Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lynn Allison

Lynn Allison was next on my list of people to research. I now have no idea who she is or why I put her on the list. I suppose when I read about her, something will ring a bell.

Okay, Lord Wiki says she's part of the Australian Democrats. He says she was their last federal parliamentary leader. I don't quite understand what that means. Do they not have a leader anymore?

Well, Lord Wiki seems to be saying they no longer have seats in the Parliament. I didn't realize until now how bad things were for them. I mean I knew things were bad, but not that bad.


Allison was born in Melbourne on October 21, 1946. She has the same astrology sign and numerology sign as Meg Lees. Libra and 6. Is she a romantic family woman? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Another thing Allison has in common with Lees is Lord Wiki doesn't talk much about her childhood. He skips that altogether, and just says she was educated at the University of Melbourne.

At one point, she was a secondary teacher. I just looked up what secondary school is because I wasn't exactly sure about that. I'm getting that it's the school kids go to during their teen years.

She's an atheist. I was thinking that America would never allow an atheist to have any big role in government, but it turns out we do. I'm actually impressed with my country for a change. We have an Atheist, a Muslim, and two Buddhists. Wow!

Allison was elected into the senate in 1996.

She was deputy leader from 2002-2004. Then the leader Andrew Bartlett resigned, and the job went to her. When she became leader, the party had the lowest public opinion about themselves ever. I guess this was because of all the Meg Lees/ Natasha Stott Despoja conflicts. I think it's hard to have faith in a party or organization when there's so much infighting.

Lord Wiki talks about various issues she was involved with.

She worked to have the use of cluster munitions banned in Australia. Bob Brown was into this too.

It seems the bill hasn't passed yet though. I could be reading things wrong, though.

She got the abortion pill legalized. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I don't know enough. I'm definitely pro-choice, but is the pill safe and better than other types of abortions?

Lord Wiki has a lot of information. I skimmed through it. Medical stuff like that messes with my head. I never know who to believe.

Can Vaccines really cause Autism, or are unfortunate families just desperate to find something to blame?

Are artificial sweeteners really evil, or are crunchy granola people trying to needlessly scare us?

Is an abortion pill really dangerous, or are pro-life people exaggerating the issue to push their cause?

The government tells us one thing. It's safe! Studies have proven it. The opposing groups say the opposite. I don't completely trust the opposing groups. The problem is I also don't trust the government.

I don't know who to believe.

The past year or so I've made high fructose corn syrup my sworn enemy. Now they're citing studies that show it's no worse than sugar. Should I believe it?

What I notice in the arguments is problems on both sides.

A) the government/medical side keeps changing their views. One day you read a certain herb has no effect on our immunity. A year or so later you read that it actually does help. You can't really trust any study because a year or so later an opposite study will prove the last study wrong.

B) The alternative/crunchy people never seem to back down from their argument--no matter what the evidence. It seems to me they have their minds made up and no matter what the studies show, they won't budge. This is at least the feeling that I get.

All these opposing viewpoints make me confused.

In the 2007, it seems the Democrats got together with the Greens--kind of banded together to make sure the progressive side had a voice in politics. I'm guessing what happened is they decided instead of competing against each other, they should work together. That's a good idea.

Lynn Allison is looked upon fondly by various causes and organizations, including some feminists, asylum seekers, and public broadcasting folks.

Well, I'm going to exit Lord Wiki now and find more treasures.

This editorial written by Allison comes down hard on Rudd and some of his ideas. She feels some of his campaign promises were ill-conceived. An example is his idea of having laptops in every classroom. Allison says that will be too expensive and wasteful. Computers won't solve everything.

She pushes Rudd to put forth more effort into the climate change what's needed to save our future instead of what's best for the economy right now.

I like Allison's concluding sentence. She says, Until June 30, 2008 the Democrats won't be holding Labor to its promises; we'll be trying to inject some sense into policy that will otherwise be a waste of money and effort.

What happened on June 30? Maybe that's when Allison's term was up? Okay. Yes. I just checked back. I thought that's what I had read from Lord Wiki.

This other article in the ABC says Allison wanted to protect woman heading towards Abortion clinics from zealous protesters. Security guards say that protesters follow the woman down the street. She wanted the protesters banned from the entrance of the building. That might be a good idea.

Here's an article that explains more about the Greens/Democrats alliance. The plan was to work together so that neither of the two major political parties dominate. What's that saying? Together we stand. Divided we fall. Or what does Jack from Lost Say? Live Together. Die Alone?

I feel I'm just jumping from article to article here. Oh well. Sorry.

This article from 2007 says she wanted the government to pay for the majority of childcare with the parents paying only 10%. That sounds good to me. Although I think a better idea might be to have government sponsored childcare where parents pay a percentage of their income. The more money you have the more you pay. That's called a sliding scale...right? I don't know. Maybe my idea is no better.

Here Lynn criticizes the Australian citizenship test. I loved taking the test and did well on it, but now she's definitely causing me to rethink my viewpoint of the test. She says it dwells on trivial aspects of Australia. That's not so bad, but she points out that it emphasis white male culture.  It fails to give equal attention to women and Indigenous Australians.

