What was I up to in September 2011?

Selected posts from Neil’s Final Decade.

Incidentally, Minto terror attack accused Ihsas Khan sat the HSC at an excellent state high school in 2011, achieving three Band 6 passes. What on earth went wrong afterwards? See also Communication breakdown feared over Ihsas Khan police reports and Minto terror attack: Friends say accused Ihsas Khan lived deeply ‘isolated life’.

Now back to my posts from 2011…

Snapshot of a nation losing its faith

Posted on September 27, 2011 by Neil

That’s the lead feature in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.  It is reporting the findings of the latest Scanlon Foundation social cohesion survey. Details may be found on a Monash University site.

Even though I took on board the idea in last night’s Q&A that we do tend to exaggerate, or over-react to, the parlous state of Australian politics, I still find much in this latest survey report tickles my schadenfreude.

WE ARE growing distrustful and gloomy; we doubt government does the right thing by the Australian people; most of us don’t trust one another; and though we are generally optimistic about our futures, there has been a sharp rise in the number of us who fear being worse off in two or three years’ time.

This unhappy picture emerges from the fourth survey of social cohesion conducted for the Scanlon Foundation by Andrew Markus of Monash University. He blames the conduct of politics. “What goes on in Canberra doesn’t stay in Canberra. That style of politics is having ramifications in the outside community. People are being told the government is so stupid they can’t even solve the simplest problems.”

The problem that looms largest in the survey is the political controversy over boat people, which Professor Markus argues has had a “direct negative impact” on social cohesion. “It is an issue that fuels disillusionment with government and heightens division within the population.”

The surveys, funded by the businessman Peter Scanlon, focus on the impact of immigration on Australian society. Here the report card for this year is by no means all gloom. Though almost all of us think migrant numbers are rising when they are actually falling, most also think the intake is “about right” or “too low”. The fear of a big Australia seems to be dissipating.

Read more: David Marr’s report.

Consider these:





The last two confirm my suspicion that Lib/Nat voters have mental and emotional difficulties and really should be pitied. But then I wore my teeth out by grinding them so often during the Howard years…

At the same time my cynicism – or should that just be disillusionment – knows no bounds. And I don’t look to the Greens with any joy either, ersatz parsons that they are…

Billy Joel sang me long ago:

Give a moment or two to the angry young man,
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand.
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood,
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good.
And he sits in a room with a lock on the door,
With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

I believe I’ve passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight.
I once believed in causes too,
I had my pointless point of view,
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right. OHHHHHHHH

And there’s always a place for the angry young man,
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand.
And he’s never been able to learn from mistakes,
So he can’t understand why his heart always breaks.
And his honor is pure and his courage as well,
And he’s fair and he’s true and he’s boring as hell-
And he’ll go to the grave as an angry old man.

Talent, talent, talent

Posted on September 23, 2011 by Neil

First off, Wollongong may never be the same again.

Teen singing sensation and Australia’s Got Talent winner and Jack Vidgen will perform in Wollongong on Saturday.

The 14-year-old became a household name almost overnight when he took out the TV contest in May, picking up $250,000 for his efforts.

Billed as the next Justin Bieber, he attracts hordes of young – mostly female – fans wherever he performs and dozens are likely to be present when he performs his debut single Yes I Am in the amphitheatre at 1pm.

Following his performance, the young star will sign autographs at JB Hi-Fi in Wollongong Central from 2pm…


Meantime last Sunday I watched Mrs Carey’s Concert. Did you? It was and is absorbing, wonderful. smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[3]smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[9]

In summary, to borrow from Margaret and David:

This magnificent documentary begins with a teenage girl, Doretta Balkizas, waiting for her cue to play a violin solo at Sydney’s Opera House. This young girl’s emotion-filled face is the starting point for a film about the work that goes into the staging of an annual concert by students at Sydney’s MLC School under the supervision of Mrs. Carey. As preparations for the 2009 concert take place, much of Mrs. Carey’s attention is focused on Emily Sun, who was born in Australia to Chinese parents who suffered under the Cultural Revolution, and who is to be the soloist for the year. In contrast there is Iris Shi, who leads a group of girls who can’t see the point of the concert and who present a discipline problem for the staff.

This astonishing fly-on-the-wall documentary from Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond is a tribute to teachers and pupils alike. The amazing amount of work that goes into the bi-annual MLC Opera House concert is even more astonishing when you remember that these teenage girls have their regular school studies as well. Everyone’s expected to take part, but the dedicated and talented young musicians have to work extremely hard and overcome misgivings and other difficulties, egged on by their dedicated teachers. Connolly and Raymond obviously had total access, which makes for a rounded and very satisfying film that is both hugely entertaining and incredibly inspirational.

I found the “bad girl” Iris Shi quite fascinating – super-intelligent, and amazing strength of character.


But at the end she is despite herself caught by the occasion. And what a brilliant occasion it is! I am just humbled by the quality of teaching to be seen in this doco, and by the talented students. Read Brenda Chew’s review.  Everyone, just everyone, should see this movie!

It isn’t just in private girls’ schools that such fantastic teachers can be found. He will hate this, but to judge from the small sample of his work I have now seen on Facebook Thomas is going to be – already is – one such, and better for sure than I was at that stage in my career!


This is a capture from Thomas’s Facebook video – heavily treated by me for ethical and privacy reasons. But you get the idea – except you can’t hear what he is saying to his Year 12 class! And that is what was so good!

There’s always something to see, isn’t there?

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Neil




Here I am at the Cronulla High 50th!

Posted on September 20, 2011 by Neil


And a couple more from a really great album on Facebook.


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And in another school not too far away and a couple of days later, my grand-niece Lauren is in Year 12 muck-up mode! Can’t believe it! At the weekend I was talking to people who had sat the very first HSCs  from 1967 to 1969 – and I taught them!…

Pause and reflect

Posted on September 10, 2011 by Neil