About my blog


Trivia versus Trivial

I thought it would be appropriate for my first blog to give you an idea of what makes me tick and the type of content you will be able to read in my future blogs. As you will have noticed I have just published my first book ‘Trivia Lovers Ultimate Reference’. I mention this because it is a vital clue as to who I am.

People often think of trivia as the name implies, as being about flippant or trivial information that no one really cares about anyway. The truth is that the name trivia does not do justice to the pastime or the millions of trivia buffs around the world that are madly obsessed, partly obsessed or just plain obsessed.

My experience is that trivia lovers have a very broad range of general knowledge and interest in a huge variety of subjects, sure some of it is trivial but most trivia is actually important information. It never ceases to amaze me how often I use facts in my day to day life that I have learnt since taking up trivia as a pastime. It also amazes me how my own ability to learn, retain and retrieve information has improved drastically as a result of participating in trivia. From a very young age I had a thirst for knowledge and developed interests in a wide variety of activities and subjects so I guess it was a natural progression that I would love trivia.

This brings me to the possibilities for future content in my blog. I will be writing about a broad range of topical issues such as social justice, the environment, animal welfare and anything I believe is worthy of public comment. Unlike trivia though I will avoid flippant and trivial issues in favour of posts that I hope will be engaging, interesting and informative for the reader. It is my intention to try and blog on a weekly basis but as we all know sometimes life interferes with the best laid plans so please forgive me if I miss a week sometimes.

I value your comments and input but please be respectful. Be happy and safe till next time.

Debra Russell




Tribute to the Writing Community


Firstly I would just like to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. I have been out of action for the last month due to health and family issues but am hoping things will improve now and I can return to doing what I love.

Before I get to the point, I think I should introduce my background and explain how I first came to find myself in the writing world. I grew up in rural Australia in the 1950’s and 60’s. The biggest influences on me growing up were the racism displayed towards Aboriginal Australians and gender inequality. My best friends at high school were Aboriginal girls and I remember clearly not understanding why they were treated as though they were inferior. This combined with gender inequality developed a strong sense of social justice in me that lives on to this day.

The norm for most young girls in my childhood years was that there was no need for a good education. Girls would marry and have a family and the money spent on their education would be wasted. That was certainly the case for me and I remember being devastated when my father told me I wouldn’t be going on to finish high school. If there was a positive in this disappointment, it was that it developed a life long quest in me to increase my knowledge and skills. After raising my own family I was nearly 50 before I finally achieved my life long dream of attending university.

Until 2 years ago I worked as a visual artist and founded an arts organisation in Brisbane called Impress Printmakers Studio Brisbane. I first started writing poetry about twenty years ago for fun as I didn’t have much time to try my hand at writing seriously with a family and art career. But writing is something I have always wanted to pursue, so 2 years ago I laid down the brushes and took up the pen.

I consider myself a novice in the writing world as I have only just published my first book and have only been blogging for just over two months. My thirst for knowledge and my love of trivia inspired me to write Trivia Lovers Ultimate Reference, my first writing project. I decided to write a thoroughly researched book after realizing that some trivia sources were not providing factual and properly researched answers. All too often I would attend my local trivia evening believing I had the right answers to questions, only to find my reference sources had provided inaccurate information or information based solely on urban myth.

During my short writing career I have come to love the writing community. Having experienced the art world, I can honestly say that the support and encouragement writers show towards each other is something to be envied. We write because we believe we have something valuable to share with our readers and if we are lucky to make money. But even though writers are all striving for the same goals I have not experienced the same competiveness in the writing world that you see in other professions. Writers are a true community giving their knowledge, time, support and encouragement to others.

I believe it is a privilege and an honour to be part of this community and to be able to write something that other people are interested in and want to read. I would like to thank all my followers and those who have liked, commented on and shared my posts in 2017. Lets face it no matter how good they are, our blogs only become gems when they are read and shared by our fellow bloggers and authors.

Advances in technology and communications in recent decades have given more writers the opportunity to be published and to have a say in what goes on in the world around them. The way I see it this can only be a good thing for the future, as the sense of community that writers’ share is passed on through the global community.