I may be blinded by my obsessive love for Australia, but I do think people who want to become citizens should pass a basic test on Australia knowledge. I think it's sad to want to become a citizen of a country and know nothing about it. However, I don't think the questions on the test should be so difficult and obscure that even people born in Australia can't pass the test.

I think the test should be easy enough that people could learn the information with a few good hours of study.

A few days before her term was up in June, Allison won an award.  She was chosen to be the Australian Humanist of the Year. This came from an organization called The International Humanist and Ethical Union. She was given the award for her work to make sure that there's a separation of church and state in Australia. Some of this work included opposing religious instruction in school and opposing Howard's funding of school chaplains.

I learned from my Sydney friend that schools in Australia have religion classes for children. I'm not sure if this is for all schools or just some. ???? I did read that recently schools in Victoria will now be offering the option for kids to take humanist classes. That's so awesome.

In the United States, our government schools (public) are not supposed to offer any religious instruction. This is not always followed though. I had a high school biology using bones to try to teach creationism; and I had a psychology teacher who tried to convince us to convert to Christianity. I remember him saying we should believe, because if we're wrong, we're screwed. If he's wrong, it's no big loss. I totally agree with him. If the Christians are right and the atheists are wrong, the atheists are totally screwed. If the atheists are right and the Christians are wrong, they won't even be conscious to realize it. But is that a reason to believe in something--out of fear of being wrong? And I'd never want to follow a god who punishes people for believing the wrong thing. An all loving and all forgiving god would be just that; one who loves everyone no matter what. He would never send people to hell just because they didn't worship or believe in him. Only an egomaniac would do that.

Oh....I'm going off on a tangent here.

When do I not do that?

For you Australians, what has your experience been with schools? Did you have to take religious classes? What about your children? Did you feel there were good enough options for children who are not Christian? Did you enjoy the classes? Resent them?

Personally though, when it comes to religion I feel instead of outlawing it from schools and government, I think it should be presented in a multicultural form. And it needs to be done in a fair way. I think it's wrong to ban the Bible from the classroom because it's "religion," and that's not allowed but then teach Greek "Mythology". How about having a class where a variety of religious stories are shared without one being labeled as truth and another being labeled as mythology.  For people who believe their belief system is the one and only right one, I guess this would be very hard to imagine and accept.


  1. Religious education is part of the curriculum for all schools. In most public schools it takes the form of Catholic, non-Catholic Christian (all lumped together), and non-scripture. This year (his first year) I sent my son to the non-Catholic scripture, on the basis that our society is heavily based on Christianity, so he should know about it and he definitely ain't gonna learn it at home. However, after a year of undoing an hour's worth of loony-ism a week, I am abandoning that plan. Next year he'll be in non-scripture.

    Religion should absolutely be taught - as a humanity. Comparative religion and the roles religion has played in our lives are an essential knowledge base for functioning sensibly in this world. Unfortunately, we have allowed it to be taught as a form of indoctrination instead of a form of education, and we allow only one to be taught (which one depends on where you live and which school you go to). It's like teaching Roman Mythology as fact.

    Sorry, this is something I feel quite strongly about. If we don't start teaching understanding about all religion, we are never going to get ourselves out of the mess we are in now.

  2. Religion classes in NSW schools are called Scripture class. I never minded having scripture as a kid, it was a bit of a bludge and occasionally boring but I grew up going to church so there was no conflict there for me.

    When my oldest kid started school I hadn't quite completely moved away from the church and didn't give a second thought to whether or not he (and subsequently, my other 2 as well) should go to scripture. In recent years I've been offering them the choice of remaining enrolled in scripture or going to non-scripture but they haven't wanted to change. I'm pretty sure the non-scripture kids just go to the library and read for the duration. I started out thinking that it wouldn't hurt for them to learn about a faith that underlies so much of our cultural heritage but more and more I'm feeling I'd prefer to be in control of how they do that learning. Especially when I find myself having arguments with my 7 year old about the mythical vs. literal nature of the Genesis stories.

    The existence of scripture classes has its roots in the history of public education, you can read a bit about the beginnings of the NSW system here. I suspect there are similar stories behind the arrangements in other states.

  3. Hi Dina,
    I would classify myself as and athesist but have no problem with religion. I went to a public school for primary and high school and we had to do religious studies once a week, and i grew up a Catholic but hated it. I remember at school you were either classified as Catholic or Church of England and if you were any other religion you did non-scripture where you just read a book or done homework but i think it might be different depending on the school you go to and the area you live. By the time i was in high school my parents let me choose if i wanted to do reglious studies or not, and of course i choose not to.

  4. Ariane: What is nonscripture like? Is that more like comparative religion? I agree that there's a difference between indoctrination and education. I also agree that Christianity plays a big enough role in our society that children should be educated about it. I've taught Jack basic ideas about Christianity. I'm sure I'll teach him more as he gets older.

    You don't have to apologize for feeling strongly about something or for talking about it!

