The tricky thing about the last column of the year is deciding whether you should reflect on what was or look forward.

Regular readers will know that this year has been something of a trial for my family.

But should I bury it like the awful, rotten thing it seemed at times? Would I have it wiped off the calendar as the year we didn’t have?

If someone had posed those questions four, five months ago I’d almost certainly have said yes.

But that’s the great thing about the passing of time: faced with a new reality, it shows you how to live it.

2013 will go down as the year I discovered friends. They’ve always been there – at every stage of my life – but I’d never valued them near enough.

It’s partly a consequence of a childhood spent on the move to far-flung satellite and cable station towns where my father was deployed.

Unlike my shy, serious brother who suffered these frequent upheavals, I was highly adaptable and made friends easily … at the drop of a hat in fact.

And that, of course, was my own peculiar problem.

You couldn’t pack friends in a removalist’s truck – so you’d love ’em and leave ’em with nary a backward glance and start again.

It probably didn’t help going into a profession where that was what you did to every one, every single day: crashing into people’s lives in the aftermath of disasters or violent crime, or picking at the threads of scandal until some sorry saga unravelled.

Encouraging people – in the midst of the most extreme circumstances – to open up, to talk to you and then lighting out when the next story came along … that was the job.

So much so that I once remarked to a friend who thought enough of me to invite me to a dinner party as one of the best friends she had made for each of the five decades of her life – a list of five people and their partners: “I don’t take prisoners.”

I know, I know. Shoot me now!

It’s actually quite hard now to be on the brink of 50 and suddenly realise you have spent the best part of half a century being absolutely insufferable.

What changed? Well, truthfully, probably not me!

But, in 2013 I actually needed people and they were there … without once asking.

They flew in from interstate, they called on the phone, they minded the dog, they sent DVDs, CDs, books, emails, texts, wrote note cards, they invited me for meals, they offered trees under which I could safely park the campervan and plug into their mains, they wore masks, gowns and gloves to keep my husband safe and they cut me some slack at work.

But the craziest thing is that they would have done more … if we’d let them. So, while my husband, who physically endured the awful, rotten things in 2013, may disagree, it was also a year of discovery and blessings.

And that’s what friends are for.

MY VIEW: All that’s wrong with Christmas

You have to catch up with everybody you have ever known in your entire life before Christmas. This means you have to juggle social engagements and check your calendar before committing to anything, and that is just such a tosser thing to do.

Houses with exterior decorations suddenly become cool. Strange, given that garden gnomes in football guernseys and terracotta mushrooms aren’t anywhere near acceptable in the garden ever, but blow-up Santas on sleds and dancing elves are.

Then, after New Year, decorated houses are all of a sudden not cool. In fact, some people choose to leave their Christmas decorations up all year round. They are on to something, and it’s called apathy.

Christmas trees are ghastly but everyone’s afraid to call it. The real ones leave prickly little things all over the place, and the plastic versions that come in boxes give off a very strange chemical smell. Still we insist on posting pics of our freshly decorated, jazzy, sparkly trees on Facebook and Pinterest so everyone can say how gorgeous your tree is. Oh, and tinsel is meant to represent falling snow, so why is it red and green and blue?

Some people go to church only at Christmas. We don’t, we watch Elf. We’ve tried religion and all the Christmas movies, but Elf is the only one that works for us on both counts. Sometimes we watch it during the off-season, just to remind ourselves to be wary of fake Santas and not eat used chewing gum from the New York subway.

My seven-year-old thinks “Jesus-Christ-was-born-on-Christmas-Day” is a swear word. Mention Jesus in the actual context and she freaks out and gets the swear jar. That’s another reason we don’t go to church.

We know most of what we know about Christmas by watching American TV shows, Elf included. So, all the things we understand to represent the season – roaring fires, dragging fresh trees home in the snow, shopping at Macy’s, strange groups of people in hats and gloves singing Christmas carols – we’ve never, ever experienced.

The only time a group of singers has stood outside our house and sung Christmas songs, they woke the kids and I had to tell the singers to shut up and go away. There was no Christmas joy spread anywhere on that occasion. And eggnog in 30-degree heat could quite possibly cause a salmonella outbreak.

It is no longer acceptable to have  Kentucky Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes for Christmas lunch. Christmas is all about the food these days. Right now I do not know what watercress is, and I am worried a whole salmon won’t fit in my oven, so already I’m feeling the pressure. And I have vegetarians coming!

