The Atrocities Facing Women in Times of Disaster

Alex Moore

In the wake of International Women's Week, I would like to reflect on the effects of disasters on women around the world.


Researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Essex surveyed data from 141 countries over a 21-year period and found that natural disasters kill more women than men. Furthermore, studies reported by the UN have stated that women die at a rate of up to 14 times higher than men, boys, or even girls when disaster strikes. This has been found to be because women are often adversely impacted by cultural and social traditions that limit their mobility to respond in a disaster.

For example in 2004, Oxfam International undertook a survey after the deadliest tsunamis ever recorded ushered the destruction of over 200,000 lives  throughout Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the east coast of Africa. This survey found that there were four times more women that died then men in the tsunami. This was partly because many of the women and girls, despite the fact that they lived in a coastal community, were not allowed to learn to swim and therefore did not know how to swim or climb trees to save themselves.

One of the reasons behind such high women fatality rates is that according to the United Nations Development Program, "60 percent of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people are women."  


After a disaster, for women new dangers include sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections. It has been found that "displacement, stress and trauma are familiar features following a disaster and tend to intensify pre-existing risk factors for domestic abuse."

Charlotte Yellowlees, Associate Salvos Legal, found through her work that when the UN declares a woman a refugee and they go to a refugee camp they are usually separated from their husband. This means they become the sole protector of their children and/or nieces and nephews and this leaves them very vulnerable. Most women Charlotte has dealt with have turned to prostitution within the refugee camps to ensure their children have basic needs and most of them have suffered from being sexual abuse. This shows, that after a disaster not only have the women been left to be the sole carer for the children but they are then victimised and treated poorly in places they are meant to be going to for relief and protection after losing their homes and livelihoods.

Relating back to the devastation of the tsunami in 2004, it was found that for some of the women that were rescued by male rescuers, they were asked for sexual favours and due to a sense of obligation the women succumbed to their demands.

Another example is in 2010, an earthquake wrought havoc in Haiti- the aftermath however has been described as an epidemic of sexual violence with one study showing 14 percent of those polled said "that a member of their household became a victim of sexual violence after the earthquake."

How do these international examples relate back to Brisbane, our home you may ask? Well studies found that after the Brisbane flood disasters in 2011, reports on domestic violence in our area nearly doubled. 

Natural disasters are beyond our control, they do not distinguish between race or class or gender. Despite this, they have an unbalanced and severe effect on certain demographics in our world and that boils down to what these disasters bring out in us. Disasters often result in acts of unimaginable heroism and selflessness by humanity. Why is it then, that at the time when we most need to display our humanity, so many of us lose it?

As we look back upon this year's World International Women’s week, we should ask ourselves: have we finally learned from our past?

 1 Eric Neumayer & Thomas Plümper (2007) The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002, Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

2 Sarah Bradshaw and Maureen Fordham, 2013. Women, girls and Disaster: A review for DFID (cited 11 March 2016)

3 Ross P, 2014 ‘Why gender disaster data matters: ‘In some villages, all the dead were women.’ (cited 11 March 2016)

4 United Nations, 2013. Gender and Climate Change: (cited 11 March 2016)

5 The Atlantic, 2011 (cited 11 March 2016)

6 Centre for human rights and global justice, 2012 (cited 11 March 2016)

7 Queensland Council of Social Service, 2011. The Queensland floods and the community sector: contribution, challenges and lessons for the future. (cited 11 March 2016)

Men(tal) Health Issues

Dean Heckscher

Hard to talk about, harder to live with. 

Have you ever had one of those days where you just weren’t feeling it? Where you’d rather just stay under the covers and watch the clock change? Where, even though your friends, family, work and football team were all doing well, you’d rather just spend some time by yourself, shut off from the world? You definitely wouldn’t be alone. But what if one of those days turned into one of those weeks? Or a month? What if you just couldn’t break out of this slump, just couldn’t find the same fire, the same drive, which pushed you to be the best mate, father, son, husband, man, you were before? What if, without you even knowing, you had developed Depression or Anxiety? For many of us, it’s not a ‘what if’, as nearly 50% of Australians develop a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, and it often strikes without warning or discrimination. For many of us, it changes our lives, even if we’re not the ones diagnosed with it. For all of us, it’s something that needs to be talked about more openly, with the taboos lifted and the ignorance lowered, so that those who feel alone don’t have to be. This article might be harsh, dark and in your face, but as Dr. Robert Schuller said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do”. 


Silent killer, silent sufferers. 

Depression. We all know of it, and yet it isn’t something that you’d be caught talking about at your weekly Sunday sesh. It shackles those who suffer from it, confining them to isolation because those around them simply don’t know how to deal with it or help lighten the load. We ignore the warning signs and we ignore those who can help. And this ignorance is making the situation worse. 

Depression has no singular cause, no singular treatment and no singular time frame for being cured. Its severity is as varied as the people it affects, and is often a build up of multiple factors, such as stressful family and work environments, or a sense of overwhelming loneliness. Even the term ‘Depression’ is quite broad, with the most common definition amongst global health organisations being “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, affecting how you feel, think and behave.” It is the unseen killer of men, the silent tormentor of fathers, brothers and sons, and yet we simply do not want to talk about it. “Expectations of manhood are very rigid,” says Dr. Shira Tarrant, Professor of Gender Studies at California State University. “These include men don’t cry, they can’t back down and they shouldn’t feel. What this means is when men feel, that’s the equivalent of not being a man. Oftentimes, that gets in the way of men coming forward to say I’m depressed or struggling.” Men shun any attempt to talk about their issues and, as a result, we are dying from it. 

Depression can, and does, affect people in various forms of severity, and can sometimes be the forerunner for more serious conditions. Depression can be prioritised as mild, moderate, or severe, and further categorised as melancholic or psychotic depression depending on other factors, or even misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. The most common symptom of Depression is a low mood or lack of interest in usual pastimes, hobbies and activities. Work and lifestyle habits are affected, and someone with Depression often becomes more withdrawn, irrational, or reliant on drugs or alcohol. Those who suffer often describe it as an emptiness that hangs in the background. Others describe it as seeing the world through a harsh, grey filter. All describe it as horrible. 

So if it’s something that everyone knows a bit about, why do men in particular find it difficult to talk about it openly, even in safe environments or with registered health experts? “Asking for help is seen as an affront to masculinity”, says journalist and author Laurie Penny. “It means when you’re taking the first step... reaching out for help is made doubly hard.” Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and multiple British health organisations such as Mind and Time to Change, back this up, relaying that while women are more likely to suffer from Depression, men are less likely to seek help. As a result, men are three times more likely to take their own lives. Jack Heath, CEO of non-profit organisation SANE, states that “There’s a belief that the very idea of being a man is that you deal with stuff and you don’t reach out or connect. Untreated, the problem snowballs. The combination of that and the notion of having to deal with it alone, is the reason behind high suicide rates.” Instead of seeking professional help, many men turn to drugs or alcohol, which can cause further problems. “[Men] start going to the pub, block feelings, hide feelings, drink, then do it more, and it becomes a cycle,” states Beth Murphy, Mind spokeswoman. “The drugs and alcohol end up as big a problem as the mental distress in the first place.” Research from the World Health Organisation has also shown that men are twice as likely as women to develop alcoholism, which in turn impacts the success of recovering from mental health disorders and illnesses. 

But all the statistics, warnings and professional opinions don’t mean much if we don’t take them onboard. Thankfully, male dominated cultures such as sport are changing through an increased awareness to mental health issues, with former AFL player Simon Hogan publicly opening up about his personal battles a prime example. “The most surprising thing, once I did open up, was the incredible support I got from everyone – from the blokiest of blokes and the people you wouldn’t expect... Everyone was so supportive.” Too many times we only realise the full extent of these types of issues when it’s too late, and while initiatives such as R U OK? are beginning to stem the tide, more needs to be done, and more awareness needs to be generated. Unfortunately, Depression isn’t the only mental health issue that needs to be discussed. There are many more, such as Anxiety, that are affecting, and controlling, us. 


The most common mental disorder, but one of the least discussed. 

“Imagine you are standing in a pitch-black room filled with dense air, and you feel like you are going to be attacked any second now, but the moment doesn’t pass right away”. What you’ve just read is a description from an anonymous sufferer of the feeling of Anxiety, the mental health issue that affects over 14% of adult Australians at some point in their lives. The same issue that has risen by 40% over the past six years, and the same issue that prompted health organisation Beyond Blue to take matters into their own hands with the advert I Am Anxiety, to combat this misunderstood disorder. 

Although similar to Depression, Anxiety is usually identified by feelings of panic or uneasiness, sleeping problems, excessive sweating, trembling and nausea, as well as the avoidance of certain situations, places or activities. It can prevent people from enjoying social situations, prevent them from leaving their own homes, limiting their day-to-day lives, and can often lead to other issues such as Panic Attacks (something that 35% of Australians will experience sometime in their life) and Depression. “People are talking about depression more and know it’s a condition you should seek treatment for”, says former Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell. “It’s not the same with anxiety. People think [anxiety is] a personality failure – they think ‘there’s something wrong with me’”. In fact, Anxiety is often mistaken or thought of as a simple personality trait such as shyness rather than a potentially crippling mental disorder. But Carnell elaborates. “Shyness might mean you’re not comfortable in front of people, social anxiety could have quite physical symptoms and would make you stay at home.” Anxiety is often mislabelled or misdiagnosed, both by the public and by medical practitioners. Surveys by mental health charities found that 40% of respondents thought Anxiety was simply stress, with many more not recognising the symptoms of Anxiety. Even one in five doctors were misdiagnosing Anxiety due to the physical attributions associated with the disorder, according to an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. So it’s not surprising that Anxiety isn’t as openly discussed, it’s simply just something we don’t understand well enough.  

