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Australian News

Two women who lost their mums have launched the Good Mourning podcast to help others


Two brave young women are on a quest to help people deal with grief and loss by sharing their deeply personal stories and advice on how to cope.

New friends Sally Douglas, 34, and Imogen Carn, 32, both lost their mums suddenly in the past year, and are honouring their memories with a bold new Australian podcast launching on Friday.

And their aim is clear: we can help you move forward and boost your mental health.

“We’ve turned our pain into passion,” Douglas says. “We’ve also been weirdly energised by this, and we don’t feel we are alone with our grief anymore.”

The women bonded over their shared pain when they connected through the support organisation Motherless Daughters Australia earlier this year.

From that friendship has grown The Good Mourning Podcast. The first three episodes will be released on what would have been Douglas’s mum’s 65th birthday.

Douglas’s UK-based mother Rose died in November last year at age 64, from a rare complication of epilepsy known as SUDEP – sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

The PR worker had been living in Australia with her husband Anthony for more than six years, and found out about her mum’s shock death in a 6am telephone call.

“It was such a shock and I felt so far away,” she remembers. “I assumed I would have my mum into my 40s, 50s, 60s and suddenly she was gone.”

Carn’s mum Vanessa died in February this year by committing suicide at 62. Her death came out of the blue for Imogen and her family.

Carn’s daughter was just nine months old, and her sister had only recently given birth to her second son.

“It was all just so dark and sinister and it was such a lonely experience,” Carn says. “Suicide doesn’t discriminate and it’s not just the repercussion of a mental illness, particularly with my mum, it was all circumstantial, it was pretty much a horrific twist of fate that led to it. My mother is the last person we could have ever imagined taking her own life.”

The first two podcast episodes detail Douglas’s and Carn’s stories and the other is their first guest interview, with author, Mindset and Style Coach and podcaster Sally Steele. She shares her experience with grief and loss and how her father’s death was a pivotal time in her life.

According to official records from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 158,493 Australians died in 2018 — that’s a lot of grief for children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, best friends and family members.

Carn and Douglas have come to realise while the loss of their mums has been profound, grief doesn’t discriminate. And everyone’s experience is different, painful and deeply personal.

“Death happens to us all, it’s not a new thing, but people don’t really talk about it still,” Douglas says. “Obviously it is an intense topic, but we both feel it is something that needs to be talked about.”

Carn says no topic will be off limits in the podcasts. On the eve of the podcast launch she was recording an interview with a woman who was sharing her story about the loss of a baby. But the conversations are not all about sadness — humour is a big feature – and the women hope they will both inspire and comfort listeners.

Sharing her experience with her mum’s suicide was intensely confronting and difficult for Carn, but she is determined to talk about it.

“There is such a stigma attached to suicide, and if talking about that makes a difference then I will feel like I am making something out of an awful situation,” she says.

And in the process, she has found a comforting connection with her mum.

“I feel like I am channelling my mum — this is so who my mum was,” Carn says.

“She would want me to talk about it in the hope it would help someone else. It’s exactly the kind of thing she would do.”

SALLY AND IMOGEN’S TIPS FOR MANAGING GRIEF

• Take it really easy on yourself: take it minute by minute if that’s all you can do

• Reach out for help: grief is a really traumatic and lonely experience

• Meditation can promote calm thoughts

• As annoying as it is to hear, time is the only thing that’s going to help

• Nothing helps a lot, things are only going to help a little

• Know that no matter what messed up things you are feeling or thinking, they are all normal

• If you do seek counselling, seek out someone who specialises in grief

The Good Mourning Podcast will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other major podcast platforms and will be released fortnightly on Friday mornings from September 18. For more information see goodmourning.com.au

If you need help you can reach out to Lifeline any time 24/7 on 13 11 14



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Australian News

Should Super Netball be focusing on better marketing itself to women?


Six weeks before the 2020 Super Netball season started, the league dropped a bit of a bombshell.

A super shot was going to be introduced this year, in a bid to attract a new audience to watch the elite domestic competition.

Fans were told TV ratings had started to stagnate, and that the league needed to do something innovative to try to bump up its viewership numbers.

But questions are being raised by supporters as to whether the sport could be doing more to appeal to its huge participation base — particularly the women that already love the game in its traditional sense and play it every week at their local courts without the gimmicks.

Over a million people in Australia currently play netball at the grassroots level, and yet its elite product — the Super Netball competition — averaged just 135,980 television viewers per match in last year’s regular season.

This is not uncommon in the Australian sporting market, where football and basketball also struggle to convert participants into fans of the A-League and NBL.

However, neither of those sports claim to host the world’s premier club competition, unlike Netball Australia.

So if the sport is truly leading the way for women, why is it struggling to convert their attention from weekend sport to Super Netball?

‘Why don’t they ever communicate with me?’

Jessica Macartney has been involved with netball since she was eight years old, playing and coaching in her native New Zealand before moving to Sydney, where she has continued to engage with the sport.

Jessica Macartney in New Zealand after a game for the East Coast Bays
Jessica Macartney (right) has played netball for much of her life in Australia and her native New Zealand.(Supplied: Jessica Macartney)

But in the six years she has been a registered participant here, not once has she been contacted directly or indirectly by NSW Swifts or Giants marketing.

“I like to watch netball live and I like to watch netball on TV, but what I’ve found is that you have to be interested enough to seek out the information [about the games and broadcast],” Macartney said.

Macartney wonders why there seems to be a missing link between the top tier and grassroots in Australia — and finds it alarming that many women who have played the game for years, don’t even know Super Netball exists.

“Because I’ve worked in sport, I look for those things and often ask myself questions like, why don’t they ever communicate with me?”