No matter how many presents the kids get, they will always ask if there is more. Maybe Santa left one outside on his way in, or maybe there’s another one somewhere under the tree. Come Boxing Day, they’ll be asking when Easter is.

The only queue-jumpers we should deal with, and as a matter of urgency, are those at the Myer windows. They are tricky, man.

But for all these weird, strange and wrong things about Christmas, there are a hundred good things … like Champagne and bonbons and being woken at 5am by kids telling you to come quick, mum, Santa’s been. You’ve got to love it for the good and bad.

What’s on in the city this summer?


The Illusionists

The biggest, boldest and most spectacular magic show ever to be staged in Melbourne, The Illusionists, is headlining Arts Centre Melbourne’s summer season. This celebration of the art of magic, by the most innovative illusionists working today, will leave audiences speechless. International illusionists, including Dan Sperry, Kevin James, Brett Daniels, James Dimmare, David Williamson and Philip Escoffey, all specialise in different areas of magic and illusion, and will have you on the edge of your seat. Nail-biting Russian roulette, jaw-dropping acts of levitation, mind-reading, disappearing acts and escapes are just a fraction of these adrenalin-fuelled shows.

January 3-12. Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Tickets $46-$119

Three outdoor theatre shows

Three Outdoor Theatre Shows This summer brings another exciting year of performances, thanks to the Australian Shakespeare Company. Spoilt for choice over summer, audiences can experience the magic of outdoor theatre with some of Australia’s finest professional performers and creative artists. There are three family-friendly outdoor theatre shows to choose from, with seasons of The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Caribbean Pirates at Polly Woodside, all running from late December until January 25. All three shows feature singing and dancing, and include audience participation and games.

Shows run until January 25. For tickets and venue information;

Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf is a charming story by Matthew Whittet about one of the most misunderstood characters in fairytale history. This playful production for ages five and older is presented by award-winning children’s theatre company Windmill Theatre. Directed by Rosemary Myers, who has also directed Boom Bah!, The Wizard of Oz, Fugitive, Girl Who Cried Wolf and more, the production follows the story of the infamous Big Bad Wolf. His incredibly sharp teeth, yellow eyes and his own ideas about personal hygiene don’t win him many friends – but one girl is brave enough to ignore all that, and an unlikely friendship is born.

Season runs January 10-25 Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank. Tickets available at


Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinema 

Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinemas are running until December 22. This fabulous Melbourne outdoor event is back with live music and feature films playing on a huge movie screen from dusk. Enjoy the sunset over Port Phillip while listening to the sounds of Melbourne’s most-loved indie bands and singer-songwriters. Then, at dusk, a full-length feature film lights up the huge outdoor screen. There’s also a delicious range of tasty food and frosty beverages available to buy. If you’re wanting to relax in style, get your hands on a Star Class ticket, which includes a bean lounger, blanket, and Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream – and the best seats in the house. Upcoming movies include Rush, Gravity and a Grease singalong. Ticket information and session times are online.

Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinemas, St Kilda Sea Baths, South Beach Reserve, 10-18 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda.


Michael Griffiths: two iconic women of pop

Jersey Boys star Michael Griffiths returns to Melbourne with his two sell-out shows; Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox and In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Part of the 2014 Midsumma Festival, In Vogue is just “Madge” at the piano – leading you on a journey through her tough life with tender songs. Throughout this gender-bending explosion, the experienced musical theatre star transforms himself into the Queen of Pop. Strike a pose, get into the groove and express yourself as Madonna opens her heart! There’s no missing a beat in this one-man cabaret; In Vogue features 35 song references and 12 songs sung in their entirety.

January 15-26; Sweet Dreams, 7pm, and In Vogue 9pm. At fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Tickets: 9662 9966. 


Beer Gypsies

New Year’s Eve plans are quite often hit or miss. If you’re struggling to find that perfect event to bring in 2014, look no further; Beer Gypsies are having a NYE concert-come-mini festival in Collingwood on December 31. Bust a move on the dance floor as Owl Eyes, City Calm Down, Set Sail and Tully on Tully keep the tunes rolling. Your ticket ($98) includes drinks and entertainment on the night – there’s even tarot card readers to spice up things a bit. Friends at Mildura Brewery, Napoleone Cider, and Six Foot Six are getting in on the act. Tickets are on sale now and numbers are limited, so get in early.

December 31, 6.30pm-7am Second Story Studios, 159 Sackville Street, Collingwood.