Anxiety is the brain’s response to potentially threatening situations, putting your body in a heightened state of awareness, ready for fight or flight. The feeling of Anxiety is an increase in adrenalin and cortisol (hormones produced by the adrenal gland), which is why your heart pumps faster when suffering from an anxiety attack. But as we’ve developed as a society, most of the fight or flight sensation is replaced with daily stress, and as a result, the brain (which has subsequently learned that a certain amount of stimulation is required for a particular activity), associates an increase in stress to require more awareness. Instead of worrying about being hunted by prehistoric predators as our ancestors might have done, our adrenal glands are now associating danger with reports and deadlines. Our addiction to artificial stimulants such as caffeine doesn’t help either. 

But as science suggests, Anxiety is more to do with being a product of your environment than anything else, genetic or otherwise. So while you don’t have to necessarily worry about directly passing down your Anxiety to your children, you can still install the same apprehension in them by your actions. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that children often shared the anxieties of their parents. Co-author of the study Thalia Eley explains that “children might observe their parents’ fear or worries in their actions or overhearing their words, and then adopt those same worries.” She goes onto explain that “negative parenting behaviours”, where the child is unnecessarily shielded from something that the parent fears, are also a factor in how Anxiety is instilled within us from a young age. 

Regardless of what age they first appear, or how they form, mental health issues such as Depression and Anxiety cripple, and cripple severely. Man Therapy states that over 20% of men aged over sixteen will experience, and suffer from, an anxiety condition in their lifetime, with 10% of them suffering in the last year. And with the likelihood of men suffering further through other issues such as Depression or substance abuse, Anxiety, while a serious issue in itself, can be a very dangerous stepping stone. But now more avenues for assistance and support are opening up, allowing those who need help, or those who are simply wanting to understand, the chance to learn and develop. As Hogan states, “once diagnosed, mental health issues can be treated very effective[ly]”. 

Getting Help

Even Superman isn’t invincible.

There are many ways to help reduce and reverse the effects of mental health issues such as Anxiety and Depression, some of which are tailor made for men. There are multiple websites and 24 hour phone services available, with organisations such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, HeadSpace, Anxiety Australia, Open Minds and all providing services, information, online forums and story sharing that allow any and all to learn, share and experience. Online services also provide anonymity, which allows men to open up without fear of ridicule. A 2014 study found that, with anonymity, participation and risk taking increased exponentially, due to what is known as the Online Disinhibition Effect. 

There are multiple options to address mental health disorders, and are primarily broken into self-treatments, psychological and medicinal. Self-treatments include stress management and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, and while they might not fit into your current gym routine of chest and arms, they have proven effective in reducing Anxiety without the need for further help. They primarily work by simply ‘resetting’ the brain through the slowing of breathes, allowing a regulation and recalculation of hormones and other chemicals. 

Another form of help is through the use of a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor. Psychological interventions are preferred and recommended by medical professionals as they are generally more effective than a supportive counselling session, as they emphasise addressing current issues to prevent future mental episodes. One technique, known as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is structured around recognising how a person reacts and feels about certain aspects of themselves or their lives in an attempt to locate and reverse the negatively-impacting areas. By altering a line of thinking, or pattern, a person can then implement a more focused mindset, rather than worrying about ‘what-ifs’. Essentially, this therapy aims to balance out the negative thoughts and behaviours with activities that are enjoyable and give off a sense of achievement. That is why exercise is often recommended, as chemicals such as Endorphins and Serotonin are released during a workout, which have been found to decrease stress and enhance moods. As CEO of Inspire Foundation Jonathon Nicholas simplifies, “Moving straight to the practical steps they can take to help while learning about their illness, such as eating well, exercising and getting into a regular sleep pattern, is something many guys feel engaged with and empowered by.”  Other psychological treatments include Psychodynamic Therapy and Interpersonal psychotherapy, with the latter looking at relationships in an attempt to nurture and develop positive relations, resolve conflicts, improve communication techniques and social support networks. By recognising traits or patterns within certain relationships, one can make alterations and improvements to limit the possibility of further Depressive episodes. 

Unfortunately, not all cases can be solved through psychological means, with some requiring medical assistance, primarily through the use of antidepressant medication or mood stabilisers. Antidepressants are usually only used if the case of Depression or Anxiety is more severe, or if other means to treat the disorder have proven unsuccessful. Antidepressants work by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain that affect emotions, which often improve mood, sleeping patterns, as well as other areas such as anxiety management and eating habits. Due to their effects on the brain, they are only available through doctor consultation, as individual cases and dosages will vary. There are primarily six different types of antidepressants recommended and used within Australia, each addressing particular severities and symptoms of mental health disorders. Organisations such as Beyond Blue provide information about these antidepressants on their website, allowing you to research and make up your own mind about this type of treatment. 