“At Centennial Parklands there are no Swifts posters, branding or draws.

“Why isn’t there a ticket deal they ask associations to push through to all their registered participants. What is the barrier there? Or am I just not in a demographic that they target in their marketing strategy?”

Super Netball does, however, seem to be able to cut through to the younger generation.

And Macartney thinks this contrast can be related back to the league’s marketing strategy.

“It seems when you do go to the elite level games that the target audience is 10-year-old girls who clap thunder sticks,” she said.

“The crowd is probably 90 per cent of that demographic and it feels deliberate … that primary-aged girls are who they want to get to games.”

A NSW Swifts Super Netball player holds the ball above her head as she prepares to shoot for goal against the Lightning.
There are no NSW Swifts posters at Centennial Parklands.(AAP: Darren England)

If you have ever watched Super Netball on TV, then you would have encountered some of the repetitive ads the broadcast plays in its timeout and quarter breaks.

The majority of these show a clear intention to appeal to kids, and while Macartney says she can understand the need to target young girls, it leaves mature fans out.

“I get that there is a lot of work done going to schools because you want to have a positive influence and you can convert them into fans and members,” Macartney said.

“But I feel like there are opportunities to draw older people in as well.

“There’s an entire part of their participation base and active community that actually would be easier to convert to Super Netball fans.

“I don’t understand why you’d be going for the people that are completely disengaged … when there’s so many people out there that are actively involved.”

UK has similar issues

Struggling to convert participants into viewership numbers and bums on seats is not an issue exclusive to netball in Australia.

Former England international Tamsin Greenway has been trying to get her head around the problem in the UK too.

A netballer reaches out to grab the ball, as a defender leans down and extends her hand to stop her.
Tamsin Greenway (left) represented England at the Netball World Cup — she now coaches the Scottish national team.(AAP: Paul Miller)

Now working as a commentator and as the newly appointed Scotland national coach, Greenway thinks the breakdown might be occurring because the sport is not tailoring its strategies around the challenges women face when they try to engage with the game.

“My dad and brother go to every single football game. Home and away. They don’t even question it,” Greenway told Australian netball podcast The Netty Life.

“I don’t think the majority of women watch sport the same way men do. For example, they don’t necessarily have an affiliation to one team. They like certain players. They don’t necessarily care about the end result, and they won’t go home and be depressed about it the next day.”

Two Melbourne Vixens Super Netball players give the thumbs up as they smile after beating NSW Swifts.
Do women consume sport in the same way that men do? Not according to Tamsin Greenway.(AAP: Albert Perez)

“So we’re almost still trying to get women to watch sport in the same way that men watch sport, and I’m not sure that that’s the right way forward.”

Greenway — like Macartney — believes the elite level needs to build a stronger connection with its grassroots pathways, and she thinks sponsorship might be the best way to do it.

“Until we start exploring our commercial options, we’re not going to get any further. We’ve got to be far more creative about it,” she said.

“They may not want to go and pay 20 quid to go and watch an elite netball game but they’re still invested in netball… so how can we sell those hundreds of thousands of women to a sponsor?”

How can we market the game better?

One example of how the game could be more innovative with its marketing, came from Vixens sponsor Puma earlier this year.

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Melbourne newspaper The Age had come under fire for publishing a TV review that gave netball a 2.5 star rating and labelled it as a “glamour sport”.

The sponsor was able to quickly turn around a social media video for release the next day, that channelled the outrage from the netball community and defended the sport’s fearlessness.

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Neysa Goh, head of marketing at Puma, said the response to that video showed fans were passionate and could be engaged.

“We wanted the video to be something that really mobilises the netball community and gets them up and about. We read that review and it lit a fire underneath us,” Goh said.

“The landscape has changed. The game has changed. I don’t really remember netball ever being the way it was described in that review.

Goh had some other suggestions about how netball could make some small branding adjustments to more closely align the two realms and hopefully filter participation numbers back up the chain.

“It is about creating that connection. The clubs are trying to do that through grassroots programs that they run, but we probably need to look broader and find ways to really link back to the elite sport as much as possible,” Goh said.

“Maybe it’s things like aligning local team uniforms to replicate what the athletes are wearing on court. So you’re starting to create that loyalty and link.

“You see that replicated in other sports and maybe it’s those simple links and tie backs that create a connection.”



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Australian News

Blokes big winners under tax cut plan but women get screwed


Men will secure double the tax cut cash that female workers secure under a budget plan to bring forward tax relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new analysis of the proposal to bring forward tax cuts early to help stimulate the economy has warned blokes will be the biggest winners but women will miss out.

The reason is based on the simple arithmetic that men tend to earn more than women and are more likely to be high income earners.

But that‘s raised fresh concerns the tax cut plan is unfair to women who have already been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australia Institute has urged the Morrison Government to reconsider the tax cuts on the basis that many female workers will secure little or no relief from the billions of dollars in cuts that the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering bringing forward to stimulate the economy.

“Bringing forward the tax cuts will mainly benefit high income earning men, with men getting more than twice the benefit of women. This will lead to more gender inequality,” Matt Grudnoff, Senior Economist at The Australia Institute said.

“Our research has shown that bringing forward these income tax cuts will mainly benefit high income earners which, in Australia, are overwhelmingly male. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy will have a very limited stimulatory effect on the broader economy, but it will significantly widen the economic divide that already exists between men and women in this country.

“Rather than spending billions of dollars bringing forward tax cuts that mainly go to men on high incomes, the Government could better target that stimulus.“

The Australia Institute analysis confirms that for every dollar of tax cut that women get, men get $2.28.

In other words, men get more than twice the tax cut that women get.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

RELATED: How much you’ll save from tax cuts

If the tax cuts were divided between men and women, blokes get 70 per cent of the tax cut cash and women secure only 30 per cent of the tax cut.

The Australia Institute‘s analysis argues that well targeted stimulus should focus on those most disadvantaged by the pandemic recession.

Unemployment figures have previously confirmed that women were more likely to lose their jobs this year with employment falling in March and April by 3.9 per cent for men and 5.3 per cent for women.

Women were also more likely to lose shifts and working hours than men, in some cases due to the pressure of homeschooling children.

Speculation over the Morrison Government bringing forward benefits has centred on bringing forward the ‘Stage 2’ tax cuts from 2022 to 2021.

But it’s the Stage 3 tax cuts that could prove a hard sell for the Prime Minister because the lion’s share of the tax cut cash goes to high income earners.

For example, part-time workers will score a measly $255 per year under the Stage 3 tax cuts the Morrison Government is considering bringing forward, but the wealthy, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will ultimately secure a stunning $11,640-a-year windfall.

ANU Associate Professor Ben Phillips has previously told news.com.au that the rich are more likely to stash tax cuts into savings accounts and pay off personal debts including credit cards and big mortgages, rather than spending the money and stimulating the economy.

“We know that people are saving at higher rates than ever. It will have some small impact. But most people would say you get a bigger bang for your buck with tax cuts at the lower income end or welfare,’’ he said.

As the Australia Institute analysis notes, despite the discussion about bringing forward the tax cuts, there are no firm proposals for when and how each stage should be used.

Previous Australia Institute modelling has confirmed high income taxpayers are the big winners of Stage 3.

For example, the top 10 per cent of taxpayers would get 52 per cent of the benefit of the tax cuts while the top 20 per cent would get 91 per cent of the benefit.

Those on low incomes get little to no benefit.

The budget will be handed down on October 6 in Canberra.



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Australian News

Blokes big winners under tax cut plan but women get screwed


Men will secure double the tax cut cash that female workers secure under a budget plan to bring forward tax relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new analysis of the proposal to bring forward tax cuts early to help stimulate the economy has warned blokes will be the biggest winners but women will miss out.

The reason is based on the simple arithmetic that men tend to earn more than women and are more likely to be high income earners.

But that‘s raised fresh concerns the tax cut plan is unfair to women who have already been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australia Institute has urged the Morrison Government to reconsider the tax cuts on the basis that many female workers will secure little or no relief from the billions of dollars in cuts that the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering bringing forward to stimulate the economy.

“Bringing forward the tax cuts will mainly benefit high income earning men, with men getting more than twice the benefit of women. This will lead to more gender inequality,” Matt Grudnoff, Senior Economist at The Australia Institute said.

“Our research has shown that bringing forward these income tax cuts will mainly benefit high income earners which, in Australia, are overwhelmingly male. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy will have a very limited stimulatory effect on the broader economy, but it will significantly widen the economic divide that already exists between men and women in this country.

“Rather than spending billions of dollars bringing forward tax cuts that mainly go to men on high incomes, the Government could better target that stimulus.“

The Australia Institute analysis confirms that for every dollar of tax cut that women get, men get $2.28.

In other words, men get more than twice the tax cut that women get.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

RELATED: How much you’ll save from tax cuts

If the tax cuts were divided between men and women, blokes get 70 per cent of the tax cut cash and women secure only 30 per cent of the tax cut.

The Australia Institute‘s analysis argues that well targeted stimulus should focus on those most disadvantaged by the pandemic recession.

Unemployment figures have previously confirmed that women were more likely to lose their jobs this year with employment falling in March and April by 3.9 per cent for men and 5.3 per cent for women.

Women were also more likely to lose shifts and working hours than men, in some cases due to the pressure of homeschooling children.

Speculation over the Morrison Government bringing forward benefits has centred on bringing forward the ‘Stage 2’ tax cuts from 2022 to 2021.

But it’s the Stage 3 tax cuts that could prove a hard sell for the Prime Minister because the lion’s share of the tax cut cash goes to high income earners.

For example, part-time workers will score a measly $255 per year under the Stage 3 tax cuts the Morrison Government is considering bringing forward, but the wealthy, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will ultimately secure a stunning $11,640-a-year windfall.

ANU Associate Professor Ben Phillips has previously told news.com.au that the rich are more likely to stash tax cuts into savings accounts and pay off personal debts including credit cards and big mortgages, rather than spending the money and stimulating the economy.

“We know that people are saving at higher rates than ever. It will have some small impact. But most people would say you get a bigger bang for your buck with tax cuts at the lower income end or welfare,’’ he said.

As the Australia Institute analysis notes, despite the discussion about bringing forward the tax cuts, there are no firm proposals for when and how each stage should be used.

Previous Australia Institute modelling has confirmed high income taxpayers are the big winners of Stage 3.

For example, the top 10 per cent of taxpayers would get 52 per cent of the benefit of the tax cuts while the top 20 per cent would get 91 per cent of the benefit.

Those on low incomes get little to no benefit.

The budget will be handed down on October 6 in Canberra.



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Julia Gillard pleased her misogyny speech has become ‘battle anthem’ for young women


Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she is pleased her viral “misogyny” speech directed at Tony Abbott has become a “battle anthem” for young women fighting to make their way in the workplace.

Speaking at the virtual launch of her new book overnight, the lawyer-turned author was asked if she felt as “badass” watching her speech on TV as she did making it at the time.

Laughing at the question, Ms Gillard said “I don’t spend time watching myself back, when you’ve done it and lived through it.”

“I am happy that that speech is still resonating for women. I know it’s had a fair old outing in the UK in recent days.”

She said she was “delighted” the speech is being used as a “battle anthem” for women going out into the world they know is “gendered” but are impatient to change.

“That speaks volumes and makes me very optimistic.”

Ms Gillard’s 2012 speech has resurfaced in the context of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent appointment to the UK Board of Trade.

The British government’s decision sparked controversy given Mr Abbott’s former comments on women, homosexuality and climate change, leading to questions about whether he was the right sort of person to be representing UK values.

UK MPs from across the political spectrum lined up to say he should not have been appointed to the role, however the advisory position was confirmed by the UK government last Friday.

At the time, Ms Gillard declared “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not” in a speech that quickly made headlines around the world.

“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the house of representatives, he needs a mirror,” she said.

RELATED: Tony Abbott blasts Andrews “health dictatorship”

Ms Gillard is currently working as chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College in London. She has recently published Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons with Nigerian economist, Gavi vaccine alliance chair and World Trade Organisation leadership candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The book contains interviews with eight high-profile female political leaders including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, former US presidential contender Hillary Clinton, Norweigan Prime Minister, Erna Solberg and former Chilean leader Michelle Bachelet.

Liberia’s former leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ex-President of Malawi Joyce Banda and European Central Bank’s Christine Lagarde are also featured.

With chapters on hair and “who’s minding the kids?” it confronts the specific issues female leaders face in politics, which Ms Gillard described as having the “whitest and the hottest” spotlight a person can face.

On her own experience having become Labor leader after a party room ballot that saw Kevin Rudd step down, she said the “frame about being an ambitious woman was around me from the outset.”

Researching the book allowed her to reflect on how much of that was “gendered.”

“I intuitively felt it at the time,” she said, adding that the studies allowed her to “see that in a credentialed and evidenced way.”

When asked what she wished she knew earlier in her career, Ms Gillard said she didn’t have the same sense “as the young male politicians about how much space you could take up in the world.”

She described seeing her male colleagues meeting with CEOs in business and media and behaving as if they were “entitled to take up that much space”, advising other young women to not “underestimate how much space you’re able to take up.”

The book also contains nuggets of information such as how Hillary Clinton spent a solid one month of her time as Secretary of State dedicated to fixing or worrying about her hair.

On New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, just the second woman to have a baby in office, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said when asked about her work/life balance, Ms Ardern said “I just make it work.”

“This issue of balancing, it’s about making it work from day to day. That’s a good lesson, there’s no perfect answer. You make it work and you move along the way.”

As for what makes good leaders, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said it’s important young women remember to look for men for mentoring as well and know you’re never the only one in a certain situation.

“You’re not fit for leadership because other people think you are,” she said.

“It’s not what other people think, it’s what you have inside of you that makes you a leader.”

Victoria.craw@news.com.au | @Victoria_Craw





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Local News - Victoria

Push to boost tiny number of women in trades


Nationally, just 16 motorbike mechanics, 55 diesel mechanics and 20 small-engine mechanics are women, according to the One of the Boys report by the University of Sydney.

Ms McDonald’s group is working to break down stigma and get information into schools so girls consider trades rather than being funnelled straight to tertiary education whether it suits them or not.

There is still less than two per cent participation for women in trades even though we cannot meet demand, it’s ridiculous.

Susan Alberti, businesswoman, philanthropist and former construction boss

“We need young men and women to be educated that women can do these jobs – they’re open to anyone, unfortunately it’s not being projected that way,” she says.

Former construction boss Susan Alberti is helping get the word out. Ms Alberti was the only woman in her course when she studied to get her building certificate after her first husband, Angelo, died in an accident in 1995 and she took control of their construction firm.

Susan Alberti, Australia's first female registered builder (wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with 'Never give up'), is throwing her clout behind a push to get more girls to consider trades.Susan Alberti - Never give up.

Susan Alberti, Australia’s first female registered builder (wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Never give up’), is throwing her clout behind a push to get more girls to consider trades.Susan Alberti – Never give up.

Ms Alberti says women’s participation in trades is less than 2 per cent, a figure must be challenged urgently, particularly as many young women need to re-start careers after losing work in female-dominated industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

This is especially important, she says, given the government’s emphasis on a construction-led economic recovery.

“I’ve had 45 years in the building industry and when I started there were no women, not a single one … there is still less than 2 per cent participation for women in trades even though we cannot meet demand, it’s ridiculous,” says Ms Alberti, one of Australia’s first registered female builders and a patron of Tradeswomen Australia.

“We’ve got so much building work to be done in this country and we don’t have the tradespeople, and here we have this great untapped resource – women,” she said.

She agrees with Fiona McDonald that it is especially important to get the trades message out to young women now, as they are losing jobs faster than men in the pandemic.

Barriers that must be overcome include poor workplace culture, lack of role-modelling of women, lack of careers information given to girls and “social misconceptions” about trades being mainly for men.

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“There are women out there doing great work, having great careers and earning good income; we’ve got to break down the barriers,” she said.

Leanne Raynor, of the apprenticeship services network Mas National, says the group is working hard to boost visibility of trades among girls but that the main issue is “they can’t be what they can’t see – they’re not seeing the opportunities available to women in electrical, carpentry, plumbing, that sort of thing.

“The more we keep talking about it the better.”

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Young women battle mental health struggles amid coronavirus pandemic


Back in January, Laura was about to start her first year of work in public relations after completing her studies and was excited about what life had in store for her.

But these days, the 22-year-old struggles to be on a bus without panicking, has been forced to return to working from home and battles a near-constant state of intense anxiety and dread.

