language for the HSC is at a historic low of just 8 per cent.

The director of the Chinese Teacher Training Centre at the University of Melbourne, Jane Orton, said that when it came to the high-stakes HSC exams students are deterred by having to compete with classmates who have grown up around the language.

”There are kids who would like to go on but they just literally can’t afford it for their futures,” she said. ”It’s like having a race for the under 12s. You can’t have long-legged 15-year-olds racing down. Of course they’re going to win.”

She said the continued push for Asian languages by successive governments was not having the desired effects.

”They seem to throw money at it rather than invest money in it,” she said. ”If they are doing it for national interest, they need to hothouse just as they do for sport.”

Mr Alegounarias says the challenging nature of Asian languages might also partly account for the drop-off.

‘‘There is a different cultural and theoretical linguistic underpinning which actually makes it harder to study those languages, particularly if you’re competing with students of that background,’’ he said.

A senior lecturer in linguistics at the University of New England, Dr Liz Ellis, says ‘‘the closer a  language is in structure and general orientation, the easier it tends to be to learn.’’

French, for example, would typically be easier and quicker for an English speaker to learn than Mandarin.

This year 663 HSC students took French as a beginner, while only 52 students took Chinese as a beginner.

Dr Ellis there is a lot of evidence that bilingualism can enhance cognitive abilities.

‘‘There certainly is research that shows [a link between bilingualism and academic performance] because it expands their facility for thinking and their understanding and ability to think creatively,’’ she said.

Dr Orton says more parents need to value the learning of language, beyond just employment opportunities.

‘‘A lot of parents take an increasingly utilitarian view of school, so it’s a question of will it get you a job,’’ she said.

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Buba the bearded dragon going for a walk in the backyard. Photo: Mal FaircloughBuba the bearded dragon may be cold-blooded but that doesn’t make him cold-hearted, say his owners, Melbourne sisters Allie and Caroline.
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“He’s just so beautiful, and will snuggle up into your neck,” said Caroline, who with her sister bought Buba seven years ago because they wanted “something different”.

Buba is among a growing menagerie of exotic animals, or “pocket pets”, being acquired by Melburnians, who have microchipped 11,315 pets other than dogs or cats, including 3695 horses, 1380 rabbits, 277 reptiles, 205 ferrets, 12 pigs, four sheep and a fish in Malvern East, according to data obtained by Fairfax Media.

Dr Doug Black, of the Unusual Pets and Avian Veterinarians group, said the growing demand for exotic animals had forced veterinarians to expand their skills. “Today, there are vets giving lectures in exotic bird medicine, whereas in the early days most vets would get lectures only on poultry production, and nothing in the way of treating rabbits, reptiles and so on,” he said.

Dr Black said people became quite attached to their strange pets, particularly reptiles. “Some people also get really attached to fish, which is amazing. I’ve even performed surgery on a goldfish.”

Hope Boyle, a reptile enthusiast and nurse at an Essendon veterinary clinic, said microchipping exotic pets such as bearded dragons was inexpensive and could help owners retrieve missing animals. “Reptiles are escape artists,” she said.

Without microchips, reptiles had proven harder to identify than cats or dogs, she said. There had been cases of escaped snakes being taken to animal shelters and being claimed by more than one person.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Clayton Bowls Club looks like any typical suburban bowlo.
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There’s the ”don’t leave children in cars” sign as you walk through the door, the flashing lure of the pokies and the vast, nondescript front bar.

What’s different are the ex-Vue de Monde chefs in the kitchen. Clinton McIver, who worked for four years at the celebrated three-hatted restaurant under chefs Shannon Bennett and Cory Campbell, has taken over Champions Grill bistro, with help from Brazilian girlfriend Ali Rolim Correa.

”It’s definitely not a career move,” says McIver. ”It’s not something I’d necessarily put on my CV.”

Oddly, this is the gig that’s got people talking. Some bowling mates convinced McIver to do consultancy work in the kitchen before the couple heads to South America next year. ”I was intending on keeping a low profile, not doing much,” he says. But he saw the potential to build up the kitchen.

”There are lots of Indian … and Chinese restaurants [in Clayton] but nothing else that’s a weekly dining option. I wanted to tap into the local market.”

”People are shocked,” McIver says. ”I couldn’t tell you how many people have said, ‘I can’t believe what’s happened.’ I’ve got regulars who come in two or three times a week.” Although he admits losing some local diners who aren’t too rapt with his fine-dining food and deconstructed desserts.

The menu is well priced – two courses for $35, three for $40 and a weekly changing five-course degustation, $50 on Saturday night with bookings into November.

McIver’s French-leaning menu is classically driven, inspired by top produce such as line-caught fish, Spanish jamon and premium beef aged in house. In the club’s surrounding parkland, he forages for wild turnips and wood sorrel to use in the day’s dishes.

Read Nina Rousseau’s review of Champion’s Grill.

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The RSPCA believes people found guilty of abusing animals are not facing penalties tough enough to reflect the depravity of their crimes or to deter repeat offenders.
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The claim has been illustrated by an incident in the central Victorian town of Seymour in October 2011, when a group of men captured a young kangaroo and tormented it for several hours.

The kangaroo was driven around town in a car boot, then released down the main street where it was almost hit by cars. Later the animal was taken to a park where it was struck with sticks and by hand and kicked in the head with steel-capped boots then thrown against a tree. Parts of the abuse were filmed on a mobile phone.

The trio initially avoided conviction and were given good behaviour bonds and fines of $850 to $2500. The Office of Public Prosecutions appealed, and the men were eventually convicted and their fines increased. Two received community corrections orders and the other a suspended sentence.

RSPCA Victoria’s inspectorate manager, Allie Jalbert, said sentences were falling short of community expectations and were not providing a deterrent to repeat offenders – a disturbing trend considering studies showed animal cruelty could be a precursor to violence against humans. ”We wouldn’t see sentences that get anywhere near [the maximum penalties],” she said. ”The same people are absolutely re-offending and even when they’re re-offending we’re not necessarily seeing tough penalties even the second or third time.”

Ms Jalbert said the most effective punishment was to ban the offender from owning or caring for a pet. Bans of up to 10 years can be imposed under Victorian law.

Of 326 animal cruelty cases prosecuted through Victorian Magistrates Courts between 2010 and 2012, the most common punishment was a fine.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →