Rosehill Racecourse Riders Take The Storm

Written by: Daria Kurilo

“I’m riding my horse on the track and it’s literally torrential rain. Not only that, there’s lightning and thunder that’s only seconds apart. My horse was on the bit and I had to hold on tight incase the horse spooked and I fell over. Although going against such strong wind, we couldn’t really go very fast. But it was just ridiculous – the fact that they made us ride out in this crazy weather.” – Shane O’Reilly, track rider at Rosehill Racecourse

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A storm is brewing over Rosehill Racecourse on a summer’s day. While these storms a common in Sydney, this one was not as bad as the one that occurred in April.

Trainers at Rosehill Racecourse were warm and dry in the trainer’s stand, where they stood and watched as their riders challenged the storm on Tuesday morning.

Track work riders start work earlier than most, where some are expected to come in at 3.45am according to Shenead Coghill, who works for trainer Lee Curtis. She was one of the lucky ones who did not have to ride out that morning, when the storm was at its peak.

“Lee wasn’t expecting me to ride that morning,” Shenead says. “There isn’t much point training horses in such conditions, it’ll just make them hate the track and not only that, with the lightning it can be very dangerous.”

According to the racing club, Racing NSW, there is a Lightning Safety Procedure which by law you’re supposed to follow. In heavy weather conditions, people at the racecourse must follow the 30/30 rule to determine whether it’s safe to be on the track or not.

“As part of any lightning safety plan, clubs should therefore incorporate a rule which requires all persons to take cover if the flash-to-thunder delay is thirty seconds or less,” states the Lightning Safety Procedure. “The following locations should be avoided: open field/racecourse.”

This relates to the duration between the flash of lightning and clap of thunder, which describes the proximity of a storm cell. The 30 seconds flash-to-thunder time interval suggests that the lightning activity is approximately 10 kilometers away.

“The lightning was definitely less than 10km away,” reports Shenead. “The steward of the racecourse said to close the pool as the lightning was too close, yet they still left the track open.”

Number of lightning strikes recorded during the three day Sydney storm
Number of lightning strikes recorded during the three day Sydney storm according to Bureau of Meterology

Racecourse stewards are officials of the Principal Racing Authority who are authorized to following the Australian Rules of Racing. Failing to do so, specifically failing to comply with health and safety duties, can result in massive fines.

“According to the New South Wales Consolidated Acts, if it’s your average employee who fails to comply then he will be fined of up to $150,000,” reports former lawyer and currently director of iwannaticket, Jonathan Namey.

However according to the same act, if it’s an offence committed by a body corporate such as a racecourse steward, then the fine can be as high as $1.5 million.

“And that’s not taking into account the penalty for not complying with the health and safety of the animals,” says Jonathan Namey.

Rosehill Racecourse was not the only club to continue with their daily routine. Racecourses at Randwick and at Warwick seemed to have done the same. Friends of Shenead who work at Randwick told her that they also had to ride out.

“It [the storm] was probably a lot worse at Randwick than it was here,” says Shenead. “One of my friends who works there was so angry he said that there should be some sort of authoritative figure to represent us, track riders.

“Stewards aren’t really on anybody’s side. But if the horses keep getting ridden, then the money keeps coming in to the racecourse. And if it’s not the storm, then there’s another reason when they put us at risk.”

Several acts under the Safe Work Australia club exist such as the Horse Stables and Track Riding Safety booklet and the Rider Safety Assessment. However these are managed and regulated by the stewards. No track rider authoritative figure has existed in the past and currently there is no governing body, apart from the Racing NSW board, that exists.

Racing stewards oversee horseracing events to ensure all rules and regulations are followed by the participants of the race. Their focus is to assure that there is equality in the training of the horse rather than establish a safe and fair environment for the employees. While there was no risk for the workers who rode out on the day of the storm, they and the horses were still put at risk and in danger. The steward who authorised the track to be open broke the rules and regulations of different acts and policies as listed in this article.

Tell us your view on this in the comments section down below. 

The storm

Flash floods, record-breaking rainfall, hail and severe thunderstorms.

These were all the factors of the “storm of the century” that took place April 21. What resulted in substantial damage to bridges and buildings and tragically, loss of life, this is one of the worst storms that NSW has seen in 18 years. The Bureau of Meteorology had to issue a severe weather warning advising Sydneysiders to delay unnecessary travel and avoid travelling during peak times. A number of businesses closed down either due to power cuts or simply for the sake of staying home, where they would be safe.

Below is a video of a time lapse of the storm in Randwick. It is clearly visible that there is flooding, and would not be surprising if there was flooding at the racecourse as well.

Facts and Figures

The storm was declared as a natural disaster by the state government, which also promised financial assistance to the worst hit areas. Some areas are still being cleaned-up today. 

  • Over 200,000 homes had no power
  • Over 100 rescues have been issued
  • Over $160 million in damage
  • Overall rainfall in Sydney was 255mm
  • Up to 135km/h of wind gust
  • Record-breaking wave at 9 metres

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Sydney graffiti: celebrating the artworks in Inner West suburbs

Last month, it was reported that the State had spent about $34 million removing graffiti in 2014. The massive number shows that graffiti is still perceived as significant problem in Australia, even greater in New South Wales.

The New South Wales government official website clearly mentions that graffiti (vandalism) is a “crime” with the concern of “protecting the community.” For the government, graffiti is considered “illegal and an offence” under the Graffiti Control Act (2008) and the NSW Crimes Act 1900.

According to New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research 2014, Sydney was surprisingly at the second place with the highest number of recorded graffiti incidents in 2013. They found 461 incidents at the city with Lake Macquaire at the top position and Hornsby at the least.

In response to the incidents of graffiti, the City of Sydney has established a graffiti management policy “to minimise incidents on both public and private property by prompt removal.” It arranges regular inspection of “hotspots” every day and “aims to remove any new graffiti they find within 24 hours.”

From the facts above, it seems that graffiti is granted no special place in Sydney’s public spaces. The government’s zero tolerance approach makes graffiti to be perceived as something to avoid, to against with or exactly, to report to officials. It places graffiti in a debatable position, especially where artistic aspect enters the public discussion.

However, if we wander around Sydney’s Inner West suburbs like Newtown, Enmore, and St Peters, we will eventually understand why this debate occurs. You will see many kinds of graffiti and murals spread out along King Street, particularly on the side walls of the store building. Some are perfectly maintained and positioned; some are just “harassed” by the intense and messy spray inks.

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Yes, it is what differentiates the suburbs from other areas in Sydney. The Newtown Precinct website embraces the street art by including it as something to explore in Newtown. It suggests readers to “walk down King Street and feast your eyes on mandalas, oversized people, birds with hats and plenty of owls.”

The word ‘feast’ seems to connote enjoyable experience that we can get by seeing graffiti, murals and other forms of street art in the bohemian part of Sydney. Not as something distracting, unlawful, or dangerous. The statement even ends with “If you have a blank wall, there is a perfect piece of street art for you.” So, does it mean that there is a possibility of optimistic approach on perceiving graffiti?

Tugomir Balog, the owner and founder of May Lane Street Art Project, is one of the Sydneysiders who joins the conversation.

“Well, I think it [graffiti] cheers up people going to work in the morning. It’s nice to have a bit of color rather than just gray walls. I think it could… it does booze sort of spirit. You got that kick in the morning, just something dynamic,” he said.

Mr Balog, who runs a mounting, framing and laminating service business, initiated the May Lane Street Art project fifteen years ago. In 2005, he officially started the project at St Peters and set it as an outdoor gallery space. It consists of five panels hung on the window alongside the building of his office.

Tugomir Balog or 'Tugi Balog' in front of an artwork by artist KDC Mofor Space Monkey for May Lane Street Art Project. Photo by Felkiza Vinanda Marwoto. Taken on 14/5/2015.
Tugomir Balog or ‘Tugi Balog’ in front of an artwork by artist KDC Mofor Space Monkey for May Lane Street Art Project. Photo: Felkiza Vinanda Marwoto

He established a website of his project and invited several artists “to use the entire space as their canvas, or to focus on the panels which are then kept each month as part of a larger documentation project.”