Smorgasbord Quiz Night – Trivia Lover’s Ultimate Reference – Questions by Debra Russell. Winner receives TWO #FREE Books — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to week two of the quiz night with questions set by Debra Russell based on her book Trivia Lover’s Ultimate Reference. I know that some of you were going to enter the quiz last week but got waylaid by work and life.. and also that you felt that it would be unethical to use […]

via Smorgasbord Quiz Night – Trivia Lover’s Ultimate Reference – Questions by Debra Russell. Winner receives TWO #FREE Books — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Power of #Celebrity Part 2. #Fashion Industry Influence on #Youth Culture



This article is part 2 of the Power of Celebrity series and a follow on from Part 1, Musicians Influence on Youth Culture. Last time I talked about the power of the music industry to influence adolescents and emphasised the need for musicians to take responsibility as good role models and project a healthy image to our youth. Similarly, the fashion industry has the power to influence adolescents who are still in the process of establishing a sense of who they are and who they want to be and should therefore also take their responsibility toward our youth seriously.

Clothing and fashion throughout history have always been the most obvious way that individuals express who they are and identify other similar or like minded individuals. We are naturally attracted to those who are like us. The way we dress visually tells others a great deal about our characteristics such as gender, sexuality, education, economic status, race and interests to name a few. This ability to recognise like minded individuals is most evident in sub cultures such as different ethnic and religious groups, the punk rock movement and more recently the hip hop movement. But the idea of youth fashion is something that has only really developed since World War 11 finished, when the fashion industry realised that adolescents were obtaining more disposable income. The fashion industry quickly cashed in on this new direction and began targeting a teenage audience.

US teenage rehabilitation center Newport Academy have said that “Body image can have a huge impact on teens. Teenagers might be the most fashion-conscious people on the planet.” They also say that along with their peers, media such as teen magazines, online publications, television and films has a powerful influence on them and that “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, four out of every five advertisements in teen magazines includes clothing or beauty items that are “fashionable.””

Young girls are particularly vulnerable to the stereotypes portrayed in the fashion industry. According to a 2003 article in the Eating and Weight Disorders journal “frequency of reading fashion magazines influences the idea of a perfect body shape in 69% of adolescent girls. This effect is so strong that even 60% of infrequent readers of fashion magazines feel that the media influence their idea of a perfect size (5). Likewise, adolescent girls named media images as exerting the strongest pressure on their desire to be thin (4)” In addition to influencing self esteem and body image fashion also affects adolescents beliefs, social status and their interactions and bonding with peers. Many teenagers see their own and their peers worth based more on external appearances, not on who they are inwardly.

According to Teen Health and the Media “One in every three (37%) articles in leading teen girl magazines also included a focus on appearance, and most of the advertisements (50%) used an appeal to beauty to sell their products. The commercials aimed at female viewers that ran during the television shows most often watched by teen girls also frequently used beauty as a product appeal (56% of commercials). By comparison, this is true of just 3 percent of television commercials aimed at men.”

The general trend in the fashion industry towards teenage fashion has been to make teenagers look more like an adult, sexier and more provocative. They are bombarded with fashion advertisements using celebrities that they know teenagers look up to such as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Justin Bieber to name a few,. I am not suggesting for one minute that the fashion industry should not use celebrities to endorse their products, just that they should use more discretion and choose more age appropriate celebrities projecting a positive teenage image.

There has recently been positive moves from some sections of the fashion industry in this direction with the introduction of former Disney and Nickelodeon television stars to endorse products for adolescents. Former Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice is a wonderful ambassador for adolescents with her charity and humanitarian work and has appeared in advertisements for fashion retailers such as Ralph Lauren, Gap, Guess and Mervyn’s. Another example that springs to mind is former Disney Channel star and activist Zoey Deutsch having appeared in numerous fashion magazines including Marie Claire, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan.

But wait, I can hear the critics of this line of thought protesting already. What about former Disney star Miley Cyrus, how are we to guarantee that new age appropriate positive role models will not evolve as she did? It is true that Cyrus evolved from the wholesome image of Hannah Montana to a sexually explicit and controversial singer after 2009. This controversy surrounded the fears her new image would have in influencing her young followers. At the time Cyrus did not take her responsibility to her young fans seriously, but in a case like this I believe the music and fashion industry’s need to walk with their cheque books. They certainly have no control over individual celebrities but they do have control over which celebrities endorse their products.