Of course, some men don’t want to be treated, psychologically or medically. In fact, they’d be in the majority. Sometimes, even the mere act of heading to a footy match with a mate can do enough. “For guys, quite often it’s about being connected, without actually talking,” says Nicholas. “For a lot of men, the process of talking puts them off.” Psychologist, and author of the book, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, Terrance Real, states that “Men are just as feeling, just as relational, just as connected, just as dependent, just as needy, as women are. Men have been coerced since childhood to forego these relational qualities and skills and squeeze their sense of membership and self-esteem through performance. Girls are taught to filter their sense of self-worth through connection to others, and boys are taught to filter their sense of self-worth through performance. That’s a vulnerable foundation for one’s self-worth.” 

But while choosing whether or not you’re up to talking to someone about your problems is a choice, having Depression or Anxiety is not. At the end of the day, mental health disorders affect too many, and due to the lifestyles that we lead, it’s not surprising. That isn’t to say that you should change your habits or quit your job, but by simply taking a step back every once in a while, you can reduce the likelihood and severity of potential episodes. Anxiety and Depression are complex and personal issues, but simply understanding the issues for what they are is something that those who suffer from it will be grateful for. Because no matter how well others might know you or the problems that you’re facing, everyone knows the struggle of mental health issues, and everyone is on your side.

Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.

Bad Mouthing Rugby League is Easy but not Harmless

Nicholas Elsworth

It doesn’t take long, when reading about the different theories of behavioural change, before similarities come to the fore. One of the first steps, common to many of these theories is identifying that change needs to be made. After this occurs, there are many other steps before real adjustments occur but that first step still needs to be taken.

Society's problems are there to seen in Rugby League: illicit drugs use, domestic violence and sexual assault to name a few. Every time one of these incidences occurs, the entirety of Rugby League is thrown under a blanket of controversy by association. We’re berated into the belief that these problems are systemic within the league. A term like drug culture is thrown around with such whimsy and abandon, seemingly compulsory in newspaper articles and television news stories, that it is now ingrained into the public’s consciousness. As if the cause of these problems is inherently linked to the game.

There is no arguing the seriousness of these problems. Nor should there be any attempt to absolve the perpetrators of crimes with excuses. The problem with the link, between these behaviours and a sport though, is that it allows us to lay the blame for these serious issues with the organisation that these players are connected. These are Rugby League players but before that they are young men and the latter is by far the more important when attempting to pertain the root causes of these major societal issues.

30.5% of men between the ages of 20-29 have used drugs according to the Australian Drug Foundation; an NRL squad is around twenty-five players and there are sixteen teams. Why are we then so bemused when players are caught taking drugs? No one is suggesting that there are 120 players doing illicit drugs but if you took that many men out of the general population the statistics say there would be. And if there were that many players doing drugs, what does that have to do with League? This is an issue that spans society and doesn't discriminate based on sports participation.

The White Ribbon Campaign says that one in every three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence committed by someone known to them. There are players who have committed these crimes in the past and it’s very likely that there are players who commit these awful acts now; but not because they chase an oval ball around a field on the weekend. The reason Rugby League players do these things is because there are 400 of them and one in every three women has experienced assault.

When we purport events like these as being part of “that group of people” we alleviate our greater society of its failings and responsibilities. When it comes down to it, the reputation of a sport, might not matter. However, issues as serious as these do and the real causes of them are important to define correctly so that we can fix them. The next time a Rugby League player is being led out of court on television, take a moment to think about what really made that man do what he did.

Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.

Dungeons and Dragons: It not just for the basement dwellers anymore

Joshua Cunningham

Some of you may have heard of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Now before passing judgment, I’m going to ask for you to briefly suspend it and remember that Nerd and Geek culture is on the upswing. I’m going to assume many of you have lined up to see Superheros fight it out, sat through the long adventures of short people with hairy feet or witches and wizards going to school and played video games that have blown your mind. The world has begun to embrace this culture, which makes me so incredibly happy. Though we now have begun to see Dungeons and Dragons get more and more spotlight. People like Vin Diesel, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert and many other popular figures are now proclaiming their love for the game. Also with programs such as Critical role on twitch and RollPlay on YouTube, Dungeons and Dragons is accruing a giant following online. This all collates to the realisation that the time of Dungeons and Dragons has begun.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a different experience to what most people would consider a “game”, it is not played on a screen or on a game board it is played primarily in the collective imagination of its players. This means that the usual constraints of regular video games, no longer exist. The world is literally built by your imagination and can be as endless and crazy as you want it to be. This might sound daunting but it is incredible how easy it is and it requires three easy steps. 1. Gather pencils, paper and friends 2. Prepare various snacks and beverages 3. Let the adventure begin.