“Demand was there. The people were painting in the Lane and I just want to give them more permanent space,” he explained why he created the project.


(A documentary about May Lane Street Art Project. Created by Trazlen Video and Film Production. Source: YouTube)

According to an article published by CNN four years ago, May Lane Street Art Project was considered as one of the ‘legal’ walls for street art in Sydney. For that reason, the project has attracted a number of media coverage.

However, Mr Balog said he closed the project because “it’s not working anymore.”

“Because demography of neighbours changed. All these yuppies came in… younger people with the… no idea… they came from regional Australia, they want their peace and quiet on the weekend. And this area [St Peters] is not fringe, city fringe anymore. It’s actually… you know, cities. So, dynamic is talking different,” said the man who is currently negotiating with Marrickville City Council to restart the project.

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The creation of May Lane Street Art Project reminds us that graffiti and other forms of street art has certain relationship with people who dwell in the area. Besides it acts as “mood-booster” for the bystanders, graffiti also shows the dynamic of environment and how it influences individual’s experience of place.

Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, a design researcher from Swinburne University of Technology and creator of Sydney Graffiti Archive, said,

“I think everyone’s understanding of the environment and the spaces that they experience whether they’re walking to work or whether they live there, whether they’re tourist is quite different. We have a different perspective. …So, my work is about challenging how people understand and experience place. They may see graffiti and got ‘Oh, that’s awful. That’s vandalism’ and yes it is. But, what if we thought about it differently and what if we try to understand what people were trying to communicate? And it may change their experience of that place and what that graffiti does.”

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Instead of being seen as “cultural damage”, Dr Vandenhoek pointed out that graffiti can be used to bring back a viewer’s “memories and experiences” of place. Her approach on seeing graffiti as “artefact” or “something in the past” may provide a practical solution to the problem of constant graffiti removals in Sydney.

In fact, graffiti can actually add vibrancy to a place especially the Inner West suburbs, where it is much more celebrated and embraced as a cultural practice.

Opal Card: a Nice Reformation, but the potential Loophole of NSW Public Transport.

"I'm using Opal card almost every day, but I'm worried about it."

Since the Opal electronic ticketing system was established in New South Wales from last March, more than 2,000,000 Opal Cards has been applied in Australia. Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian indicated the roll out of Opal card is “phenomenal”. However, this $1.2 billion investment ticketing system is denounced because of its deficiencies of software and the accompanying influences.

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 (Trian station entrance with Opal electronic ticketing system. Photography by Yepin Hu, 28th April,2015.)

The population of the NSW is approximately 7.4 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics). The 2 million Opal cards holders take a high proportion as Opal card has quickly become the NSW travellers’ basic necessities and travel passes. Passengers could tap on / off on the Opal devices with Opal cards to get the access of public transportations. At the same time, the paper tickets were gradually replaced by Opal.

“I really like Opal card, I think we should had it a long time ago. I used use paper ticket before but it always very inconvenient because only can buy weekly or monthly for the concession one. I love Opal card cause it’s easier and saving time.” Isabella Lau, a local student of Sydney Uni, said.

Is Opal card really that practical and really so welcome?

And it seems that Opal card is popular, but not 100% satisfied. Isabella Lau continued talking:“I think it will be good that they sale the Opal cards in train station cause right now you could book them online but it still take a while. They could make it cheaper, maybe more benefits.”

Opal electronic ticketing system is a great reformation in NSW, but it currently not a perfect transport system. With the process of operating, more shortcomings of Opal system have revealed.

Weifeng Chen is an overseas student from China and currently residing in Burwood, Sydney, she told me: “Rails and buses are the main means of my daily transport. I use Opal card almost every day. But the Opal card contains my personal information, and I heard that the Australian government can investigate passengers’ daily travel movements from the Opal company, that makes me feel no sense of security, as if being monitored.”