Coronavirus has sparked a mental health crisis for the young Sydney woman, who was diagnosed with severe anxiety and stress as a result of the pandemic.

“I was a bit on edge in the first bit of COVID, when we were in lockdown, but then things eased and I started going back to the office, and things really dipped,” said Laura, who asked her surname be withheld.

“I felt safe in lockdown. Going back out into the world was a struggle. I have these intense bursts of anxiety. I wake up in a panic. I feel overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.”

Catastrophic scenarios that play out in her head don’t feel unrealistic or impossible in these strange and uncertain times.

“I’ve never experienced this before – I haven’t had an issue with anxiety in the past and I’d never seen a psychologist until now,” Laura said.

She’s not alone – experts tell news.com.au that younger women are seeking mental health support in larger numbers than their male counterparts, as well as older age groups.

RELATED: Follow our latest coronavirus updates

Juliet Reiner from Heads and Hearts Psychology in Sydney, works with young patients from children to young adults, and has seen a spike in referrals for anxiety and depression recently.

“There has been a higher percentage of females referred to my practice since May,” Ms Reiner said. “Many young people are struggling to readjust to life.”

Julie Mounter from All Minds Psychology in Melbourne agreed, saying “demand has gone through the roof” and young women are over-represented.

“I’ve had more younger females booking in than normal, so women in their 20s,” said Ms Mounter, who works with patients aged over 18.

“Most of the young women I’m seeing are still employed, so they’re secure in their work, but it’s the other elements that are really impacting their mental health.

“Social connections are a huge proactive factor for mental health and wellbeing, and people don’t have access to that at the moment.

“People are spending more time in, they’re able to exercise less, work might be insecure and the world just generally is very uncertain and scary.”

Insurance provider Bupa said data on customer claims since the coronavirus crisis began showed psychology was the most-used telehealth item for people aged 20 to 29.

“Telehealth makes mental health services more accessible for Australians, almost half of whom will experience a mental health disorder at some time in their life,” Bupa managing director Emily Amos said.

For Laura, anxiety about COVID-19 has spread into fear about other parts of life and squashed her once-bright view of the future, she said.

“I’m pretty organised and like to plan out my life and I’ve mapped out where I want to be,” she said. “My future feels very scary now and I don’t really see anything optimistic.

“These are meant to be my pivotal years. I’ve just started working, I had aspirations of living abroad, I had trips planned this year.”

RELATED: Sam Newman’s ‘shameful’ protest plan

Severe uncertainty about what the future holds is a likely reason why females in the teenage bracket are also struggling, on top of elements vital to their wellbeing – social connections, routine and rites of passage – disappearing.

Donna Pendergast, Dean of Griffith University’s School of Educational and Professional Studies, and Sarah Prestridge, a senior lecturer, recently conducted interviews with a group of Grade 12 students.

Among the blunt summaries of how female teens feel about how the year has panned out were “it really sucks”, “disadvantaged”, “super overwhelmed and uncertain”.

In an article about their observations for The Conversation, Ms Pendergast and Ms Prestridge said many students are anxious about how COVID-19 has impacted their studies and life paths.

One female respondent said she felt “nervous about the future” and remarked on there being “a lot of chaos in the world, which is pretty overwhelming”.

RELATED: Vaccine success but there’s a catch

The researchers noted: “Because this is their year, they must make it the best it can be. But for some the resolve is wearing thin. Almost all the students in our survey expressed a sense of loss about their school year.”

Senior year milestones, rites of passage and life opportunities – from formals to university tours and more – have been lost.

“It really sucks that we have already missed out on events throughout the school and we are uncertain for how long this will last,” one female told researchers.

Disruptions to studies and exam preparation are also taking a toll, with one female respondent saying: “I think the biggest worry/uncertainty is if universities are going to be a bit more flexible with our cohort.”

Social distancing and remote learning have impacted social networks, with respondents lamenting reduced interaction with friends and peers.

RELATED: Map shows suburbs hardest hit by virus

Skye Tasker is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, whose research pre-COVID focused on the digital health practices of young people.

When the pandemic hit, Ms Tasker pivoted to examine trends in the context of coronavirus, and extensively interviewed a cohort of case studies aged 12 to 24.

“There are unique aspects of mental health that need to be considered,” she said.

“Social connections are critically important. It’s obviously important for all age brackets but I think it’s especially so in that period of life where you’re forming your identity, especially 12 to 16.”

Teenagers who live at home are also not just managing their own changes in routine, but also adapting to those of parents and siblings, Ms Tasker said.

Older participants – those post-school, in tertiary study or in the workforce – are coping with more significant impacts to employment.

“I did my first range of interviews in May just as Sydney was coming out of the intense lockdown,” Ms Tasker explained.

“A lot of the data collecting during that phase shows a sense of ‘this is happening right now but we’ll go back to normal’ whereas my current interviews indicate things have changed.

“As time goes on and as we learn more about coronavirus, it’s affecting how we see the future. The interviews over the past few weeks are more about managing the long-term impacts. I feel the mood has changed – very much so.”

Kieran Palmer is a psychologist with the Ted Noffs Foundation, the largest provider of youth treatment services in Australia, and fears a wave of mental health issues after COVID-19.

Trauma caused by prolonged isolation and uncertainty or fear about the future is already taking a toll, Mr Palmer said.

“Trauma is essentially finding yourself in a situation where you can’t do what you would normally do to manage, where you can’t see a way out, and you are often left feeling helpless,” Mr Palmer said.

“We are currently in the midst of such a traumatic situation. Our external world has become completely unpredictable, frightening, dangerous, and no one can guarantee a way forward.”

Such trauma often leads to drug and alcohol abuse, and youth services and rehabilitation must be ready for growing demand, he said.

