The Guardian 2024-04-27 10:01:43


Violence against women rallies: thousands attend protests as Mark Dreyfus rules out royal commission

More rallies to be held across the country on Sunday with attorney general claiming state and federal governments need to cooperate on plan of action

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Thousands of people have rallied in Sydney calling for an end to violence against women amid growing anger at the number of those being killed in violent attacks across the country.

No More: National rallies against gender based violence were held in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide on Saturday, with more due to be held across the country on Sunday, calling for greater action, including calls for a royal commission, to address the epidemic of women killed in violent attacks.

It comes as the federal attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, rejected the idea of holding a royal commission into domestic violence, saying that it should be dealt with via cooperation between the federal government working with state and territory governments.

“I think we’ve actually identified a whole range of actions already that need to be taken, and I think what we probably can say is that we need to be working harder on the kinds of actions that have already been identified,” he said.

“And I think what we probably can say is that we need to be working harder on the kinds of actions that have already been identified.”

The Sydney crowd chanted and sang as they marched from Belmore Park to Hyde Park in Sydney’s CBD, before speakers demanded policy and cultural change to address the violence.

Organised by advocacy group What Were You Wearing (WWYW), the rally was attended by people young and old, many holding signs calling for an end to violence, and greater accountability.

Twenty-six women have been violently killed in the first 114 days of the year, according to data compiled by advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project Counting Dead Women.

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is due to attend the rally in Canberra, with the minister for women, Katy Gallagher.

In a statement posted to X, Albanese said a woman had been killed every four days so far this year.

Protesters said they were “horrified” and “outraged” by the growing violence, with figures from the Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women and Femicide Watch’s Red Heart Campaign showing that an average of one woman is murdered in domestic violence incidents every four days across the country. Last year, that figure was one woman a week.

“I’m here today because I am horrified at the continued number of deaths and serious assaults against women in this country,” said Siobhan Ferguson, one of the protesters at the rally on Saturday.

“Not enough is being done, in my opinion, to change people’s mindset and to change legislation.”

But Ferguson said she felt heartened by the turnout, that stretched through the city and closed multiple major streets.

“I get the sense there are a broad range of feelings but I’d say people are disappointed and angry, predominantly, and wanting action.”

“They want to see things moving, they’re trying to raise awareness,” she said.

The writer Emmy Hee said she had attended because she was “incensed” by the violence women have been facing.

“We’re just incensed by the loss of life, and by the beautiful women who’ve had their lives cut short, and if ever there was a time to come together, it’s now.”

She added: “I think we can build from here, I can feel the momentum.”

Hee said she did not feel it was just anger that defined the rally, but a sense of grief and solidarity.

“We feel angry but we also feel the pain. And we want to see cultural change, not just empty words. We need action on every level.”

The business owner Helen Cooper said she was attending to support the women affected by domestic violence across the country.

“Solidarity is an important part of today, we aren’t just hear to march, we are here to be together in this time.

“We have definitely seen a spike in violence against women this year, we can all feel it, and not enough is being done.”

Cooper said the turnout made her feel “supported” and hoped all the attenders felt similarly.

“Especially for the people attending alone like me, this makes me feel like I am not alone, like I am supported by everyone here.

“Things are changing, but slowly,” she added.

Speaking at a press conference in Ipswich, Queensland on Saturday morning, Dreyfus added that the rallies organised over the weekend reflected the huge level of community distress about the number of women who are dying in violent incidents.

“We have in this country an epidemic of male violence and we all need to step up. We need to do more about it. What these rallies are about are reflecting that level of community distress.

“I’m going to keep saying it: men need to step up. Men need to talk to their sons, to their brothers, to their colleagues at work and try to work together. It cannot be left to women to do something about this,” he said.

Here are where the rallies will take place on Sunday:

  • Melbourne: State Library at 10am

  • Perth: Parliament House at 1pm

  • Brisbane: King George Square at 11am

  • Canberra: Commonwealth Park at 2pm

  • Bendigo: Rosalind Park at 11am

  • Geelong: Market Square Mall at 11am

  • Coffs Harbour: Jetty foreshore at 11am

  • Sunshine Coast: Foundation Park at 11am

  • Gold Coast: Broadwater Parklands at 11am

  • Orange: Robertson Park at 2.30pm

  • Cobram: Federation Park at 11am

  • Wagga Wagga: Victory Memorial Gardens at 11am

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 988 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org

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We won’t stop violence against women with conversations about respect. This is not working. We need to get real

Jess Hill

Victims and their families are at their wits’ end. We owe it to them to throw everything at this national crisis

It’s happening again.