Advances in technology and the advent of social media means that teenagers are being bombarded as never before with advertisements. The fashion industry targets adolescents not only because they have more disposable income than ever before but also because they will be a large source of their future market. Call me old fashioned (excuse the pun), but I believe celebrities and those in the fashion, music and entertainment industries have a moral responsibility to have a positive influence on teenagers and youth. It also appears to me that from an economic viewpoint it is a contradiction in terms to generate a negative influence and expect those teenagers will be a future source of revenue for their industry. Unless adolescents become healthy functioning adults they will find it difficult in the future to contribute at any level to their own future let alone to future economies.

Danielsson, S. (2007-08). The Impact of Celebrities on Adolescents’ Clothing Choices, Retrieved from http://www.kon.org/urc/v8/danielsson.html

Newport Academy. (2017). The Impact of Fashion on Teen Body Image and Mental Health, Retrieved from https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/fashion-teen-body-image/

Park, J. (2017). Fashion Advertising, Consumerism & Social Media Influencers-A Lethal Combo Targeting Teens, Retrieved from http://girltalkhq.com/fashion-advertising-consumerism-social-media-influencers-a-lethal-combo-targeting-teens/
Thompson, S.H. & Hammond, K. Eat Weight Disord (2003) 8: 231. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03325019

Raising Children Network. (2017). Media influence on teenagers

Teen Health and the Media. (2017). Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts

Smorgasbord Quiz Night – Trivia Lover’s Ultimate Reference – Questions by Debra Russell. Winner receives #FREE Book — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the first of four quiz nights to test your knowledge and also to celebrate the release of Trivia Lovers Ultimate Reference by Debra Russell. Debra has set the questions and each week one winner will be awarded an Eversion of her book to enjoy with family and friends and perfect for the coming […]

via Smorgasbord Quiz Night – Trivia Lover’s Ultimate Reference – Questions by Debra Russell. Winner receives #FREE Book — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life


It’s #MelbourneCup Time. But did you know, #Australians are the #Biggest #Gamblers in the World


By Debra Russell. Images courtesy of Pixebay

According to the gambling industry’s leading global market data intelligence agency, H2 Gambling Capital, Australians are the biggest gamblers in the world gambling more per capita than any other country. With Australia’s most prestigious horse race the Melbourne Cup being run tomorrow, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write about problem gambling. The Melbourne Cup has been tagged ‘The race that stops a nation’ but that certainly doesn’t stop Australians from spending around 140 million annually betting on this race alone.

As a nation Australians spent nearly 20 billion on gambling in 2011 according to the Parliament of Australia paper ‘Waiting for the wins’, by 2015 that figure had risen to 23 billion with half of this amount being spent in slot or poker machines. There are approximately 19 million adults over the age of 18 and 200,000 poker machines in Australia, averaging out at about 1 poker machine for every 86 adults. When you also consider that Australia’s population is only .5% of the world’s population and we have approximately 20% of the world’s poker machines, these are quite alarming statistics.

Australian government data suggests that approximately 1 in 6 Australians who play poker machines regularly, have a serious addiction. For years #anti-pokie lobbyists have been trying to expose the dirty tricks the gambling industry use to gain information and entice people to play. Loyalty cards for example were introduced not to benefit the player but to allow venues to track information such as what time of day patrons play, how often and how long they play, the amounts they bet and how often they win and lose.


Other devices used to keep patrons in venues longer include removing clocks so visitors lose sight of time and providing complimentary food and drinks. Everything from over friendly and accommodating staff to decor, lighting and music are designed to make playing addictive. Machines are programmed to give out small wins that hook the player into thinking their on a winner. If you would like to read more about this, there is a compelling article titled How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts at the following link https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/12/losing-it-all/505814/

Other areas such as sports betting and online gambling are the fastest growing areas of the Australian gambling industry. The Australian Government’s Department of Social Services paper Gambling, states that “Online gambling is the fastest growing gambling segment, growing at 15% per annum, with over $1.4 billion gambled online each year. Digital technology is also enabling illegal operators to reach our phones, our televisions, our home computers at any time of the day or night.”

Peak Australian mental health organisation Beyond Blue states in their factsheet ‘Problem gambling and depression’, that “about 300,000 Australians have a gambling problem that may affect many parts of their lives” and furthermore that “for every person with a gambling problem, between five and 10 others (eg partners and children) also experience serious consequences, including: emotional distress, the breakdown of family relationships, financial difficulties. This means that more than 2 million Australians are affected by problem gambling.”

