A group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-government organisations has launched a round of community consultations across the country in the hope of addressing the over-representation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care.

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Organisers say the consultations will raise awareness that children should only be removed from their families as a last resort.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show Indigenous children are almost eight times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than other Australian children.

 

It’s that over-representation, as well as a rapid increase in the numbers over the past decade, that has prompted the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to organise national consultations.

 

The first meeting was held in Darwin and among the attendees were the Northern Territory Minister for Children and Families, John Elferink, and NT Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath.

 

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) organised the community consultation, one of a number to take place in each state and territory over the next 6-12 months.

 

Chief executive Frank Hytten says that time will be spent in developing state and territory-based plans to reduce the statistics.

 

“We’ve created a national program called Families Matter, Faith in Culture Not Care. This meeting was meant to be the first of one in every jurisdiction and probably more than that,” Mr Hitten says.

“What’s significant I suppose is that we’re starting with the NT where the problems are perhaps the most apparent, and communities are the most damaged by history and by what is going on now, with children still being removed in greater rates, I’m told, than in the Stolen Generations.”

He says there are many reasons why the rates of Indigenous childen in out-of-home care are higher today.

“Something like 35 percent of children removed, are removed for neglect. But neglect can be seen as a cultural issue,” Mr Hitten explains.

“I don’t mean cultural with a capital C. It just means things like kids playing barefoot or kids sleeping on the floor; those reasons are, I understand, why people are being taken away. It wouldn’t have been (the case) 20 years ago. That would have been seen as the way people lived.

“And abject poverty is probably the single biggest issue that creates a lot of this. Going to school is becoming more and more significant as a requirement from non-Aboriginal society. If education is about issues that don’t impact on Aboriginal society then kids don’t go to school.”

 

Margaret Furber is a Stolen Generations member and a board member for NT child protection group, Safety.

 

She knows well the impact of being removed from one’s family.

“[There’s] Loss of culture, loss of identity, and when you come out of care you have to go looking around for your family,” she says.

“I was old enough and lucky enough to still stay in Alice Springs and still allowed [to be] with my family. And I was able to connect back with them. But my brother and sisters didn’t.”

 

She says culture and family connection is central to preventing the cycle of disadvantage amongst Aboriginal Australians.

“That’s part of it that makes them feel whole again. It’s very hard (for) children who are taken away and don’t have anything. Then they come back to Aboriginal culture and then they finally feel relief and [feel] comfortable in saying: yea’h, I’m back where I belong’.”

 

Patricia Kurnith formerly worked for the Territory government for 26 years in the health department and eight years in child protection.

 

She says there are circumstances where children do need to be removed, for their own safety.

 

But she says she seen too many cases of children being removed unnecessarily.

 

“There were two children who were in hospital between [the ages of] 1 and 2. They were being fed by PEG [ Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy] – that means [they were fed with] liquid to gain their weight because they had feeding problems when they were born.

“Now when those children were taken into care, the mother was devastated. She tried so hard to do everything right.

“What happens is back home in the community – whatever happened, we don’t know the right story – the feeds were missed. So the children lost weight, [and] ended up in hospital. But if we were to support that mother back here in Darwin with accommodation and someone providing that care – and it doesn’t have to be all day, it just has to be someone checking for those feeds – then she would have got the children to the age where they don’t need the PEG eeding any more.”

 

She says a fresh approach is needed  involving businesses, community groups and governments to get a significant reduction in the numbers.

 

“I hope we can look at ways of being flexible, ways of working in with families and children and maybe saying to the families out there if you need support, get it before it comes to this point.

“And then maybe [we can get] those high statistics that are there for our children in care, get it down to a level, you know? It happens because it happens everywhere in the world. But it shouldn’t be this high here [in Australia].”

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Sachin Tendulkar made a tearful but self-effacing farewell as his glittering 24-year cricket career came to an end on Saturday at his home ground of Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

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Tendulkar embraced teammates as the Test against the West Indies ended, but as they tried to give him a guard of honour on his way off the ground, the most prolific batsman in international cricket history rushed past them, quickly making his way into the pavilion wiping away tears.

But he could not avoid the outpouring of emotions as he came back to the field for an awards ceremony and went on to give a passionate speech in which he thanked everyone who helped him over his long career, holding a list of names to ensure he did not miss anyone.