Another run of alleged domestic violence homicides has horrified the nation, and the media is again searching for answers.

The specific cases remain subject to ongoing investigation. Speaking generally, when the questions turn to prevention, the answers from politicians and prevention agencies are almost uniform:

“We need to have better conversations with our boys about respect.”

“We need men to step up.”

“We need to change harmful gender norms and attitudes so that we can stop this violence before it starts.”

“Everyone has a role to play in ending gendered violence.”

Hearing these messages I’m struck by a nauseating sense of cognitive dissonance. In one breath we are facing a national crisis, and in the next our solution is to call out “disrespect” and challenge harmful gender norms.

But these aren’t just stock answers or platitudes. They articulate our national prevention strategy, which focuses on changing the underlying social drivers of gendered violence by addressing harmful attitudes.

The problem with this strategy is that it outsources its results to future generations. Even the major prevention agencies driving this work say we can’t expect to see results anytime soon. Indeed, in the most recent national community attitudes survey, there had been no improvement in attitudes towards domestic violence since 2017.

We’re not getting this right. When it comes to prevention, we owe more to victims and their families – past, present and future.

For the past five years, I’ve toured across Australia speaking on coercive control at hundreds of events for communities, frontline workers, health workers, magistrates, police and lawyers. I’ve listened to the fears and frustrations of thousands of victim-survivors and frontline workers in places such as Darwin, Wagga, Shepparton and Hobart. The frontline workers consistently say that sexual violence and coercive control cases are becoming more complex and severe. They are clear about the connections between harmful, unregulated industries like mainstream porn and gambling, and they are desperate for more resources to work with children.

Victim-survivors are at their wits’ end. They’re trying to restart their lives, find housing and help their kids heal from the trauma inflicted by the perpetrator, even as he continues to torment, stalk and dominate them though systems such as child support and the family law courts. They wonder how on earth they can prevent their kids becoming victims or perpetrators themselves. But what can they do? Support for child survivors is inadequate, especially in regional areas.

They need us to do better at prevention. They need us to throw everything we’ve got at it.

Over the past year, I have worked with Prof Michael Salter on a white paper called Rethinking Primary Prevention. In it we argue that prevention (or “primary prevention”, as it’s officially known) cannot and should not be limited to whole-of-population strategies. We simply cannot rely on a prevention strategy that is not expected to show results for decades.

Instead, we recommend that state and federal government prioritise innovative, results-based prevention strategies that will be accountable for reducing violence over the short, medium and long term.

In our white paper, we identify four missing pieces of the prevention puzzle.

1. Accountability and consequences – for perpetrators and systems that enable them – is prevention

We need to stop violent and controlling people from continuing to use violence and coercive control against their current partner, their next partner and their next partner. There is a lot to do to make police and the courts protective for victim-survivors. But accountability and consequences are not solely the domain of the justice system; in many cases, other consequences will be more meaningful and effective. For example, when the major banks detect persistent financially abusive behaviour, they are now suspending, cancelling or denying the offender access to their account. There are so many opportunities to introduce accountability and consequences across the systems weaponised by perpetrators, from child support to Centrelink and the family courts. Abusers should be identified by these systems and face consequences, instead of being allowed to carry on with impunity.

2. Recovery is prevention

Child abuse and neglect – including growing up with coercive control, being physically or sexually abused and being shamed or neglected by parents – are accelerants to adult victimisation and perpetration. The work done on preventing child abuse, preventing violence against women, and healing from trauma and abuse all needs to be linked. We need to properly resource the frontline to work with child survivors so they can properly heal.

3. Regulating damaging industries (including porn, gambling, alcohol and social media) is prevention

We all have a role to play in ending gendered violence, but those roles and responsibilities are not equal. For example, 14-year-old boys do not have the same responsibility for ending gendered violence as, say, the owners of TikTok or PornHub. We know young people feel that pornography is normalising sexual practices that girls and women describe as painful or unpleasant, and mainstreaming dangerous practices such as non-fatal strangulation.