A Sydney Morning Herald article titled Gambling is killing one Australian a day, but it rakes in billions in tax claims that the “ social cost of gambling to the community is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year”. These are truly frightening statistics for Australia as a nation. Any rational person would have to be asking the question, why has the Australian Government not taken this problem seriously?

There have been attempts by some Australian politicians in recent years to tackle this huge social problem, notably independent senator Nick Xenophon, Greens senator Larissa Waters and independent MP Andrew Wilkie. But according to the Sydney Morning Herald article Gambling is killing one Australian a day, but it rakes in billions in tax, the Australian Government “States and territories reaped $5.8 billion in taxes from gambling in the year through June 2015”. This begs the question, why would governments want to solve this problem and lose such a huge source of revenue? Another reason that would dissuade politicians from solving this problem is the issue of political donations.

In February 2017, an article in The Conversation titled Gambling lobby gives big to political parties, and names names, suggested that donations to political parties in Australia from the gambling industry reached just over 1 million dollars in 2015-16. Their analysis of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) donation disclosures “shows various branches of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) were by far the biggest donors among gambling industry groups….Overall, the Coalition parties were the “winners” from gambling donations reported in 2015-16, receiving a total of $770,861. The ALP received $523,640. This was a 60:40 split.”

Former World Vision CEO and now head of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tim Costello has said that the “The pokies lobby’s influence compares to the power wielded by the National Rifle Association in the US”. The Alliance for Gambling Reform has joined forces with GetUp to try and stop the rot in the poker machine industry in Australia and are calling for signatures from the public. If you are interested in supporting this campaign follow the link to https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/pokies-play-you/pokies-petition-costello/you-don-t-play-the-pokies-they-play-you?t=Q38A2IKkx

I believe the time has come for all Australians to get behind the move to clean up the gambling industry in this country, because it is clear that political parties have too much to lose to do what is morally right. For me this issue is personal as my own brother lost everything he owned including his life, as a consequence of his gambling addiction. I know the impact his addiction had on my family and it was something you would not want to see other families go through. According to Beyond Blue “Anyone can develop a gambling problem – it does not depend on age, gender, income, education or ethnic background – and the transition from being a non-gambler to someone with a gambling problem can be swift.” So come on Australians lets show our politicians that we care and walk with our votes if they are not prepared to put moral integrity over financial gain.

If you or someone you know needs help refer to the Beyond Blue Fact Sheet listed below.

Australian Government: Department of Social Services. (2017). Gambling, Retrieved from https://www.dss.gov.au/communities-and-vulnerable-people/programmes-services/gambling
Beyond Blue. (2017). Problem Gambling and Depression, Fact Sheet 45. Retrieved from http://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/0773
Livingston, C. and Johnson M. (2017) Gambling lobby gives big to political parties, and names names, Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/gambling-lobby-gives-big-to-political-parties-and-names-names-73131
Scott, J. and Heath, M. (2016). Gambling is killing one Australian a day, but it rakes in billions in tax http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/gambling-is-killing-one-australian-a-day-but-it-rakes-in-billions-in-tax-20160927-grpypl.html



#Australia’s New National Broadband Network (#NBN) #Liberal Government #Incompetence: Australia’s International #Embarrassment


When Australian Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed a modern telecommunications network using optical fiber based broadband to 93% of the Australian population at 100 Mbit/s in 2007, Australians believed we would finally have access to a world-class telecommunications network. This was to be the largest infrastructure project in our nations history taking 13 years to complete and launching Australia into the 21st century as a world leader in telecommunications. Unfortunately, what we thought we were going to get in 2007 and what we have now in 2017, are two very different things.

Kevin Rudd’s original vision was to replace the whole outdated copper cable network with optical fiber. However, Labor’s plan was abandoned half way through the project after the government changed in 2013 to the Liberal government of Tony Abbott. Both the Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull and Abbott stated in the lead up to the 2013 election, ‘that the demand for such a service was not significant, and thus the estimated cost was too high and the timeline for implementation too long’ and they would demolish the NBN if elected. After they were elected they said that copper was still a viable option and made the decision to swap out areas with fiber to the node and fiber to the curb, with copper to the premises downgrading speeds from 100 to a minimum of 25 Mbit/s.