“Also, I have twice experienced that Opal card system overcharged my transportation costs, which makes me feel annoying and worried as well. You know, my bank card is bundling with Opal. ”

Yes, the story that Chen mentioned is not only happened on her. Moreover, according to the 9 -News TV Channel reported, that from August to October in 2014, Opal users are overcharged 1,205,556 times, that the fare value totaled over 6 million Australian dollars with malfunctioned.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 12.30.31 AM

(Source: from 9 News. com.au )

Now the signs of Opal card can be seen in many places including rail, bus, ferry and light rail. The Australian Government made a great contribution to Opal system with encouraging citizens to use it. This phenomenon seems to tell the Australian residents that the paper ticket era has passed.

Opal card is really a significant reform of NSW traffic and very effectively combine more than one paper tickets into a multi-purpose magcard. People love it, but hate it may because of its principles. Like when talking about Opal card could save money, Andrea Ho, a student from Canada, spoke of her complaints, “I’m an international student, there is no student discount for me. It is slightly unfair. Opal card is a great system, I just wish international students are able to apply for the concession card.”

For students in the New South Wales, public vehicles are the main transportation of their daily travel. Once this group of people is perplexed by the Opal card system that would be an issue in Australia, which need to be noticed.

What is more, not only passengers but also staffs who work for the transport department were plagued with the establishment of Opal card system.

Excepting the passengers, the transport department staffs also meet new challenges. Puja Arora is a Customer Services Attendant in Burwood train station and I interviewed her. She said: “The Opal electronic system reduced my workload, that is good. But many of my co-workers are gone. They lost their jobs because of Opal card, especially the salesmen worked in the paper ticket windows. Now they have already gone. No sales, no jobs. People now buy paper tickets from the machines.” Then she pointed to one of the ticket windows.

It is true,the ticket booth windows are been tightly closed.

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(The Paper ticket windows have been closed. Photography by Yepin Hu, 30th May, 2015. Burwood, Sydney)

With the Opal smart cards are promoted for working at all Sydney rail stations, Sydney Trains is cutting the number of sales staff at stations (SHM). As a result,dozens of sales positions have been removed.

For passengers, Opal card to facilitate travellers save transportation fee and time, but because of the immaturity and imperfect of its infrastructure, the users are not fully appreciated on the system; for rail station staffs, they are under the pressure of job cut.

Are these matters showing the potential loopholes of Opal electronic ticketing system? Whether the relevant departments need to consider about these issues and to improve Opal card system or just maintaining the present status? Is that if there has no large outbreaks of serious incidents, these sort of small problems of Opal card system could be ignored?

However,as Isabella Lau recommended, “Octopus card in Hong Kong is a good example, at least I can buy a card directly at stations.”

So, should we imitate the Hong Kong’s Octopus card mode as a sort of solution?

All in all, the New South Wales passengers are affecting by the Opal card system in their daily trips during the one-year period from Opal card been launched. Opal card actually brings convenient to the NSW passengers, but brings some confusion at the same time. Hopefully, if the relevant departments to consider these potential problems and try to solve them, Opal card system could be improved as a better reformation in transportation industry.

Perhaps we need to seek for a relatively balance for Australian sustainable development from here.

To Serve International Students

INT-STU

According to the ABS, Australia hosted 589,860 international students in 2014.

Ballpark calculations show that we, as a country, could generate up to 15,000 tons of edible international student meat per year.That’s more than 100 million dollars, being conservative 1.

Eating our international students, then, could be a huge revenue stream for Aussies.

number-internetional-students-in-sydney

Data shows that international students have higher chances to suffer a violent crime. They’re three times more likely to live in overcrowded dwellings than domestic students, they pay up to six times more university fees 2 and twice more for public transport.

When one comes to Australia as an international student is required to pay for mandatory medical checks,  medical insurance and a student VISA. They have limits to how much they can work, they often have worse jobs and tend to pay more in required training and certification -RSA, RCG, white card, green card, etc.- to access them.

Additionally they’re more vulnerable to cheap labour and exploitation. If you’re unlucky you can end up being paid under $8 an hour.

international-conditions-australia

It may seem they’re being sucked out the narrow, all but literally. If we’re just looking for profit we’re doing great, aren’t we?

The next logical step toward benefit would be, as the government probably is already contemplating, to literally eat them. This is the kind of proactive, out of the box approach that we desperately need to thrive in an increasingly competitive global environment. A modest proposal, if you like.