Melbourne Food Tour

Melbourne is a dynamic city when it comes to food and a great way to  explore its passionate foodie scene is with the best in the business. This food-filled walking tour leads guests to the latest and greatest of Melbourne’s restaurants, food stores and culinary icons. Explore lanes, alleys and grand boulevards to find the latest tasty treats, such as gelati, samosas, Chinese egg tarts at Maxim’s plus roast duck from City BBQ, decadent truffles from Ganache Chocolate and treats from the iconic Phillippa’s Bakery. The tour will also include a visit through the restaurant-filled Flinders Lane and ends at the award-winning Cumulus Inc for a glass of wine and tastings from the kitchen. If you miss out on tickets, Melbourne Food Experiences has two more scheduled tours in 2014; February 15 and March 15.

PROFILE: Peter Viska, quick on the draw

Peter Viska’s first venture into the colourful world of illustrating didn’t go to plan. During his last year at high school in Perth, he created his own version of the satirical Mad magazine, basing his caricatures on his schoolteachers.

“I gave it to a friend to print and didn’t realise there was a hole in the middle of one of the pages. He filled that hole with a little rhyme about flirting with another man’s wife,” recalls Viska. “A few of the teachers at school were playing up and they thought I was on to them. I was almost suspended.”

Since that shaky start, Viska has created children’s pages in newspapers, developed children’s TV series such as Li’l Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers, and illustrated more than 40 books including Far Out, Brussel Sprout! and All Right, Vegemite!, which have sold more than a million copies in Australia.

At his studio in a Richmond warehouse, a small team of animators, editors and designers is bringing to life Viska’s latest animation project – Jar Dwellers SOS – a 56 episode series which screens on Channel 11.

Large cut-outs of the cast, including a purple monster and a creature holding a string of sausages, stand to attention in a corner of the studio.

“The story is based around two siblings, Sophie and David, who discover and release three amazing creatures from special science jars, handmade by famous naturalist Albert Derwent,” says Viska. “Ooble, Crunch and Barka are not ready for exile so Sophie, with the help of of Derwent’s Big Book, introduces them to her “Survival of Species” program. They learn to avoid Professor Van Riceberger, his Jar Trackers and his assistant Chang. The creatures have no plans to return home. They are out, there is no going back!

“It’s been a wonderful journey over the past six years to watch a concept in my head become a reality,” says Viska. “The main characters in the series were just initial sketches but they’ve taken on a life of their own.”

Viska discovered illustrating at 15 when he saw his first Mad. He began drawing his own caricatures for fun and hasn’t stopped. “I loved science and sport and didn’t do art,” he says. “At school I had to do an aptitude test and there was this skyscraper standing out on the chart for art and I thought that was just stupid.”

After high school, Viska joined Shell Oil as an operations clerk – but after a short time he decided to find out whether he could make a career with a sketchpad and pencil.

After a backpacking trip around Europe, he landed a job in Canberra as a newspaper cartoonist and then moved to Melbourne to draw for the Sunday Observer. There he created the Wotcha-ma-callit Club – a children’s page – and the mix of characters, stories and competitions hit a sweet spot with eight- to 12-year-olds. By the time Viska moved on, the club had 50,000 enthusiastic members.

“That page has a special spot in my heart,” he says. “I’ve met people who said they made their parents go
out to buy the paper just for the kids’ page. Rove McManus read the Wotcha-ma-callit page when he
was growing up in Perth.”

Viska then illustrated Far Out, Brussel Sprout! and discovered a passion and a flair for visualising the characters within dozens of children’s books.

Far Out, Brussel Sprout! was a slow burner at first – then it disappeared off the shelves,” he says. The title is now on its 40th reprint and was followed by other childhood favourites such as All Right, Vegemite! and Unreal, Banana Peel!

“I see the words and I get a vision almost immediately and I try and capture that,” Viska says.

“My drawing style is fairly energetic and it tickles the imagination. And I immediately know when I’ve got
it right. I work very quickly from brain to paper
and, when I put my little V for Viska on an illustration,
I don’t go back.”

In the late 1980s, Viska was asked to design the 37-cent stamp and he created a postie on a flying stamp – rather than a magic flying carpet – being chased by an angry dog also on a flying stamp.

“It was the biggest buzz because the 37-cent stamp was the everyday stamp. Almost every letter in Australia had that image on it,” he says with a smile.

There have been more book illustrations but when Viska set up his own studio, Viskatoons, he ventured into animation, often working with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). Li’l Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers is one of Viska’sfavourite creations for TV so far. “I had a concept of Elvis Presley as a young kid, living in Memphis, guitar on his shoulder with a hound dog and I wrote to Graceland asking to take the idea further but they knocked me back,” says Viska.