Another 4 years down the track and not much has changed with the whole NBN debacle, with the exception that Malcolm Turnbull is now Prime Minister instead of Tony Abbott. As more Australians are connected to the ‘new’ already ‘outdated’ network, the list of unhappy customers is growing rapidly and significantly. According to ABC television’s Four Corners on the 23rd of October 2017, the NBN rollout “is a lottery. About one-fifth of Australians are getting direct fibre connections, but the majority are being connected with older technology such as copper phone wire and pay television cables.”

Expert Rod Tucker from the University of Melbourne told the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network that, “there has been a relentless growth in demand for higher broadband speeds. But the 2014 Vertigan report underestimated Australia’s future broadband needs by a factor of ten. Vertigan supported the Coalition’s game-changing shift from fiber to the premises (FTTP) to fiber to the node (FTTN)” and furthermore that “Australia’s FTTN network will be obsolete by the time it is rolled out and will not be able to deliver the speeds that will be needed in the future.” If you would like to see further recommendations from experts to the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network follow the link https://theconversation.com/expert-panel-the-state-of-the-national-broadband-network-56073

While experts and politicians debate the issue, ordinary Australians are finding out first hand for themselves about the efficiency and reliability of the NBN. My personal experience since connecting, is that I now have the worst internet broadband I’ve ever had in terms of speed and reliability. As soon as the NBN started rolling out in my area I started having problems with both my existing phone and internet service and had no internet at all for two months prior to connecting to NBN. Technicians who came to try and fix the problems said that others in the area were experiencing similar problems and that they believed it had something to do with the rollout in this area.

Eventually, I mistakenly believed that if I changed over to the new NBN at least it would fix my internet problem. When I changed over, I did have internet again but had no phone at all for weeks and the NBN refused to move the socket they had installed in my spare bedroom upstairs to downstairs where my computer lives.

Since I connected in June I have had ongoing problems with both phone and internet. More than 20% of the time I can’t even connect to the internet. Yesterday for example, it took me 30 minutes to get a connection and then it was so slow that every time I tried to connect to a site it timed out before connecting. My internet also drops out all the time whilst I am attempting to do things online. Even when my internet is on its best behavior, it is no better than what I had with the old ADSL broadband. I also have ongoing phone problems. Often when I try to answer a call on the home phone it disconnects the caller. Other times I will be in the middle of a conversation and an incoming call disconnects the previous caller.

I have heard many people say over the last couple of years that they have had similar problems since connecting to the NBN. My sister who has life threatening health conditions has not had a phone for 3 months since she changed over to NBN and in her case she has had no luck resolving the issue with either NBN or her provider. If you are lucky enough to have been amongst the 20% of Australians who received fiber to the premises before the Liberal government stepped in and destroyed the NBN, spare a thought for the rest of us.

Sadly this is not only about the impact and frustration this is having on the majority of Australians, it is also about our reputation and prospects on the world stage. The latest report in the New York Times talks about Australia’s incompetence around technology and our bungling of the NBN rollout. According to Stephen Fenech from Tech Guide, Australia’s “internet speeds are slower than that of the US, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea despite the $49 billion National Broadband Network rollout.” and furthermore that Australia “came in at an appalling No 51 on the Akamai ranking of internet speeds behind countries like Thailand and Kenya.” Even our smaller neighbor New Zealand is smart enough to know that fiber is the way to go.

Rod Tucker has said that “Australia’s increasing use of fiber to the node (FTTN) has locked the country out of world-class broadband for years to come. If Australia is ever to obtain first-class broadband services, it will be necessary to replace FTTN with higher speed technologies.”

I remember the uproar in Australia during the Rudd government’s term in office over the Home Insulation Program (pink batts debacle). This was believed to have cost Australian taxpayers 2.5 billion dollars, including costs to rectify problems the program had caused. In financial terms, the Pink Batt debacle of 2.5 billion looks like small change in comparison to the 50 billion price tag of the NBN debacle. This does not include the loss of revenue that Australian businesses will lose trying to compete on the world stage with inferior technology. Taxpayers in this country have every right to be upset. I believe this Liberal government has underestimated the anger and dissatisfaction out there in the Australian community over this issue and will pay dearly at the next Federal election.