“I’ve spent years working with young people with serious drug and alcohol dependency born from the kind of trauma they are experiencing now,” he said.

RELATED: Countries that have seen zero virus cases

Data shows alcohol sales have increased since the initial lockdown and Mr Palmer suspects illicit drug sales and use have followed a similar trajectory.

At a time when the external world is “totally out of control”, people must take greater care of their internal worlds, Mr Palmer said.

“Structuring our days and staying connected to loved ones are key.

“We need to move, daily, and with purpose. The more we sit still on the couch, the more our stress hormones build up.

“Activities like yoga and exercise are vital in allowing trauma to move through our bodies.”

For those struggling, Ms Mounter said it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious about things, given how unprecedented the situation is.

“Even though we think we’re highly evolved, we’re wired to respond to threat and at the moment, the threat feels constant.

“Insecure work, losing your job, having your social connections cut off, people stuck at home, physical exercise is harder – it’s extremely challenging things that people are trying to cope with.

“There’s really solid research about the importance of people getting help sooner rather than later. It’s important to get in early rather than leave things go too long.”



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Australian News

Exercising too much could affect fertility in young, healthy women, expert warns


Kylie Johnson was the ultimate picture of health when she first started trying for a baby in her late 20s.

The banking-sector worker from Sydney’s south, who spent her spare time tackling gruelling ultramarathons, was young, fit, and healthy — all the key ingredients she was told were needed to become pregnant.

But her two-and-a-half-year road to conception made her question everything she thought she knew.

“Every time you left the doctor’s surgery, you felt kind of deflated [thinking], ‘what’s wrong with me?’ And why isn’t this happening?” she explained.

“I’m doing everything that they’re telling me to do.”

And Kylie’s story is hardly unusual — infertility affects one in six Australian couples of reproductive age.

Struggling with fertility? It could all be in your period

So, why would young, healthy women who keep their body in peak physical shape struggle to conceive?

Well, it’s complicated.

Infertility means you’re unable to get pregnant after 12 months of trying naturally (or six months for a woman over the age of 35), and there are so many reasons why it may not happen — for both men and women.

Unfortunately for some women who love to exercise (a lot), there are unique risks.

Whether someone’s a gym junkie, a weekend warrior, or an elite athlete, a clue to their fertility can be found in their periods.

Former Australian Diamonds netballer Susan Pettitt can relate. She struggled with infertility after retiring in 2018.

“We know regular periods are going to help you with [conceiving]. But when you’re playing, that’s not your top priority,” she said.

After 18 months of trying and a series of inconclusive tests, Susan and her husband Brad underwent IVF treatment.

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They were successful after three cycles, with son Cooper born in July this year.

Susan is still unsure why they couldn’t conceive naturally. But her experience has all the hallmarks of a relatively unknown and misunderstood health condition that can put even the most seemingly healthy women at risk of not getting pregnant.

How can being super fit hurt your fertility?

Put simply, if you’re over-exercising and not eating enough, that could lead to a loss of periods for at least three months, or irregular, heavy periods that may only appear a few times a year.

It’s a pretty common but little-known condition known as athletic amenorrhoea.

Susan recalls how focused players and medical staff were about getting the best out of their performance at major events and planning their periods around that.

“We don’t have it monthly. We might have three or four months without it, or we might even skip them.”

Kylie, on the other hand, would sometimes go up to a year without having a menstrual cycle and thought it was completely normal.

A woman gives the thumbs up as she runs in a field during an ultramarathon. Another woman can be seen in the background.
Kylie spent her spare time training and competing in gruelling ultramarathons.(Supplied: Kylie Johnson)

“I was just like, ‘oh, that’s just me, that’s just my body’,” she said.

The idea that a woman’s period can come second to her fitness or performance seriously concerns fertility specialist Dr Natasha Andreadis.

And often, she says, it’s because they’re exercising too much.

“To match the exercise, they’re not eating enough. So it’s usually because they’re not actually getting enough fuel and as a consequence are not sufficient in their fat mass, which is really important,” she added.

Thankfully, there’s no impact on a woman’s long-term fertility once regular menstruation returns.

But amenorrhoea isn’t just a concern for those who want to start a family.

It can also cause high cholesterol, premature ageing, and loss of bone density, which could lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Why the pill can be a problem

Many women don’t even realise if they have menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea, as it’s masked by their use of the contraceptive pill.

It’s especially common amongst athletes — it’s estimated the pill is used by nearly 50 per cent of all elite Australian sportswomen.

Dr Andreadis believes doctors often prescribe the pill too quickly to treat menstrual issues for women from all walks of life, rather than addressing the root cause.

At the professional level, Susan wants sporting organisations to take more responsibility to help protect their athletes’ fertility.

“We plan everything else in our lives, but we just don’t plan that part of it. We have medical examinations every year and we go through every muscle and every joint and everything about our bodies, but we just don’t talk about fertility,” she explained.

Are you running on empty?

Really, periods are only part of the problem.

After having her own tests done, Kylie discovered she had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) — a hormone issue that can affect fertility.

While exercise is recommended to treat PCOS, Kylie was running to an extreme level — regularly tackling ultramarathons of 50 kilometres or more — and that was actually making matters worse.

Her high running load compared with under-fuelling was making it impossible for her body to conceive.

“I think I was malnourished. I was eating a lot, but not enough for someone that was running so far,” she said.

“And I think that’s the problem where my body was kind of screaming at me and telling me what you’re doing isn’t healthy, but … I just didn’t want to hear.”

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Ultimately, an ankle injury forced Kylie to curb her running.

By that point, after two and a half years of trying, she had given up on having a baby, convinced it just wasn’t to be for her and her partner.