“The ACTF was looking for a distinctly Australian series at the time and so Elvis became Li’l Elvis with red hair and he was found in a guitar case in a roadhouse in the middle of Australia. His mum is a dyed-in-the-wool Elvis fanatic and his dad is an Elvis impersonator. One of his friends plays the didgeridoo – so they play ‘didgabilly’ music together instead of rockabilly. One of my children’s friends in Romania phoned me at three o’clock one morning because they’d seen Li’l Elvis on Romanian TV and were so excited.”

Viska juggles half a dozen projects at once. As well as Jar Dwellers, he has just illustrated a series of new “chant and rhyme” books, written by former headmaster Peter Durkin, with titles such as Hang Loose, Mother Goose! and In Your Eye, Meat Pie!

“I think it’s important that Australia develops its own style of illustrating, as we’ve done with music. Look back on Australian music from the 1970s and 1980s and it’s so different … and it’s good. We need to have our own style in illustrations, too,” he says.

Viska has four adult children and two grandchildren, who are too young to appreciate his work. When he isn’t creating his next character, he enjoys time with his family and being creative in the kitchen. “Cooking at the weekend relaxes me,” he says. “I have a group of friends and every so often the men take it in turns to cook for their wives. We had a French night not long ago and I think the best reaction I’ve ever had was for my tuna tartare.

“As with my characters, I’d imagined it in my head and knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. My first idea is instantaneous and it’s usually what I go with because something magic happens at that moment.”

PROFILE: Deborah Cheetham, high notes

As a soprano, Deborah Cheetham is a strong voice on stage. But today it’s her sonorous speaking voice that transports us to a chapter in history we have to remind ourselves isn’t that long ago.

We’re in a Southbank café. I had suspected Cheetham was going to be interesting – anyone who writes a play called White Baptist Abba Fan can’t miss – but I’m not sure I was quite prepared for the sadness, the courage and the redemptive power of her story.

“I am eternally grateful that I was born with the ability to express myself through music because I had a platform I could work through some of this, a cathartic process figuring out who you are and how you came to be,” she says. “Without that voice, without music, how would I have found my way?”

At 49, Cheetham is Australia’s best-known indigenous opera singer. Since making her international debut in 1997, she has performed in concert halls across Europe, the United States, Britain and Australia. She is an outspoken voice on indigenous issues and gay marriage, a respected academic (she is head of the Wilin Centre at the faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and associate head of indigenous development) and in 2010 wrote and created Australia’s first indigenous opera, Pecan Summer.

Now she is using her profile to promote February’s  Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival, as an ambassador.

It’s been a long journey to find her place in the world. Cheetham was just three weeks old when she was adopted in 1964 and she grew up in Sydney’s southern suburbs with two other adopted non-Aboriginal siblings.

“My adoptive parents were good people,” she says. “They had been told that I’d been abandoned by my Aboriginal mother and they believed that. They were told that by a church authority and, being quite religious themselves, they never questioned that authority.

“In time they said, ‘You were abandoned by your Aboriginal mother and we adopted you and essentially we’ve rescued you from your Aboriginality, from being abandoned, from a life that would have been much less than it is with us’. This was a message that was constantly fed to me.”

Her adoptive parents, she says, were very generous and “no more dysfunctional than any other parents”. They were church-going Baptists and Cheetham’s earliest memory is of leaning up against her mum in church and hearing her voice.

Her father, a baker, and mother, who looked after the children, seldom listened to music, but Cheetham fell in love with singing in church and adored pop music. “I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t singing. It was my way of communicating anything.”

Cheetham grew up with no connection to her Aboriginal heritage. “I grew up in a world where Aboriginal Australia was completely absent,” she says. It was a scenario she says her parents did nothing to change.

Throughout her youth she believed what her parents told her. Her life began with “this falsehood, this lie that I was abandoned”.

“As a small child you can’t really comprehend what being abandoned means, particularly when you’re in a family who love you, who take good care of you, provide every opportunity in life for you,” she says. “You’ve been told you’ve been abandoned but you’re not living that sense of abandonment. It doesn’t really hit home until much later on.”

When it did hit home, it hit hard. “In 1985 I was in a play in Canberra. I came out on stage one night and I had to play this scene very close to the front row of the audience, and I looked into the audience and looking back at me was a woman who could have been my identical twin.