“All my friends, settle down and we’ll talk or else I’ll get more and more emotional,” he said to calm the enthusiastic crowd.

“My life’s been between 22 yards for 24 years and it’s hard to believe that such a wonderful journey is coming to an end.”

Tendulkar then went on to thank his parents, relatives and friends who had helped him grow over the years but made special mention of wife Anjali, elder brother Ajit and coach Ramakant Achrekar for their support.

He called his marriage to Anjali the “best partnership of his life”, thanked Ajit for “living the dream together with him” and coach Achrekar for “taking him around town on his two-wheeler” to play matches in his early years.

Tendulkar, whose entire adult life has been spent in an intense spotlight as an icon to India’s fanatical fans, said he would now spend more private time with his 16-year-old daughter Sara and 14-year-old son Arjun, who was also a ball boy for this match and plays for the Mumbai junior team.

He also thanked his senior cricketers, doctors, sports officials and the media before moving his attention to the crowd.

“Time has flown by very quickly, but the memories will remain with me forever, especially the ‘Sachin, Sachin’,” he said, prompting the crowd let out the chant once more.

Tendulkar, waving the Indian flag, was then taken around the ground by teammates on their shoulders in similar fashion to the victory lap after the 2011 World Cup victory at the same venue.

After a lap of the ground, he went out to the pitch alone, bent down to touch it with his right hand and then touched his eyes and forehead in a traditional Indian sign of reverence before moving back to the pavilion.

Earlier, Tendulkar bowled two overs of legspin on the final day of his career amid roaring applause on the third day of the second Test against the West Indies, which he declared last month would be his last game.

Tendulkar, who has already retired from limited overs internationals, had earlier in the game struck a neat 74 with 12 fours which comprised several of his trademark shots like the straight drive, cover drive and paddle-sweep.

That proved to be his last innings, as India wrapped up a comfortable win by an innings and 126 runs.

Tendulkar’s wife Anjali was among those watching the “Little Master” in action.

“It’s been an emotional one month for us starting from the day he announced his retirement,” Anjali told the channel beaming the match live.

“Sachin is very good at hiding his emotions so we don’t really know what’s going on in his mind.”

Anjali said the retirement had not been planned for long.

Global cricketing greats Brian Lara and Shane Warne flew in to join Indian politicians, corporate leaders and Bollywood stars at Wankhede for the final chapter of a career that has featured 15,921 runs in 200 Tests and 18,426 runs in 463 one-day internationals.

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Substantial food and medical aid has finally begun reaching desperate survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, but humanitarian groups warn of huge logistical challenges in accessing devastated, remote island communities.

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The unprecedented ferocity of the November 8 storm and the scale of destruction had overwhelmed the initial relief effort, leaving millions in the worst-hit central islands of Leyte and Samar hurt, homeless and hungry, with no power or water.

Related: Haiyan claims second Aussie

Eight days later, a working aid pipeline is in place, funnelling emergency supplies to those left destitute in the ruins of Leyte’s Tacloban city, while helicopters flying off the aircraft carrier USS George Washington brought some relief to outlying areas.

UN agencies on Saturday said more than 170,000 people had received rice rations or food packets, while the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said they would have mobile surgical units in Tacloban by the end of the weekend.

“The place really needs to be saturated with relief,” Red Cross Asia-Pacific spokesman Patrick Fuller said in Tacloban.

“People literally have nothing. Money is useless here,” he said.

The US military said it had delivered 118 tonnes of food, water and shelter items, and airlifted almost 2900 people to safety.

But relief officials described conditions in the sports stadium in Tacloban that served as the main evacuation centre as appalling, with a lack of proper sanitation.

Often children and the elderly were unable to get to relief distribution points in the city.

“I have money … but I cannot eat my money,” said Beatrice Bisquera, 91, a retired school supervisor.

“I need medicine but there is no pharmacy that’s open. I’m hungry but the food we stored is gone,” she said.

In its most recent update, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the official death toll at 3633, with 1179 people missing and nearly 12,500 injured.

The UN said 2.5 million people still “urgently” required food assistance.

With an estimated 13 million people affected by the storm, almost 1.9 million survivors are displaced.

The World Health Organisation is worried about the welfare of remote communities on 20 smaller islands. “Because of the geography of the Philippines – an archipelago of many islands – it is essentially like mounting at least seven separate, simultaneous relief efforts,” said Julie Hall, the WHO’s representative in the Philippines.