But the simple tonic of stopping her high-intensity exercise and eating more was enough for her body to recover and she unexpectedly became pregnant with son Henry, who is now 18 months old.

“It just required me to step back into self-love and self-care for him to come along,” she said.

Should we rethink the career-first, family-later narrative?

Every woman who wants to have a baby knows the pressure that comes with that biological clock ticking.

It kicks up a gear when a woman is in her early 30s as fertility starts to decline. Then it intensifies from the age of 35.

In the elite sphere, many women’s sports, like netball, now have improved maternity policies to encourage athletes to start a family during their career.

Susan was 34 when she retired and says there’s still the prevailing attitude to wait until your playing days are done, so you don’t lose your spot in the team.

A woman wearing the Australian netball uniform smiles as she holds a trophy.
Susan Pettitt retired from competitive netball in 2018.(Supplied: Susan Pettitt)

She also believes coaches are reluctant to discuss fertility and family planning with players, for fear of losing them in their prime years.

After her success with IVF, Susan also had her eggs frozen. It’s something she’s encouraging younger players to do so they can have it as a safety net when they’re ready to start a family.

But Dr Andreadis warns it might not be the silver bullet athletes are hoping for.

“I feel that it’s important that we stress to these women: there’s absolutely no guarantee that if you freeze 30 or 40 mature eggs in your 20s, that you will absolutely get pregnant from that batch of eggs,” she said.

“You won’t know if you will be able to fall pregnant until you start trying.”

Why you shouldn’t go it alone

The path to conceiving can be an incredibly emotional journey for so many women, and the hurdles that invariably pop up along the way look so much steeper when you feel like you’re the only one facing them.

Kylie admits that in her like-minded community of female runners, they were more likely to discuss the latest sneakers on the market rather than their menstrual irregularities.

A man and woman stand in a cafe wearing black shirts.
Former Australian netballer Susan Pettitt and her husband Brad underwent IVF treatment in order to get pregnant.(ABC News: Amanda Shalala)

Even the medical experts she sought out weren’t equipped with the proper knowledge to help her, making it an isolating, frustrating experience.

Susan agrees it’s time for women to start talking more about issues like periods, fertility and miscarriages, so they can support each other rather than suffer in silence.

Despite their challenges along the way, both women know they’re amongst the lucky ones.

After all, they’ve got Henry and Cooper to show for it.

This story is part of a women in sport series called In Her Words. Head over to iview to watch all episodes.



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Australian News

How World War Two was a turning point for women in media


Seventy-five years ago, with World War Two just ended, a new struggle was beginning for Australian women — and as journalist-turned-author Victoria Purman writes, its effects are still felt today.

The women war correspondents of the 1940s broke new ground in Australian journalism, not just for themselves but for women everywhere.

Before the war broke out in 1939, women had for many years worked in the country’s newsrooms but had been largely confined to writing about “women’s issues”: cooking, fashion and advice columns for the lovelorn, for instance.

The newsroom was a man’s world and even when women did work for the papers, they were relegated to a section separate from the men — sometimes even a different floor. If a woman ventured anywhere near the newsroom (in reality, the men’s newsroom) she was met with derision, cries of “There goes the girl reporter” or “sob sister”, and told to “Go back to the women’s pages”.

But the war fundamentally changed that dynamic. In the early years of the conflict, one quarter of all male reporters headed overseas to become war correspondents, including names we are familiar with such as George Johnston, Alan Moorhead, Damien Parer and Chester Wilmot.

That exodus left large gaps in newsrooms. Who was left to cover the stories readers demanded— the stories that still fill our papers and news bulletin — such as crime, politics, the courts, sport and general news? Women had been putting their hands up for years and finally, they were given chances denied to them for so long.

Almost overnight, the number of female journalists in the Australian media doubled.

Despite reservations by some (words still uttered in newsrooms today if you dig deep enough) that women simply aren’t cut out for hard news, they aren’t tough enough to pin a politician on a hard question, that they’re too emotional and only interested in the “women’s angle”, they took to their new roles like ducks to water.

And some wanted to go further and fulfil their own journalistic dreams — just like so many of their male colleagues had done — and become war correspondents.

They were bored with being confined to the women’s pages, relegated to writing about rationing and wartime fashion parades and beauty queens and the social scene.

They too wanted to cover the war that was on Australia’s doorstep and indeed, in its harbours. But the army brass bristled at the idea. How could these “sob sisters” be accommodated when there were no facilities for accommodation and transport?

Although a group of women were issued with war correspondent licences, they never got to speak to a serving soldier and were never given access to a battlefield.

They were largely treated as spruikers for the role of women on the home front, as Land Girls, munitions workers and volunteers, a situation which bristled and which they fought against for the entire war.

Things did change in 1945, after the war was won and Germany defeated. Reporters like Lorraine Stumm and Anne Matheson from The Daily Telegraph reported from Cologne and Nuremberg, and Matheson covered the Nazi war trials. Betty Wilson of the Sydney Morning Herald and Alice Jackson and her daughter, journalist Hazel Jackson of the Australian Women’s Weekly, toured the sites of German atrocities. Iris Dexter reported for Woman magazine from South-East Asia, interviewing newly-released prisoners of war.

My novel The Women’s Pages is a tribute to these groundbreaking women and in my fictional character, Tilly Galloway, I’ve created a reporter who gets her chance in the newsroom when a desperate editor, needing a story covered, searches the newsroom and calls out, “You’ll do.”

Like hundreds of thousands of other women, after the war, the women reporters found themselves out of work. They had been considered good enough to fill in during the war, but the blokes were on their way home and needed their old jobs back. A woman’s work was not in newsrooms or factories or shop floors of office, but to make a comfortable home and have children.

