Bit of a storm last night, but good TV…

The storm brought a bit of hail to The Bates Motel.

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On TV I enjoyed One Plus One on ABC News 24.

Brendan Cowell is an actor, director and writer who knew he always wanted to perform in front of a crowd. He’s keen to push the boundaries in his art, dealing with raw subjects such as anger, violence and suicide. He spoke to Jane Hutcheon.

That last link is to another interview in yesterday’s Saturday Paper – which does seem to be having distribution problems as it hasn’t appeared in our West Wollongong newsagency this time. A shame: this also looks good: Marcia Langton, Keeping Andrew Bolt in business.

A good segue that to the wonderful Cathy Wilcox in today’s Sun-Herald.

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Back to Brendan Cowell. I really must check Wollongong Library for How It Feels.

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Sutherland Hospital August 16th, 1976 and named after the great Irish poet, IRA man and alcoholic Brendan Behan. I have gone on to achieve two of my namesakes achievements. Raised in nearby Caringbah. Schooled at the De La Salle College Caringbah and then De La Salle Cronulla for Years 10-12.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to play cricket for Australia. But I didn’t quite have the commitment, and, perhaps, the talent with the bat. At eighteen I wanted to be a journalist, but that quickly turned in to writing plays and such. And at thirty I wanted to be a novelist, and here I am, allegedly…

My latest (and only) novel How It Feels tells the story of a dreamy young guy called Neil Cronk and his journey through young life. We meet him at 18 and we follow him over ten years. Neil has two very intense male friendships, and a girlfriend he is madly in love with. To realise his full creative potential, Neil separates himself from the clan, and The Shire, which brings about much strain, an act of betrayal, and inevitably, deep tragedy.How It Feels is about the beauty and the ugliness of growing up in a beach side suburb, about the terrifying nature of being young, and about the people who will always see right through to who we are, older children. (Click here to read Booktopia BUZZ editor-in-chief, Toni Whitmont’s review)…

In the One Plus One interview Brendan Cowell mentions that when he was growing up The Shire had among the highest young male suicide rates in Australia – something I had not heard before. Perhaps I should have, as the VERY Honourable and much missed previous member for Cook, Bruce Baird, had raised it in Parliament in June 2002.

In the lead-up to the 1998 election campaign I went to Woolooware railway station at 6.30 in the morning. Just before I arrived a 19-year-old youth threw himself in front of a train and was killed. As a result of that incident I talked to a number of people in the electorate who expressed to me that this incident was by no means a unique one. Quite a number of other suicides had occurred amongst young people in my electorate. In fact it was mentioned to me on more than one occasion that the Sutherland Shire had one of the highest rates of youth suicide in Australia.

One of the commitments I made during that first election campaign was that upon becoming a member I would bring together a number of interested parties with a view to forming a community based organisation to look at various local approaches to combat the problem. The commitment resulted in the formation of the Sutherland Shire Suicide Safety Network, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to provide the federal parliament with an update on how this organisation has progressed in subsequent years. Perhaps other members could draw upon the experience we have had in the Sutherland Shire if they are attempting to address these same issues in their own communities. Since its inception, the organisation has been admirably chaired by Paul Malliate, who brings a wealth of experience from the corporate sector to the organisation. The energy and enthusiasm that he has brought to the role have played a large part in ensuring that the network developed from a series of meetings of concerned representatives to the effective, proactive organisation that it is today….

But see also Brendan Maclean (2012), a musician and radio presenter, the consummate party crasher “Klipspringer” in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Yes, there are finer details, but youth suicide isn’t nearly as clear cut: it’s grey, murky, hard to hear about, and often only spoken about after it’s too late. 

I grew up in the Sutherland Shire – you may have heard of it. It’s home to a famous beachfront disturbance circa 2005 and “dramatic characters” who recently thrust themselves onto our TV screens.

It’s also the place this ballet-dancing, glitter-hurling, friend-of-Dorothy writer grew up.

The Shire smashed my windows, turned my school bag inside out, and when I held the hand of the first guy who “like liked” me, it hurled a fistful of cement at my head.

It’s suburbs like this that can offer insight into why certain young people come to believe that the best option is to end it all; that in their moment of unliftable loneliness, a son or daughter becomes convinced that, because of the love welling up inside them, it is better to die then to hope for a happy future.

In a meeting with Wear It Purple, a group supporting rainbow youth, students spoke about the Catch 22 of getting localised help. To seek or create a support network, teens were put in situations that would expose their sexuality, and despite the “come out, come out, wherever you are” attitude often portrayed to us, this is not always a safe option.

Isolation, discrimination and awkwardness with teachers or doctors, combined with regular growing pains all teenagers face, take an additional toll on the young person still coming to grips with why they like the “wrong” gender.

On the brighter side, there are some incredible programs working to combat this. Minus18 recently held a partly crowd-funded formal so that any student could frock up to take that special someone for an evening their own school may not have allowed. Sadly, programs often fail to reach regional areas, or require young people to travel long distances for one night of personal relief.

Kids can be cruel, but we cannot wholly pin youth suicide on the bigotry of misinformed school bullies. As political leaders come to grips with the bigger picture like same-sex marriage and the horrid state of civil rights in developing nations, perhaps we must begin to rethink the smaller ones in smaller towns with smaller voices…

Finally, these two could be headed “Well, they WOULD say that!” or “Are you at all surprised by any of this?”

1. The Abbott government was consulted and strongly backed the decision of the Papua New Guinea government to shut down a human rights inquiry into the Manus Island detention centre, Fairfax Media has been told.

2. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister has pre-empted decisions on the status of asylum seekers held on Manus Island, saying “a good majority” of those interviewed are not genuine refugees.

Peter O’Neill has also made plain that PNG will resettle only some of those whose refugee claims are recognised, insisting other countries in the region should “carry the same burden as we do”.

But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, visiting PNG, could not nominate a single country that has indicated it will take refugees from Manus…