“It was like a jolt. We met after the play and she had recognised that we had this incredible similarity in our features. And we managed to work out that we were related. The one piece of information my adoptive parents gave me when I was growing up was that I was the niece of Jimmy Little. My mother was his younger sister.

“I’d never wielded that piece of information in my whole life. I knew Jimmy was a famous Aboriginal man. I never allowed myself to think that he was actual family. He was uncle Jimmy. Any friend of the family was called uncle this or aunty that.”

Cheetham said to the woman: “Jimmy’s my uncle.” And the woman said: “We’re cousins and I know your mother. Do you want to meet her?” And that was the breakthrough.

Meeting her birth-mother, Monica, in 1985 and then, a decade later, hearing the truth about her adoption, was confronting and confusing for Cheetham.

“My adoptive parents had worked really hard to educate me out of being Aboriginal because they saw Aboriginality as less than … something quite negative. My adoptive mother would say, ‘You’re really quite fair; you don’t look that Aboriginal’, implying ‘You could get away with not being Aboriginal if you just try hard enough’.

“My parents didn’t see the true value of this unique culture – the longest continuing culture in the world – that wasn’t celebrated in the ’60s and ’70s and when they were growing up in the ’40s and ’50s. They knew hardly anything about it.”

Cheetham and Monica slowly developed a relationship, often singing together. But it was to be another 10 years before Cheetham found out what actually happened. “For a decade we tried to find our way,” she says. “And then finally Monica felt that she had to tell the truth.”

That truth came in the form of a letter in 1995, in which Monica described how Deborah had been taken from her at three weeks of age, and that Monica had begged the authorities to tell her where they had sent her.

For Cheetham it was a defining moment. “In 1964 Monica was a young Aboriginal woman (aged 19). My biological father, her husband, had left her. She had no rights, no one to protect her, no one to stand up for her. The referendum [in 1967] was still a couple of years away.

“As an Aboriginal child, especially one with one Aboriginal parent and one non-Aboriginal parent, I could be taken and sent wherever they wanted to send me and my mother had no rights. She was living in an orphanage run by the Salvation Army.” After giving birth to Deborah, Monica earned some money by picking beans. “She came back after a week and I was gone. In the letter my mother said she’d searched for me. She’d searched for two years and she finally found where they had taken me.

“She made her way to Oatley (from Nowra on the NSW south coast), found the home of my adoptive parents. She came to plead with them, could she at least see me, to see how I was getting on. Obviously her deepest desire was to get me back. But she didn’t get any chance to explain any of that because as soon as my adoptive mother saw her approaching the house she got straight on the phone and called the police. The police came and they quite literally dragged Monica away.

“I was conflicted. I had a complete breakdown. I was in the middle of a crisis of identity because I’d had this decade of knowing Monica, of trying to see myself in this Aboriginal family and not really understanding what that was.”

Cheetham was angry that she hadn’t been told the truth.

“I wasn‘t sure at that time how to direct that sense of loss. And I think this is true of so many of the Stolen Generations. Many children that were taken never met their families.

“I was fortunate.”

Cheetham wrote a play about her experiences called White Baptist Abba Fan, which premiered in 1997 at the Sydney Opera House. “It really defined that period of my life, of coming to the realisation that I’d been taken, not abandoned, and someone had loved me and not wanted to give me up.” In the play, Monica’s voice can be heard reading the letter. Monica died in 2000.

With the confusion and pain of her life story being revealed, music provided a constant comfort for Cheetham. “I think music is so deeply embedded in my identity … I was born with this ability. It’s my way of being in the world.”

She toured White Baptist Abba Fan on and off for five years before travelling to Melbourne in 2006 to take up a six-month position at the Victorian College of the Arts. Seven years later she is still here. “I absolutely fell in love with everything about Melbourne. The arts scene, the connectedness, the way Melbourne knows itself. An artist can really find themselves in a city like Melbourne. And I found myself.”

Cheetham saw her first opera as a teenager at the Sydney Opera House in 1979 and fell in love. “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’. She studied at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music.

Her adoptive mother, Marjorie, who died in 2000 aged 78, struggled with her daughter’s very public connection with her Aboriginal mother. “She felt it very deeply,” says Cheetham. “In a way she felt I had abandoned her but how could I have done that? If you ask any adoptive mother this is a question they are constantly considering – ‘I raised this child as our own but there’s another mother out there’.”

Her father, Mervyn, who died in 2003 aged 79, was more sanguine. “He could see that he hadn’t lost anything and that the family was as we always were.”