The general layout of the game is around a table, each player has a sheet with your own characters information on it such as basic stats, what your equipment is, name, shirt size, etc.  The key to your experience of D&D is the character you choose to make and they can be whoever you want them to be. Your character could be a dwarf who likes to hit things, an elf with a god complex or even a giant hulking barbarian who only wants to read his books. It is who you want to be, who you want to create and it’s unbelievable the calibre of characters that are made with such ease. From here everyone around the table looks to one person….the Dungeon Master (DM). No this isn’t a latex and whip dungeon master, this is the creator and facilitator of the world that you are about to explore. The dungeon master creates the story arcs, world maps and the characters within. They then inhabit these characters and decides what will be thrown at these intrepid adventurers. This might be a strange concept to people who have not experienced D&D however I have always liked to think of the Dungeon Master as a game cartridge of sorts. Yet the capabilities of this particular cartridge are like nothing you have seen before. The people around the table are then the characters in the game, however instead of being forced down a predetermined story route laid down by the game creators, they can do whatever they want. Want to go slay a dragon….sure, drink all day in a tavern…why not, go in the complete opposite direction and begin a quest to find your long lost childhood companion which happens to be a small cricket….go for it. It’s completely up to the players, what they want to do and the responsibility of the DM to create a world and characters around it.

Which leads us to the act of role-play. Everyone has at some point in their lives acted on stage in a school play or taken a drama class. In a sense, role-play is similar to this, but instead of inhabiting a character some playwright came up with in the nineteenth century, it’s a character you made. You brought this character into the world, it is only right that you embody them. This means you react how they would react, you fight how they would fight and so on. This leads to some incredible moments around the table as you see these characters come to life in front of your eyes. It also leads to some otherwise hilarious moments as you see these fun quirky characters attempt to interact with the denizens of the world. Try convincing an innkeeper it wasn’t your fault that the barbarian of the party broke six tables, four chairs and knocked out the minstrel and you’ll know what I mean.

This might sound daunting but not to fear. D&D is rarely taken so seriously that new players feel out of place, it’s surprising how welcoming the environment can be. This derives from D&D not only being an incredible world that you can inhabit it, but similar to regular tabletop games, it is a very social event. For me personally, there is no greater experience than sitting around a table with drinks, snacks and friends letting our combined imaginations create something unique and exhilarating. Not only that but it’s a place devoid of judgment and a place that creativity and craziness is heavily encouraged.

Dungeons and Dragons is growing bigger and bigger and it’s no wonder why. It manages to foster an environment that allows for friendship, creativity, fun and a sense of adventure all at the same time. So I remind you, if you ever feel the need to explore deep dark dungeons and meet crazy characters and let your Geek flag fly, it’s but a pen and paper away.

Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.

Mediation in the Czech Republic

Sope Agbejule

In 2008 the EU approved Directive (2008/52/EC) (the Directive). The purpose of the directive was to facilitate greater access to dispute resolution across all member states and, to promote the use of mediation by requiring that all states make mediation a key part of legal proceedings. The Directive is especially focused on the amicable resolution of cross border disputes of a civil or commercial nature. 

In response to the Directive the Czech Republic enacted the Czech Mediation Act in 2012 (Mediation Act). The goal of the Mediation Act is to require that parties to a dispute communicate with each other via an impartial third party who would assist the parties in reaching a voluntary settlement. The advantages of the Act include that it will give parties greater self-determination of the outcome. The Act also seeks to reduce the amount of cases taken to court and to reduce the financial burden placed on the parties. Prior to the implementation of the Mediation Act, mediation was governed by the probation and mediation service law which was concerned with criminal victim-offender matters. 

Those who conduct the mediations must be registered mediators and the court requires the attainment of a university education to at least a master’s degree level. Additionally, prospective mediators must pass a mediators exam and meet other stringent criteria set out in section 16 of the Mediation Act.

The Czech Mediation Act does not govern agreements conducted by private mediators. Those who choose to use a private mediator will not be able to rely on the protections provided by the regulated form of mediation covered by the Act. The Act essentially creates a new form of contractual relationship, parties must both agree upon a suitable mediator and any other terms and conditions regarding the method of mediation and whether the mediation will run for a set time or indefinitely.

The Mediation Act empowers courts to order mandatory mediation where they deem it necessary, this push towards mandatory mediation has not been popular in Europe with most countries favouring a more voluntary approach. Prior to the EU Directive in 2008, there was reluctance by member states to have mediation or any form of ADR in domestic law. In Italy the EU Directive was incorporated into domestic law via a legislative decree, this decree gave the courts the power to authorise mandatory mediation and this power was challenged as unconstitutional. The Decree was ruled unconstitutional in 2012, but this ruling was overturned in 2013. To prevent the Decree from being ruled unconstitutional again, the Italian government made changes to the Decree which allow parties to withdraw from mediation earlier than previously allowed.