Tilly Galloway proved herself in a tough environment and her battles are largely still the battle of women in the media today.

When I began my broadcast journalism career in the mid-1980s, I was told by a male editor that listeners “simply didn’t like the sound of women’s voices”.

As I listen to a multitude of women’s voices on air these days and read their stories in our newspapers on everything from politics to cricket, I do think of how far we’ve come and how amazed those war correspondents of the 1940s would be.

That’s not to say there’s still some way to go, but women in the media today are just as tenacious, smart and determined as those who’ve gone before them. I know we’re in safe hands.

EVERYBODY’S PAGES

The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman, published by HQ Fiction, is out on Sept 2. It’s our new Book of the Month, which means it’s yours for a 30 per cent discount at Booktopia with the code PAGES. Come share your reactions and enjoy our all-new special features at The Sunday Bookclub Facebook group.



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Local News - Victoria

Calls for female-focused budget as women face financial ‘gender disaster’


Tanja Kovac, the CEO of the state’s peak body for gender equity, GenVic, said state and federal treasuries lacked “gender-economic muscle” to design budgets that would stem women’s economic decline due to the pandemic, and more risked falling into poverty.

“We’ve got job losses at nearly five times the rate of men, and those women are not going to be able to return to work easily,” said Ms Kovac, former chief of staff to the late minister for women, Fiona Richardson.

We’ve got job losses at nearly five times the rate of men, and those women are not going to be able to return to work easily.

Tanja Kovac, GenVic

“In Victoria, the latest ABS data shows women’s full-time unemployment rate is 8.7 per cent, far higher than men’s at 6.1 per cent. What stunned us in the first round of stimulus is why so many measures were directed at trade and bricks-and-mortar construction when it’s clear the industries that have laid off significant numbers are in gender-based, women’s industries.”

“We will have a two-lane road to recovery, a fast track for men and a slow lane to nowhere for women,” she said. GenVic dubbed the current economic crisis a gender disaster.

On Friday, the organisation called on the state government to provide $1.05 million over four years to support creation of a gender specific panel including experts from industry, academy and the private sector including gender-focused economists to advise on “targeted economic stimulus and initiatives to assist women who have lost jobs and micro-enterprises”.

Victoria’s Minister for Women, Gabrielle Williams, agreed “the economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is unique in its disproportionate impact on women”. She said all governments needed to be mindful of this so an equitable recovery can be achieved.

May research by the Australia Institute found that between March and April the number of women employed fell by 5.3 per cent, compared with 3.9 per cent of men. They also lost more hours; women lost 11.5 per cent of theirs compared with 7.5 per cent for men.

Payroll data from the ABS showed of the 235,000 jobs lost in April, 55 per cent were women’s, and its figures show as Victoria’s infections climbed in the second week of July, jobs held by women fell by 2.3 per cent compared with those lost by men, at 0.5 per cent.

Women’s employment specialist Professor Rae Cooper warned women faced serious long-term disadvantage and were already struggling. “We are going to see a generation of women who are scarred in the labor market and that has an impact on access to jobs and lifetime earnings,” she said.

“We see a group of women who are really struggling in terms of mental health and wellbeing, this is an urgent issue.”

Young women were more likely to have cashed out their entire super than men and were spending it on essentials such as rent and food, while young men were more likely to have spent it on discretionary items, which showed women were already faring worse in what has been dubbed Australia’s “pink recession”.

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“The [federal] government doesn’t seem to be reading the ABS data otherwise they would be doing something about it; it is very serious concern,” said Professor Cooper, who is co-director of the Women, Work and Leadership Research Group at the University of Sydney business school.

Sue Morphet, president of the corporate leaders organisation Chief Executive Women, said her group would ask the Morrison government to “bring a gender lens to the budget on every single thing that is done with it.

“We want the budget to be looked at and the question asked, ‘Does this help women as well as it helps men?’ Or, if we’re doing things that are very male-centric, are there equal and opposite female-centric measures as we know this is helping all parts of our economy – including youth.”

Ms Morphet said her members want it to be identified in the budgetary process “how policies will impact women and girls so we address equality of recovery for all”.

Emma Dawson, executive director of the economic think tank Per Capita, said it was a serious concern that “several hundred thousand women” who lost work have dropped out of the workforce altogether and of superannuation withdrawals – 50 per cent were by people aged under 35 – half of the young people who did were women who had “completely emptied their accounts”.

“They have withdrawn super at a time when many are about to exit the workforce for child-rearing and will come out after years when they haven’t accrued any at all,” said Ms Dawson. “They will find themselves with very, very little money to rely on and we will see an even wider increase in the retirement poverty gap [between men and women].”

She backed calls to make state and federal budgets “gender responsive” through the use of independent advice, saying “it is critical; there isn’t the capacity in the public sector to do this well, finance departments at state and federal levels are dominated by men.”

Bel Tully, 27, lost her front-of-house hospitality industry work early in the pandemic and has no idea how her employment life and financial security will pan out after JobKeeper ends. Like plenty of her friends, she withdrew money from her super account worried about having no safety-net savings.

“A big discussion when we first started talking about accessing our super in case of emergencies was, ‘surely this is better than going into debt, surely 60-year-old me will understand’ [but] we’re in our 20s, we’re not supposed to touch it for another 40 years. I don’t know what 60-year-old me is going to think,” she said.

Ms Tully has not touched the money but fears if she is not eligible for the second wave of JobKeeper she may need to. She is trying to stay focused on the short-term: “I’m just reminding myself that I have people around me, and not everyone’s that lucky.”

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