In 2009 Cheetham started the Short Black Opera Company, a national non-profit opera company devoted to the development of indigenous opera singers. Her latest project is TilThe Black Lady Sings, a recital that tells the story of how the opera company came into being. Accompanying her in the recital will be pianist Toni Lalich, who is Cheetham’s partner in life. They met in 2006 soon after Cheetham arrived in Melbourne. “We were sharing an office and I thought ‘This is it’,” recalls Cheetham. “I knew straight away’.”

The couple live in inner Melbourne with one of Cheetham’s three stepchildren from a previous relationship. She is a strong advocate for gay marriage, but she recognises her good luck.

“For a soprano to form a relationship with an accompanist is a very fortunate thing,” she says with a smile.

Thanks! Beach patrol lifesavers step up in the heat

Life Saving Victoria has thanked volunteer lifesaving clubs who put on additional voluntary beach patrols across the state during last week’s heatwave.

In addition to 36 lifeguard services patrolling during the week, a number of clubs across the state, including Altona, Aspendale, Black Rock, Bon Beach, Brighton, Cape Paterson, Chelsea Longbeach, Carrum, Dromana, Edithvale, Elwood, Fairhaven, Frankston, Hampton, Kennett River, Mount Martha, Mordialloc, Point Leo, Portland, Rosebud, Seaford, South Melbourne and Torquay, provided volunteer patrols, which were visited by an estimated 201,648 beach visitors looking to escape the heat.

As part of LSV’s flexible delivery of lifesaving services to meet the needs of the community, the Westpac Marine Rescue Port Melbourne Rigid Inflatable Boat, Metro Rescue Water Craft Lifeguard Services and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Services also provided roving and aerial patrols later in the afternoon and into the evenings as beachgoers stayed well into the evening.

In all, volunteer patrols recorded 541 preventative actions, provided first aid assistance for 54 minor cases and seven major cases and performed 15 rescues.

LSV Director Lifesaving Operations Darren McLeod thanked clubs for their ongoing commitment.

McLeod reminded beachgoers to remain vigilant around water at all times and wherever possible, to swim between the flags.

With the weather expected to warm up over the Australia Day long weekend, it is important to:

– Check the weather conditions, including the swell for the beach you are visiting. Look out for any forecast changes as they can come across quickly

– Read safety signs located at the beach and ensure you understand the local hazards and dangers

– Assess the conditions and your abilities and whether your activities are appropriate for the conditions.

LSV’s Metro Rescue Water Craft (RWC) Lifesaver Services operate in Port Phillip Bay from 12–8pm seven days a week, until Monday, January 27.

For more information and water safety tips  visit

Find your nearest patrolled beach and its current conditions at  or download the app for your smartphone.

Teacher tumble: Drop in postgraduates turning to education courses

The number of postgraduates turning to teaching has dropped more than 10 per cent despite the state government’s publicised commitment to strengthening the profession.

Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) statistics reveal nearly 500 fewer applications for graduate-entry teaching (GET) courses in 2014.

The number of university offers for GET courses also fell by six per cent, VTAC reported.

This year 4378 applications for GET courses in Victoria were received by VTAC, with 3777 offers made on January 13.

In 2013, 4874 applications were submitted, with 3962 offers made.

Melbourne University education expert Professor Stephen Dinham said recent publicity about “the oversupply of primary teachers and subsequent waiting lists” may have played a part in deterring graduates from considering teaching careers.

“There also needs to be far greater scrutiny of the quality and impact of teacher education courses on the quality of graduates,” Professor Dinham said.

Minister for Higher Education Peter Hall put out a media release last Monday spruiking the Coalition’s New Directions policy released late last year, which is “committed to strengthening the teaching profession through a number of reforms”.

“The Victorian Government is now working towards implementing these reforms and looks forward to strengthening the teaching profession and providing students with the highest standard in education,” a spokeswoman for Mr Hall told TWR.

When questioned about whether the drop in graduate-entry teaching applications and offers was of concern, the Minister’s spokeswoman said the data released by VTAC on postgraduate offers only related to offers made through VTAC, and did not account for direct entry applications.

“The numbers are not a true reflection of the overall offers made,” she said.

However, Monday’s press release described VTAC supplementary offers and direct offers as comprising only “a small number of places.”

Professor Dinham was skeptical about the efficacy of the Victorian Government’s education reforms and initiatives.

“Simplistic solutions to the so-called problems of teaching and teachers such as sacking the bottom five percent, paying bonuses, etc, might be popular but haven’t worked anywhere,” he said.