The Mediation Act has been met with much concern as there is a perception that engaging in mediation is a sign of weakness, for mediation to be successful it requires a degree of compromise amongst the parties and where this is not present the entire process is futile. In order for mediation to be more widely accepted by the business and legal community in the Czech Republic, more education is needed. There needs to be a greater focus on the advantages of mediation and its ability to truly meet client needs. 

In 2014 the EU Parliament’s Committee for Legal Affairs published a Report into the effectiveness of The Directive. The Report concluded that after 5 years of the Directive being in force, mediation remains underutilised in many Member States and that the Directive is still some way off from achieving its objectives.Australia, and in particular Queensland has much to offer in terms of an effective approach to mediation.  

Presently in Queensland mediation is a voluntary process, however many courts and tribunals offer compulsory mediation and the Family Court is one example.  Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) requires that parties attend compulsory family dispute resolution before a custody order can be made. One benefit of this is that it allows parties a method of resolving their dispute before embarking on a long and often expensive court process. 

An advantage of the mediation process in Queensland is that it gives parties control over the outcome and provides for the possibility of a relatively harmonious relationship going forward, which is especially important in Family matters that involve children. The mediation process in Queensland is well developed and well-regulated and serves as an example of world’s best practice for our European counterparts. 

Please find below some of the research material used and more information on this topic:


2 Act on Mediation and Change of Some Laws (Mediation Act), 2012 (2)(a).

3 Morek, R. (n.d.). Mediation in the Czech Republic – Way forward: Act No. 202/2012 | Kluwer Mediation Blog.kluwermediationblog. Kluwer Mediation Blog. Retrieved from

4 Act on Mediation and Change of Some Laws (Mediation Act), 2012 (16). 

5 Morek, R. (n.d.). Mediation in the Czech Republic – Way forward: Act No. 202/2012 | Kluwer Mediation Blog.kluwermediationblog. Kluwer Mediation Blog. Retrieved from

6 Drummond, I. (n.d.). Should mediation be mandatory? - Lexology. lexology. Retrieved from

7 European Parliament . 2014. European Parliamentary Committees. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 October 15].

8 Queensland Law Society. 2015. Mediation. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 October 15].

9 Family Law Act 1975(Cth) s60I.

Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.

Rational or Irrational: the testing of chemicals on rats

Sasha Paterson

Have you ever wandered aimlessly into a pet store? Looked at the fish and thought they would be a lovely addition to any house but then, being honest with yourself that you would never clean the tank? Tried to avoid the puppies, recalling every awful fact you know about puppy farms before going up to the glass and consciously naming each one and rationalising why a border collie would be a great idea in your suburban yard? And then hauling yourself out of the shop before you end up with the responsibility of a living breathing thing? Only a few weeks ago, I accidentally missed that last step and am now the owner of two living and breathing and gorgeous rats.
Rats are mammals with nervous systems similar to our own. It's no secret that they feel pain, fear, loneliness, and joy just as we do. They become emotionally attached to each other, live in families, and easily bond with human guardians. Not only do rats express empathy when another rat or a human they know is in distress, they also exhibit altruism, putting themselves in harm's way rather than allowing another living being to suffer.

Animals are a controversial topic when it comes to their role in science. However, the facts around testing on rats are as confronting and distressing as they are simply unfair. Laboratories that use rats are exempted from the minimal protections provided under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). When used in cosmetic tests, rats are often subjected to skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed on shaved skin or dripped into the eyes without any pain relief. Additionally, 92% of experimental drugs that are safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too dangerous or don't work. So why does this treatment continue when it has an extremely high rate of failing on humans regardless?
Other animals such as cats and dogs are treated with basic animal rights, rats and other lab animals however are treated to chemical testing without the same legislative protection. While experimenters who use guinea pigs must provide them with pain relief and must at least show that they have looked for modern alternatives to the use of animals, experimenters don't even have to count the rats they kill. Why do their lives and suffering garner so little respect compared to other animals?

While there is a substantial amount of facts and evidence on negative chemical testing on rats, there is also positive feedback on animal testing. A 2011 poll of nearly 1,000 biomedical scientists conducted by the science journal Nature found that more than 90% "agreed that the use of animals in research is essential." Furthermore, in 1997, researchers Joseph and Charles Vacanti grew a human "ear" seeded from implanted cow cartilage cells on the back of a living mouse to explore the possibility of fabricating body parts for plastic and reconstructive surgery.

So while rats are often stereotypically known as pests that live under the house, they are also rodents with human-like emotional characteristics (that make great pets, as I have recently discovered). Is it rational or irrational that they are not protected from chemical testing under law?

Please find below some of the research material used and more information on this topic:

Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.

Boat Turn Backs: the facts the left are ignoring and what the right can do better

Colin Chow

The current refugee crisis in Europe highlights and sharply contrasts with the situation in Australia. Opposition leader Bill Shorten recently conceded that the coalition's boat turn-back policy would be one of the measures which could be adopted by the ALP if it wins the next election. The shadow minister for immigration, Richard Marles, has been hinting at supporting boat turn-backs since 2014.