Frustrated with the slow pace of the initial relief effort, many people with relatives in the impacted areas made their own aid efforts.

Filling boxes and sacks with packets of rice, cup noodles and candles, they boarded ferries from Cebu island to Ormoc town on Leyte.

“That’s my village,” Nick Cantuja said, pointing from the ferry as it approached the coast.

“Our house is gone now. Everything… it’s gone.

“Yesterday, a Red Cross team was able to reach there but it’s not enough,” he said.

Basic medical care remains a priority, with initial assessments that half of the 38 medical facilities in the impacted region wiped out.

Yet some residents of remote areas appear to have been better prepared for Haiyan than those in larger towns and cities.

The tiny Camotes islands, between Cebu and off Leyte, took a direct hit that flattened most villages, but of a population of 89,400 there were five confirmed fatalities.

Alfredo Arquillano, the former mayor of the islands’ largest town, San Francisco, said Camotes residents had been practising typhoon drills for years.

“We knew we were vulnerable, so we made absolutely sure that everybody knew what to do and where to go,” Arquillano told AFP by phone.

All 1000 residents of one of the chain’s tiniest islets, Tulang Diyot, were evacuated to a larger island before Haiyan made landfall.

“My goodness, it was a good decision. It’s fair to say it saved everyone’s life. There is not one house left standing on Tulang Diyot,” Arquillano said.

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The punishment has been imposed by the world governing body over the circumstances surrounding Bresciano’s transfer from United Arab Emirates side Al Nasr to Qatar Stars League outfit Al Gharafa last year.

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Bresciano, 33, is a near certain inclusion in Australia’s squad for the World Cup in Brazil and while it was not immediately clear when any ban would start, it has cast doubt on his participation at football’s showpiece.

Bresciano is in Socceroos camp ahead of Tuesday’s international against Costa Rica with Football Federation Australia confirming that he will be available for the Allianz Stadium encounter.

“We will do all we can to assist Marco Bresciano and his representatives in having the judgement swiftly overturned and set aside,” an FFA spokesperson told News Limited.

“The advice from FIFA is that the suspension doesn’t apply to Tuesday night’s match against Costa Rica. Marco is available for selection and will continue his preparations with the squad.”

FFA officials were not immediately available for further comment.

FIFA granted Al Nasr the right to compensation for Bresciano and also decreed that Al Gharafa would be forbidden from signing any players for 12 months, with the Qatari club announcing it would appeal the ruling.

“This is not a unique case, there are many precedents, we as a club are not a part of this case,” a statement from Al Gharafa Club General Secretary Jassim Al Manosuri read on the club’s website.

“As the player ended his contract with his former club before joining us, our next step will be filing an appeal to the court of arbitration for sport”.

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Indiana improved their perfect start to the NBA season to 9-0 by cruising past Milwaukee 104-77 on Friday, with Roy Hibbert having 24 points and eight blocks.

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The Pacers became the first team since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks to open a season 9-0.

Indiana have already beaten all four of their Central Division foes.

Among other games, LeBron James led Miami past Dallas, Joe Johnson shone in the key moments as Brooklyn beat Phoenix in overtime, and Chicago beat Toronto for their first road win of the season.

Indiana’s Hibbert had plenty of help. Paul George scored 10 of his 22 points in the third quarter and Lance Stephenson finished with 11 points.

The Bucks, who were missing four injured players, were led by O.J. Mayo’s 20 points but they never looked likely to avoid a fourth-straight loss.

Miami’s LeBron James scored 39 points and Dwyane Wade had 17 points, eight assists and a career-best eight steals as the Heat beat Dallas 110-104.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points to lead Dallas, who turned the ball over 24 times.

Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson tied the game in regulation, trapped a loose ball in overtime and then dropped in a basket as time expired to give the Nets a 100-98 win over Phoenix.

Meanwhile, San Antonio’s Tony Parker scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to guide the Spurs to a 91-82 win over Utah, extending their winning streak to seven games.

Australian Patrick Mills played 10 minutes for the Spurs and scored four points.

Chicago overcame the absence of the injured Derrick Rose to beat Toronto 96-80.

Luol Deng had 19 points and Joakim Noah scored 18 for the Bulls, who have won three straight.

Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and added 12 rebounds to lead the TrailBlazers to a 109 win over the Celtics; their first victory in Boston since 2004.

Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 16 points as the Bobcats used a strong fourth quarter to win 86-80 at Cleveland.

Kyrie Irving, wearing a mask to protect a nasal fracture, had 18 points and 10 assists for Cleveland, who lost for the first time in four games at home.

Memphis’ Zack Randolph scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Lakers 89-86.

Denver’s Wilson Chandler scored 19 points, including a big 3-pointer and three free throws late in the game, as the Nuggets held off Minnesota 117-113 for their third straight win.

Detroit’s Josh Smith had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, as the Pistons snapped a four-game skid by beating Sacramento.

Atlanta’s Jeff Teague had a career-high 33 points and 10 assists as the Hawks beat Philadelphia 113-103.

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Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party has split, in the latest blow for the scandal-tainted billionaire ex-premier, who may be voted out of parliament at the end of the month.

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Following late-night talks, Berlusconi’s former right-hand man Angelino Alfano announced he would not remain at the side of his onetime mentor and would form his own party.

“I am here to make a choice that I never thought I would make – not to join Forza Italia,” Alfano said late on Friday, referring to Berlusconi’s project of relaunching his People of Freedom (PDL) party under the name it carried when he first entered parliament in 1994.

Alfano announced he was forming a new group called The New Centre Right, which media reports on Saturday estimated would lure away about a third of PDL’s deputies in the parliament and the Senate.

The 43-year-old Alfano said he made the decision because “these past few weeks have shown to what extent extreme forces have prevailed within our movement”.

Berlusconi’s party has been in turmoil ever since the former premier tried to bring down the government by pulling his ministers out of the cabinet at the end of September, and was forced into a humiliating back-down when the ministers refused to heed his orders.

The 77-year-old flamboyant tycoon on November 27 will face another humiliation – the prospect of being stripped of his parliament seat when the Senate votes whether to eject him under a law banning convicted criminals from the chamber.

The move comes after the Italy’s supreme court on August 1 turned down his final appeal in a tax fraud case, handing Berlusconi his first-ever definitive conviction in a long history of legal woes. Berlusconi has asked to serve his 12-month sentence as community service.

Ejection from the Senate would mean Berlusconi being out of parliament for the first time since 1994, when the media and construction magnate first burst onto Italy’s political scene.

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Terminally ill patients in NSW will not be granted a legal exemption to use cannabis to ease pain, with the state government rejecting the proposal.

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Last November the NSW government established a parliamentary inquiry into the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The bipartisan committee recommended AIDS and terminally ill patients be allowed to possess and use up to 15 grams of dry cannabis.

The committee also recommended a register of authorised cannabis patients to protect medicinal users against prosecution.

However the NSW government has knocked back the proposal.

The government believes the potency and safety of the products, which includes cannabis in plant, resin or liquid form, cannot be guaranteed.

Advocacy group Cancer Voices Australia, which urged the committee to recommend legalising medicinal cannabis, said the response was disappointing.

“Some cancer patients at the end of their life are suffering a lot of pain and this is taking an avenue of pain relief away from them now,” chair Kathy Smith told AAP.

“I don’t imagine it will be taken very quietly, either.”

But in a concession, the NSW government will write to the federal health minister to support more patients gaining access to approved cannabis pharmacotherapies.

Ms Smith, a breast cancer survivor with arthritis, says it is a small positive but appears to be the NSW government passing the buck.

The government also stated in its response to the committee there was a risk of illegal diversion of medically authorised cannabis to recreational users.

But Greens MP John Kaye, who was on the committee, said that was “cannabis hysteria at its worse”.

“It’s absurd to argue that someone dying of cancer should be denied access to a little bit of pain relief because it’s the same substance some people use illegally,” Mr Kaye said.

Pain Australia chief executive officer Lesley Brydon said while the government’s decision would affect a small number of people, they would be “bitterly disappointed”.

“It will only affect a small number of people but these people are people we should care about and we should be doing everything we possible can,” she told AAP.

“They were hopeful we were seeing a more enlightened approach.”

Ms Brydon said Pain Australia was not advocating for people to grow and self-administer their own medicinal cannabis.

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British doctors and nurses who neglect their patients could be jailed under government proposals announced in the wake of a scandal at a hospital where hundreds died after receiving appalling care.