The Conversation. (2016). Expert panel: The state of the National Broadband Network. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/expert-panel-the-state-of-the-national-broadband-network-56073
Fenech, S. (2017). Why Australia’s NBN rollout has become a world wide embarrassment. Retrieved from http://www.techguide.com.au/blog/australias-nbn-rollout-become-worldwide-embarrassment/
Tucker, R. (2017). The Tragedy of Australia’s National Broadband Network Retrieved from https://telsoc.org/node/1728


Reblog-2 Crippled Elephants meet after 20 years.

Get the tissues ready – slightly longer than the average at just over 7minutes but you do not really notice the time. The most touching moments are towards the end. Meet Shirley and Jenny – both crippled by years of wearing chains and working in a circus – they have not met for over 20 […]

via Smorgasbord Afternoon Video rewind- Two crippled elephants meet after 20 years! — Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Australia’s Same #Sex #Marriage Debate


Never before have I witnessed an issue in this country that I believe has caused so much controversial debate, unacceptable behaviours and the ability to divide Australians as the same sex marriage debate. In the interests of disclosure I would just like to say that I am neither a homosexual person nor member of the LGBTIQ community. I am Catholic, but am no longer a practising Catholic nor member of any other religious denomination.

According to an online article by Christen Tilley and Nathan Hoad for Australia’s ABC Radio National titled SSM: Keeping Track Of The Ugly Side Of The Same Sex Marriage Debate “The same-sex marriage debate has been marred by hate speech, vandalism and bullying.” and here are a number but not all of the incidents they have cited as having occurred since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the postal plebiscite on August 8th, 2017.

August 13. The Australian Christian Lobby office in Canberra was egged.

August 21. A ‘stop the fags’ poster reported in Melbourne and others around the city. A neo-Nazi group called Antipodean Resistance claimed responsibility.

August 26. Car tyres slashed outside a Sydney theatre showing gay love story

September 4. Dr Pansy Lai says she was threatened with violence after appearing in an ad for the No campaign.

September 11. ABC radio airs a caller who praises Hitler for interning gay people in concentration camps.

September 12. Kevin Rudd’s godson is punched in the street in Brisbane for “standing up for marriage equality”.

September 15. A Presbyterian minister in Melbourne cancels a wedding over the bride’s support for same-sex marriage.

September 16. A 14-year-old girl receives death threats after her pro-SSM Facebook post.

September 20. A children’s party business owner says her family received death and rape threats after she fired a contractor for advocating a No vote on Facebook.

September 21. Former PM Tony Abbott is headbutted by man wearing Yes badge.

September 22. Two women interrupt a Coalition for Marriage event in Melbourne, kissing on stage. A banner reading “Burn churches, not queers” was also unfurled.

September 23. Swastikas painted on properties displaying rainbow flags in inner Brisbane.

September 24. Bill Shorten and his daughter bailed up by No campaigner.

September 24. Man shouting about f****ts throws rocks through windows of a house displaying rainbow flags in Brisbane.

September 24. Rainbow flag flying in a Melbourne front yard is set alight.

September 25. A Sydney train is defaced with homophobic slurs, “Vote No” and swastikas.

September 26. A No campaigner circulates a video with polygamy, bestiality and promiscuity claims.

September 26. Posters similar to the ‘Stop the fags’ poster in Melbourne in western Sydney.

September 27. Brisbane priest Morgan Batt says he was spat at and called a “f***ing no voter” while walking through town in his “priestly attire”.

September 28. The Ray Hadley radio show posts a video of a woman shouting abuse at anti-SSM campaigner while removing his signs from a Sydney intersection.

September 29. A cafe worker in Tamworth, NSW, is reported to have been punched and pushed to the ground by an anti-SSM campaigner who was parked outside with a trailer bearing Vote No posters. The man denies pushing her, saying she fell.

October 3 Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, targeted by an anti-gay email campaign and had swastikas placed over her yes signs on her office.

October 25. Phoebe Wearne, a reporter from PerthNow has reported that “Australian Federal Police revealed 14 matters relating to the $122 million postal survey had been referred to it for investigation. None of the referrals involves objects found in survey envelopes, but it is understood that items such as razor blades, soil and glitter were enclosed in envelopes.

Actress and comedian #Magda #Szubanski rightly pointed out on Australian ABC’s, #Q & A television show on Monday the 23rd of October that there has been a lopsided view put out by the No campaign that this ugliness has been confined to Yes supporters and that they are bullies. She said that “there’s been viciousness on the extremes of either side”. I think Magda made some very valid points on the Q & A debate and is a great ambassador for Australia and the LGBTIQ community.