 Opponents to the coalition's border protection policies point to the detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. Most independent observers agree that conditions in Nauru are tantamount to torture. Detainees are held without charge, with no end in sight to their predicament. Many are sewing their mouths shut on hunger strikes, and some are committing suicide. Riots are a common occurrence. Senate committee reports allege physical and sexual abuse by detention centre staff. It is a crime for doctors working in detention centres to speak out about what they see. Doctors who have been brave enough to defy orders give atrocious accounts of child abuse. 

 But just because the coalition has done many things with which I also personally do not agree, it does not necessarily follow that all of their ideas are without merit. Tony Abbott’s stance on withholding welfare payments for parents who refuse to immunise their children is an example of good policy. The fact that hundreds of asylum seekers continue to remain in indefinite detention in Nauru and Manus Island, facing torture-like conditions, is bad policy.

 All ideas should be assessed with honest academic scrutiny rather than on the basis of one’s political compass. The debate should focus on what is scientifically correct, not what is politically correct.

 I, like most Australians, strongly oppose the current indefinite detention of asylum seekers without charge in Nauru and Manus Island. But the policy of boat turnbacks is a separate aspect of Operation Sovereign borders, and should therefore be assessed on its own inherent advantages and disadvantages.

 The degree of risk of the boat journey may not be immediately apparent to asylum seekers in Indonesia, who are probably offered false hopes by people smugglers. But it should be clear to Australians who have seen the horrifying pictures of rickety, overcrowded boats smashing to smithereens on our shores. We recall footage of locals desperately throwing floating aids into the water in vain. 

 To put risk in perspective, consider air travel, which has an excellent safety profile (despite recent high-profile cases). In 2014, only one in 3 million departures was fatal. Therefore, the risk of taking off in a plane in 2014 was 3 x 10-7, or roughly 0.00003% chance of death.

 Driving is far more dangerous than flying. The Queensland road toll in 2014 was a record low of 223 deaths out of a population of 4 million. This is roughly equivalent to 5x10-5, or 0.005% chance of death.

 The New Zealand road-toll in 1993 was approximately 600 deaths out of a population of 4 million, which represents 1.5 x10-4, or 0.015% chance of death. This risk was considered to be unacceptably high, and millions of dollars were spent by the government on education campaigns to raise public awareness of road safety. As a result, the road-toll in New Zealand steadily declined, and in 2014 it was 297 deaths out of 4 million (similar to Queensland in 2014). 

 Contrast this with asylum seekers who attempted to reach Australian shores during the Rudd-Gillard years. About 1000 people tragically died out of the 20,000 who attempted the journey. This represents a 5% chance of death.

 To reiterate: 

· Flying in 2014 = 0.00003% chance of death

· Driving in Queensland in 2014 = 0.005% chance of death

· Driving in NZ in 1993 (a bad year) = 0.015% chance of death

· Asylum seeker boat from Indonesia to Australia = 5% chance of death

 My analysis may not be acceptably presentable in a pure mathematical sense but the sheer scale of difference in risk should be clear. The following website tabulates asylum seekers who have died at sea and in Australian detention centres from 2000 to present:

Many other independent authorities, such as the Monash Australian Border Death Database, have figures which are consistent with the above data:

 The data shows that boat turn-backs save lives. Had Kevin Rudd not dismantled the Pacific solution, almost 1000 people who perished may still be alive today. On the basis of this analysis, I think Bill Shorten has made the correct decision to retain the option of boat turn-backs should the ALP win power at the next election.

 Common criticisms of boat turn-backs

 Criticism 1:

Australia’s Shame – “turning back the boats” doesn’t save lives. It just condemns refugees to death elsewhere. Usually out of sight.

A similar line of thought can be seen from prominent Australian barrister and refugee advocate Julian Burnside, who states “stopping refugee boats arriving is not a self-evident good. It might stop people drowning inconveniently in view of Australians at Christmas Island. But if they do not get on a boat and are, instead, killed by the Taliban, they are just as dead as if they drowned. The real difference is that our conscience is not troubled by their un-noted death somewhere else.”

The three most common source countries for people who arrive in Australia by boat are Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. But most of them do not come directly; rather they have arrived by way of Indonesia. Therefore, the alternative to making the boat journey is not, in most cases, facing the Taliban. The alternative is usually being stranded and stateless in Indonesia. Therefore, an analysis of this alternative should be our focus. 

If being stranded and stateless in Indonesia is worse than a 5% chance of death, then taking a boat to Australia is justifiable. If not, then boat journeys should be discouraged. 