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Wilful neglect of patients is set to be made a criminal offence under reforms being introduced in the wake of the scandal at Stafford Hospital in central England, where up to 1200 people died as a result of poor care between 2005 and 2009.

A three-year public inquiry heard horrifying examples of abuse and neglect, including patients left starving and soiled in their beds, or so thirsty they drank water from vases.

Prime Minister David Cameron said health workers who mistreated and abused patients would face “the full force of the law” in a package of reforms to be unveiled next week.

The new offence will be modelled on the wilful neglect of adults under Britain’s Mental Capacity Act, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The health ministry is set to hold a public consultation on appropriate sentencing for the new offence.

Cameron said Britain was “full of brilliant doctors, nurses and other health workers who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones”.

“But Mid-Staffordshire hospital showed that sometimes the standard of care is not good enough.”

He added: “Never again will we allow substandard care, cruelty or neglect to go unnoticed and unpunished.”

But the British Medical Association said medics could be less likely to speak out against their colleagues if they thought it could lead to them going to jail.

“They don’t need this new climate of fear,” Andrew Collier, co-chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, told BBC television.

“What they need to do is learn from their mistakes and develop their practice.”

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Former US president Jimmy Carter has arrived in Kathmandu to observe crucial elections in Nepal seen as vital to the Himalayan kingdom’s stability.

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Carter, 89, will lead a team of 50 election observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center, who will monitor Tuesday’s vote, only the second such polls since a 10-year civil war launched by Maoist rebels ended in 2006.

“Carter will meet top leaders of different political parties before he starts election observations,” Ghanashyam Ojha, political analyst at the Carter Center, told AFP on Saturday.

Carter’s NGO monitored Nepal’s landmark 2008 constituent assembly polls, which ended royal rule and transformed the country into a secular republic.

Since then, political infighting has confounded efforts to draft a constitution and conclude the peace process, leading to the collapse of Nepal’s first constituent assembly in May 2012.

A hardline faction of the Maoist party that swept the 2008 polls has threatened to disrupt the November 19 constituent assembly elections, with anti-poll protesters torching buses and hurling explosives at vehicles this week.

The 33-party alliance headed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) says elections cannot be carried out under the interim administration headed by the chief justice of the supreme court.

They want the polls to be postponed until a cross-party government is put in place.

Carter, a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, met with the hardliners during a visit to Nepal last April and asked them to renounce violence in the run-up to the polls.

In a statement late on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the hardliners to allow the vote to take place “in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation”.

“The secretary general appeals to all stakeholders to conclude these elections peacefully, and to redouble their efforts in the urgent task of constitution-making”, the statement said.

More than 100 parties, including three major ones – the Unified Marxist-Leninist, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists – are fielding candidates for the 601-seat constituent assembly, which will also serve as a parliament.

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Tokyo is sending almost 1200 troops to join relief efforts in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines along with three warships, 10 planes and six helicopters.

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The aid deployment will be the single largest by Japan’s military.

About 1170 members of the nation’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) will provide medical support and quarantine services, and transport relief goods, the ministry said in a statement posted on Friday.

Ten or so others will be based in Manila to coordinate relief operations with the Philippines and other countries.

The aircraft include seven C-130H transport planes, two KC-767 tanker planes and one U-4 multi-purpose support plane.

Japan initially dispatched 50 SDF members on Tuesday to assist in medical support and transport operations and said on Wednesday it was readying as many as 1000 troops to go to the Philippines.

It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte since the island turned into one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II, when US forces counter-invaded in 1944.

Many of the reinforcements were scheduled to leave Japan on Monday and arrive in the Philippines around Friday.

The 1180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief operation team ever sent abroad by Japan’s defence forces.

The previous record number was 925 sent in January 2005 to Sumatra after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami.

Previous overseas missions by the SDF, which adheres to the country’s post-war pacifist constitution, have usually numbered in the hundreds.

They included UN peace-keeping missions in Cambodia and East Timor as well as logistical activities in Iraq and naval refuelling operations in the Indian Ocean to back the US military in Afghanistan.

In June this year, about 1000 members from Japan’s land, sea and air defence forces took part in joint amphibious landing exercises with US forces in the US state of California.

The drills were widely seen as aimed at coping with China’s naval expansion while Tokyo was locked in a simmering row over a group of Japan-controlled Senkaku islands which Beijing also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

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