Then why we’re not already enjoying yummy postgrad dumplings  and uploading the pictures on Instagram? Some argue it could derive into an economic hindrance. I’ll explain why it won’t.

It turns out international students may be stubborn at times. In 2009 they protested in Sydney and Melbourne claiming equal rights. Or specifically, the right to access concession transportation cards, which usually grant a 50 percent discount in public transport fares. At the time Victoria and NSW were the only two states where only Australian residents could access this assistance

Victoria reacted, eventually. NSW didn’t.

NSW launched the new Opal Card in 2014, and the subsequent concession Opal Card this February. Only domestic students can access it.

Best case scenario: you can pay $8,4 a week for unlimited travel. That’s around $436 for travelling every week of the year if you’re good using your Opal. When I reached out Transport NSW for a word on alternatives for international students, they urged them to buy the 365-day ticket. That’s $1,600 per year. If international students don’t start rioting because of that, eating them probably won’t make it either.

According to Transport NSW, international students weren’t a priority long before Opal Card, so it isn’t to blame for the situation.

“It’s long-standing government policy that Australians and recipients of those scholarships [Endeavour, Australia Awards] have access to concession fares. That existed before Opal.”

Transport NSW representative

In fact, other institutions followed the trend. Public pools are being asked to request for the concession sticker of international students to grant them student discounts. If you happen to be an international student, no sticker for you.

University of Sydney student Xue Chen was recently asked for a concession sticker to access to student fees in the North Sydney Pool . She claims she felt “confused” and “depressed”.

My point is: NSW can make students feel completely miserable and it’ll still maintain the title of the state with the highest number of international students. International students will put up with whatever we throw at them.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if international students generated $15,7bn and 151,800 fixed term jobs in 20143. It doesn’t matter if they’re a magnet for tourism, fundamental for research and development and to address skill shortages, or if they have a crucial role maintaining our education system and foreign relations.

It doesn’t matter because eating international students would generate $100m and would unlikely have a negative effect in their visits. It may not seem like a big deal, but from a strict revenue rationale, $15.8bn is better than $15.7bn.

benefit-international-students-australia

Still, there’s a small chance on this decision being counter-productive in the long term if international students return to their old habits. On the other hand, judging the precedents, it seems highly unlikely: our whole policy-making process is based in the assumption that no matter how hard you screw international students, they’ll keep coming in figures.

So far it has worked just fine. Eating them, then, is more a continuation of current policies rather than its abrupt revision.

However, even in the event of international students abandoned their passive stand. Even if they protested and stopped at the perspective of being eaten;  even then, with the economic loss it would imply, it could be for good.

Some Australians have been pointing out the annoying nature of international students. Let the discussions regarding the concession Opal Card serve as example.

Some of the comments are made in a powerful but unarticulated way we should understand: “If you have such a problem why not go to Uni in your own country and then you can get your student bus price lol (sic)”. Or “The choice is for international students to come to study in Australia. Its (sic) not as if anyone has sugarcoated the cost that you are potentially paying to make the travel”.

The evident hostility towards international students may be the best proof of their negative effect in our country and culture. It’s a visceral reaction against something foil that is indubitably there, but that escapes a definition. They may contribute with an impressive amount of money, hard work and endurance. Even the claims of international students lowering the bar of our education may have been proven to be untrue.

jobs-international-students

 

Nevertheless we still recognise we don´t like them. They’re change, they’re the other. They’re the end of Australia as we know it.

And yes, cultures mutate, evolve and perish as a natural process: the ruins of ancient Greece fertilised modern western civilisation. Rome succumbed to brutality. Pre-Columbian empires are forever gone. Even Australia has transitioned from totally different stages in recent decades.

Nonetheless, one cannot but wonder if Australian culture in 2015 is not the epitome of human spirit and deserves to be preserved, forever immutable, to be a symbol of the marvels achievable by mankind. It probably does.

1 Calculations made with 25kg of meat per student on average and a market price of $9/kg.

2 Percentages of domestic student and international student fee contribution available here. Calculations done with percentage of international tertiary students and total fee contribution to higher education.

3 Jobs per international student in 2009 data provided by the ATN. Data extrapolated using international student numbers from 2014.

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