If Mr. Burnside’s own brother were stranded and effectively stateless in Indonesia, having arrived there after fleeing from Afghanistan or Iraq, would he advise his brother to attempt the boat journey to Australia? Or would he advise his brother to remain stranded in Indonesia? Keeping in mind the aforementioned data, how would you advise your loved one if he or she were a refugee in Indonesia contemplating the boat journey to Australia? 

Let us discuss the alternative in more detail. What does it mean for a refugee to be stranded in Indonesia? The outlook is bleak. Effectively, you are in limbo. Officially, you are not allowed to work and cannot access social services, such as health care. Your children cannot legally attend school. This is because Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee convention. Refugee advocates have valid concerns that this also brings into question Indonesia’s ability to properly process asylum seeker claims and to keep refugees safe from wrongful return to their home country, or refoulement.

Being a non-signatory country, refugee status in Indonesia is determined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee advocates rightly point out that asylum seekers have great difficulty in accessing the UNHCR. Their claims may experience significant delays and there are legitimate concerns about standards of procedural fairness in the processing of their claims.

All these concerns are of course valid and require careful consideration when determining policy. However, despite being a non-signatory to the convention, there is no evidence of Indonesia conducting mass torture or murder of asylum seekers, or that Indonesia engages in deliberate refoulement.

To reiterate: if being stranded and stateless in Indonesia is worse than a 5% chance of death, then taking a boat to Australia is justifiable. If not, then boat journeys should be discouraged.

 Criticism 2:

Look at the current situation in Syria. Look at the goodwill of the Germans and how this compares with Australia’s brutal treatment of refugees.

The situation in Europe is different from that in Australia. Refugees are coming directly from Syria, where they are fleeing from the barbarity of Islamic State and the Assad regime. At the time of writing, almost 300,000 Syrians have lost their lives in this conflict, and the number continues to rise. 

The exact risk faced by people in Syria is hard to determine. The country is currently far less stable than Indonesia and its future stability or instability depends largely on the destiny or fate of Islamic State, so in this case, the risk of the boat journey may possilbly outweigh the risk of staying in Syria.

 Having said that, it may not. Bear in mind the case of Aylan Kurdi. The world has been shocked by images of the 3 year-old’s body washed up on a Turkish beach. Aylan was a Syrian refugee who drowned along with his mother and brother as they attempted to reach the Greek island of Kos from Turkey. His father, who spoke at the funeral, warned fellow Syrians not to risk the lives of loved ones in attempting to flee the country. 

There are reports of brutality from Australian officials in dealing with refugees during boat turn-backs. Such allegations are difficult to prove due to the secrecy surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders. There is also secrecy surrounding allegations of Australian border protection paying people smugglers to turn boats back to Indonesia. This is completely counter-productive to the coalition’s stated aim, as it encourages more people smugglers to send boats.

Any such behaviour, if it is happening, needs to be condemned at the highest level, and all perpetrators need to be held to account. The coalition also needs to explain the reason surrounding the ongoing secrecy of the operation. The claim that secrecy is required may have had some validity during the beginning of the operation. But given that they have already had considerable success in stemming the flow of boats from Indonesia, this no longer seems to be the case.

However, as sickening as this behaviour sounds, it does not detract from the evidence that boat turn-backs in the Indonesian-Australian scenario do save lives. Whether or not this is also the case with the current situation in Europe is not entirely clear.

 Criticism 3:

If we simply turn back the boats, Indonesia and other countries are tackling the lion’s share of the refugee crisis. Australia is not pulling its weight and is therefore abdicating its responsibilities as a global citizen.

This is the strongest criticism I can think of against the boat turn-back policy. When Australia successfully stops the boats, what happens to the refugees?  

We should continue boat turn-backs to discourage further attempts of the hazardous journey. We should release all current refugees held in detention, especially women and children, and we should increase our refugee quota. We should engage more with Indonesia and the UNHCR to facilitate fair processing of claims and safe passage of asylum seekers. This would give stranded, stateless refugees more hope of a successful outcome after staying in Indonesia and decrease the likelihood of them risking the perilous boat journey to Australia. 

The only sustainable solution to the problem lies in assisting Indonesia and the UNHCR to properly process asylum seeker claims, and forging an agreement with all nations in the region on refugee quotas, many of which are woefully inadequate. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, is currently under fire to increase the country’s refugee quota of 750 refugees per year, which has not changed since 1987.

 Currently the “queue” currently does not work. We need to fix it. Allowing boat arrivals, with the associated tragic deaths, is clearly not the solution, something which Bill Shorten has finally come to realise. How much will it cost to fix the “queue”? How practical is it to do so, given the current strained diplomatic relationship between Australia and Indonesia? I don’t know. But I think that all efforts should be directed to this type of solution rather than the futile finger-pointing controversy over boat turn-backs. Stopping the boats is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning. In the meantime, boat turn-backs should continue so that no further lives are lost.


Please note any views or opinions presented in this piece are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Rotaract Club of Brisbane Rivercity or Rotary International and its subsidiaries.