As an Australian I have to say that I am amazed, disappointed and embarrassed that some of my fellow Australians have acted so disrespectfully around this debate. But I think we also need to ask the question, is not possible that some of the inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour has been perpetrated deliberately against their own side to discredit the other side’s campaign? I guess we will never know the answer to that question, but it is possible.

What we do know for sure is that this debate and plebiscite should not be about anything else other than equality. The right for all Australians to love and marry who they choose and have the same protections under the law as other Australians enjoy. I understand that both sides are passionate about their views but this not about issues such as a church being forced to marry same sex couples, or whether children of heterosexual couples are better off than children of same sex couples, or safe sex being taught in schools.

To be honest, the whole No campaign sounds to me that it is really based on outdated, intolerant and colonial notions of the ‘other’. I can remember when I married my Australian Aboriginal husband in the early 1970’s being told by some white Australians including my own father, that I would be ostracised and should marry one of my own ‘kind’. I can also remember a time when the Catholic church would not marry a couple in the church if one of them was not a baptised Catholic. Personally I don’t see these examples as being any different to this intolerance towards same sex couples. This is simply a question of equality.

This is why I do not believe the plebiscite was the right way to resolve this issue. Our politicians should have done what Australians are paying them for and introduced an amendment to the marriage act that would have ensured equality for all whilst protecting the individual freedoms and beliefs of everyone. There is also no guarantee that even if the majority of Australians vote Yes in the plebiscite that the same sex marriage reform will ever become law. Relationships Australia have said that the same sex marriage reform is “important for to the physical and mental wellbeing of same-sex attracted people, their children and extended families”.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines plebiscite as a ‘vote by which people of an entire country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal especially on a choice of government or rulers’. With the fallout from this plebiscite and the ugliness it has created, this definition could ring more true for the Turnbull Liberal government in this country than the plebiscite being a choice of the people of Australia on same sex marriage.

ABC Radio Australia. (2017) SSM: Keeping Track Of The Ugly Side Of The Same Sex Marriage Debate Retrieved from http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2017-10-11/ssm-keeping-track-of-the-ugly-side-of-the-samesex-marriage-debate/1708062

Power of #Celebrity Part 1. #Musicians Influence on #Youth Culture


Quite often the best ideas for a blog just seem to pop up out of nowhere when you least expect it, and that was certainly the case in this instance. I had commented to my 14 year old granddaughter that I was struggling to come up with an idea for my next blog and she asked me what I had already written about. I proceeded to tell her and explained what my blog ‘Trump Trumps Weinstein’ was about. To my amazement she came out with, “well why don’t you write about the influence music has on young people because musicians are leaders with a lot of power to influence other people”! Then she followed up with the statement that much of the music these days is about sex, drugs and violence and degrades women. She was even able to give me numerous examples of musicians and songs to support her statement. According to her all the other kids she knows only listen to that music because everyone else is listening to it.

Dave Miranda, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Ottawa specializes in music psychology and adolescent psychology and has written numerous papers on the effects of music on adolescents. His paper ‘The role of music in adolescent development: much more than the same old song’ supports my granddaughter’s previous statement in saying that “Adolescents understand how to listen to music to please their friends (North et al.,2000), which may foster their reciprocal liking. Music tastes thus involve impression management among peers (Finna¨s, 1989)”.

My granddaughter said that her peers don’t seem to care that the lyrics of certain songs are violent and degrading or that they have the power to create a negative influence. She told me of one female singer an artist known as Cupcakke who released overt sexual songs titled “Deepthroat” and “Vagina”, that she believed were very degrading to women. I decided to listen to these songs myself in the interest of good research and I have to say, I was disappointed and disgusted for young girls everywhere. Don’t take my word for it, have a listen yourself and draw your own conclusions. I have to say, this granddaughter of mine never ceases to amaze me with her resilience, strength and wisdom because she has been through more in her young 14 years than most adults. The more I talked to her about the subject the more I realized that if she feels so strongly about the effects the music is having on her generation, then I owe it to her and her generation to speak up about it.