    Mim: I think it's challenging to counteract what kids learn in school or from others. It's easier to brainwash kids with your own beliefs when you homeschool them.
    ; )

    I do tell Jack that he doesn't have to share my beliefs and that one day he might have different beliefs. For now though, he seems to follow my point of view. I'm sure that will change one day. One day, someone might convince him that there is a God. He might even become convinced that Jesus is god.

    We do talk about how people have different beliefs.

    I hope I'll have tolerance for any beliefs he ends up having that don't coincide with mine.

  5. Ariane and Mim: Wait. I think Mim answered the question I asked Ariane. So, is non-scripture not an actual class? It sounds like it's a study period/free time.

    Matt: Did you feel left out when you didn't do the scripture classes? Were you ever teased or bothered in any way? Were there enough students opting out of the classes so you weren't alone?

    In America, we have the whole debate about prayer in school. I'm actually not up to date on where we are with that. But I think there was some argument that non-Christian students could just walk out if it made them uncomfortable. But I think you have to be brave to feel comfortable enough to do that--especially if the class is one in which non-Christians are a minority.

    At least though...the option is given. In terms of other stuff (such as animal dissection) I'm not sure if they make it easy enough to opt out. At least, it wasn't easy when I was in school. I wasn't a vegetarian, or into animal rights, at the time though. My biggest complaint was probably that it was too gross. I wonder if they make it easier for students to opt out these days.

  6. Not at all, i don't think it was ever really an issue for me, but i do remember that when i went to primary school in Queensland that you only had scripture (Church of England) or non scripture and we had a girl in our class who was Jewish and she got teased because she was the only one who did non-scripture and didn't do any of the christmas or easter activities in class. In high school I would say that out of a year of about 150 students about 30 were non-scripture.
    I think as long as it is given as an option and not compulsory i have no problem with religion in schools.
    Although i do remember once having an agrument with my scripture teacher once about the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception and how it cannot happen, after that i think she thought i was a devil child or something, so maybe it depends on who is teaching the scripture classes as well.

  7. Matt,

    I think it would be hard to be that Jewish girl, and it might be hard for some when their teacher seems to think they're the devil's child. But I guess it does build character!

  8. About that citizenship test: I've been seeing all these complaints from people who think it's too hard and too tough on non-English speakers.

    The complainants are the usual whingers-about-anything. The test isn't hard - it's a joke! In its current form it should be dropped because it's pathetically silly; a combination of questions which are too easy to be believed or trivial and irrelevant. The best example is the rubbish about Don Bradman. I'm an Australian who doesn't give a damn about cricket and I can't see any connection between the duties of a citizen and knowing about sports history. There should be a proper course in basic English and Australian civics at the end of which people sit a sensible examination. The Howard government, which imposed the test, also cut funding for teaching immigrants English. Kevin Rudd could at least do the country a favour by dropping the current quiz and improving English language tuition for the prospective new citrizens.

  9. Hi Dina
    I went to a Catholic school from years 9 - 12, but I had a horror time in primary school with religion.
    I had a mad scientist looking guy with bushy white eyebrows and yellow teeth tell me I'd burn in hell for eternity. Nice.
    In later years a nun read my palm - of all things - and told me I'd die middle aged. Great huh???
    My son has scripture classes at his public school, but next year he's thinking of moving over to the Ba Hai group - they have better parties!
    Fyi, I almost got a job working as a press secretary with Lynn Alison!
    PS - 32 degrees, sunny, dry and beautiful in Perth today :-)

  10. Dina, you have made fascinating choices for profiles from Arthur Phillip to Lynn Allison. Most Australians wouldn't know half of them (a point Retarius made, I think).

    The Democrats are part of history now: a centre party that was pushed to the left as the major parties assumed the middle ground.

  11. Retarius: I agree with you about the class. That's sad that Howard cut funding for English classes. That makes no sense! I do think people who move to a new country should learn the language. I mean if I moved to Italy for a year, I'm not sure I'd become fluent in Italian. I might just learn a few words for fun and be like a long-term tourist. But if I was going to move permanently to a country, I hope I'd learn the language. Otherwise, I think it would really isolate you.

    Cookster: That's awesome that your son's school offers a Bahai class. Do they offer other stuff as well?

    A nun who reads palms. Now that's very different!

    Enjoy your nice weather. We're having a warm day tomorrow.....

    Michael: Do you think they can ever come back, or are they gone forever?

  12. The Democrats still exist. We are not in parliament, but we stand at every election we can. We didnt really move left so much as the others came our way especially labor. But they still dont get economics, scientific and future thinking, planning 20 to 50 years into the future, providing opportunity and fair practices for small business and being people centric, so the voting Australians are put first, not large business, nor multinational, nor religeous groups nor vested interests like mining companies or media companies. For the Australian Democrats to come back to parliament with their sensible policies, you have to believe, by that I mean you have to vote for Austrlian Democrats candidates and above the line the party itself. If we dont get the voters support we cannot get back into parliament. Its up to you and the other Australian voters.