Musicians, whether they are aware of it or not have the ability to influence their listeners and fans in a very powerful way especially where youths and youth culture are concerned. They can do this in either a positive or negative way. I believe they have a huge responsibility to be good role models and have a positive effect on their young fans. There is an increasing body of research suggesting the effects music can have on young minds. Dave Miranda, says in ‘The role of music in adolescent development: much more than the same old song’ that adolescents’ “exposure to music occurs during a life period of plasticity in which they experience (and need to resolve) numerous developmental tasks, transitions, and issues”. and that during this period of their development “the transaction between music and adolescence – opens a critical window in which music can influence at least seven major areas of development: aesthetics; identity; socialization; emotion regulation and coping; personality and motivation; gender roles; and positive youth development.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics in their journal Pediatrics, Volume 124, Number 5, November 2009, p. 1489 state that “Lyrics of some music genres, such as rock, heavy metal, rap, and new emerging genres such as reggae ton, have been found to revolve around topics such as sexual promiscuity, death, homicide, suicide, and substance abuse….. Most recently, some rap music has been characterized by the presence of explicit sexual language in its lyrics as well as messages of violence, racism, homophobia, and hatred toward women.” Volume 98, Number 6, December, 1996, p.1219-1221 has stated that “Numerous studies indicate that a preference for heavy metal music may be a significant marker for alienation, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, suicide risk, sex-role stereotyping, or risk-taking behaviours during adolescence”.

There are many examples of musicians sending negative messages to our youth. Other than the artist Cupcakke who I have mentioned earlier there are a number of female singers providing lyrics that are degrading to women and send a message that women are objects of sexual gratification. Examples include the lyrics in Lady Gaga’s song Poker Face, “When it’s love, if it’s not rough, it isn’t fun.” Her Bad Romance video contains metaphors of forced sexual encounters where two women are seen holding her down and pouring white fluid into her mouth. Another artist, 14 year old Danielle Bregoli promoted her These Heaux (Ho’s) video on Instagram by saying “Watch the These Heaux video or I’ll beat ya duck ass,”. So sad to see a 14 year old girl acting much older and using explicitly sexual and violent references in her lyrics and video.

Controversial lyrics and musicians with the power to influence adolescents are not new to the present generation. Even Elvis Presley was controversial in the 1950’s. But honestly, Elvis’s gyrating hips make him seem like a saint compared to some of our present musicians and lyrics. Since the 1960’s with the success of bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones the boundaries have been pushed more and more as to what is acceptable. Nine Inch Nails released Big Man with a Gun in 1994 with the lyrics “I am a big man yes I am and I have a big gun, got me a big ole dick and I like to have fun, held against your forehead, I’ll make you suck it, maybe I’ll put a hole in your head”. Another example is Big Pun’s 2001 lyrics from Brave in the Heart. Present examples of male singers producing songs with the power to influence their fans negatively are Yo Gotti’s Rake it Up video which portrays women as second class and objects for men’s sexual gratification. Another example is Tyga’s Rack City video with its themes of gang warfare, violence and sexism towards women.

Adolescents are easily influenced because they are still in the process of developing their own identity and are not really sure who they are yet. I remember having conversations with my own children 20-30 years ago about the negative effects certain music could have on them. At the time my eldest son laughed it off and said it’s just music mum we’re not going to do things like that, we know right from wrong. My son’s response highlights the biggest issue around negative lyrics, images and role models in the music industry. What about those young people who are at risk because they haven’t had a stabile, loving upbringing or suitable role models to teach them the difference. These at risk youth are naturally going to look up to their musical heroes and role models and take on their life style choices, look, actions and belief systems.

Many artists, whether they be visual artists, performance artists, musicians or actors have used the power to shock to develop a following and to influence. Many adolescents take up their role models persona as a means to rebel against things they are not happy with. When their role models advocate behaviors such as violence, sexism, hatred, drug use and racism, society as a whole is in deep trouble. The music of our times has always reflected the culture of that era. What I find deeply disturbing, is that the reflection I am seeing now in the music world of our adolescents seems to contain more shocking and negative lyrics and images than ever before in history.

I understand there are many musicians out there who are trying to have a positive influence on our adolescents with their music and take this responsibility seriously. What we need is for every musician to seriously think about what messages they are selling to young people and the potential influence their lyrics, videos and image can have on those young peoples lives and society as a whole.

Dave Miranda (2013) The role of music in adolescent development: much
more than the same old song, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 18:1, 5-22, DOI: 10.1080/02673843.2011.650182