The sexual violence sector is seeing this in their caseloads: services often say victims are getting younger and showing up with more severe injuries. We should not be afraid of regulating these industries, and the federal government should advance the eSafety commissioner’s strong recommendation to set age verification limits for online porn.

In our current prevention approach, the private sector is predominantly engaged in terms of education and training to create safe and respectful workplaces. That’s important, but there is no mention of business models that are actually causing or exacerbating gendered violence. We need to get serious about the impact of certain industries – particularly gambling and alcohol – on the severity and impact of perpetration. Even if we don’t consider problem gambling or alcohol to be the cause of family violence or coercive control and simply see them as exacerbating factors, isn’t it incumbent on us to tackle exacerbating factors, especially those that lead to more severe physical injuries? Our leaders say they want men to step up. Let’s see them take on these vested interests and show the country what “stepping up” really looks like.

4. Structural improvements to gender equality, such as the single parenting payment, is prevention

About 60% of single mothers have escaped domestic abuse. Even after they leave a controlling partner, our systems make it almost impossible for them to be safe. We need to reform our systems – from family law to child support and child protection – to vouchsafe their freedom, safety and independence.

Education and efforts to change social attitudes is also prevention. We should properly fund the excellent school programs teaching students about consent and respectful relationships. But we should also acknowledge that this work has long-term change in its sights.

Perhaps the Albanese government’s commitment to ending violence against women and children in a single generation is unrealistic and unattainable.

But I say let’s take this government at its word. Let’s see them match their stated ambition with world-leading actions to stop perpetrators in their tracks.

In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org.

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As regional Australia reels from several women’s deaths, advocates seek both policing and prevention

Half of the 26 women who have been killed so far this year have been in regional parts of the country, highlighting a need for more resourcing outside metropolitan areas

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In regional Australia, a series of tragic deaths has rippled across a group of close-knit communities.

During the course of the past week, the death of Molly Ticehurst, a 28-year-old childcare worker in the New South Wales town of Forbes, sparked outrage just a day before the body of Emma Bates, 49, was found in Cobram, Victoria.

The mayor of Forbes, Phyllis Miller, says Ticehurst was loved by many and that her death had left many families and the children she cared for reeling.

“Molly was a very beautiful young woman and very highly regarded in our community,” Miller says.

“The whole system has let her down badly.”

This year, 26 women in Australia have been killed – a rate of one death every four days – according to data compiled by advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project Counting Dead Women.

Of those, half occurred in regional parts of Australia, highlighting the vulnerabilities faced by women experiencing violence outside metropolitan areas.

Across Australia, frontline services, domestic violence advocates and police officers are demanding investment in violence prevention and a crackdown on law enforcement.

The NSW government also has ordered a review of the bail laws following Ticehurst’s death, over which her ex-partner Daniel Billing has been charged with murder. The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, has backed this review as an urgent priority, but she acknowledged that more needed to be done to stop domestic violence happening in the first place.

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This weekend, thousands are preparing to take to the streets in 17 rallies across the nation calling for greater action on a growing epidemic of women killed in violent attacks.

In Ballarat, Victoria’s third-largest regional city, the rally on Friday marked the second time in a month residents had marched the city’s streets demanding an end to the killing of women.

An earlier protest came a week after the body of Hannah McGuire, from the nearby town of Clunes, was found dead in a burnt-out car in a state forest, and within 48 hours of police launching a new and unsuccessful search for the body of Samantha Murphy, allegedly murdered on 4 February after leaving her family home to go for a run.

Ballarat has also been rocked by the death of 42-year-old Rebecca Young, who was killed in a suspected murder-suicide by her partner, in the small suburb of Sebastopol.

Wendy Sturgess, the chief executive of non-profit community service organisation Child & Family Services Ballarat, says the interconnected nature of regional and remote communities can add additional barriers.

“We hear about women in remote settings, who lived for years with family violence because they don’t have access to means of transport to leave, they don’t have access to legal services and the perpetrator can often be a mate of everybody’s,” she tells Guardian Australia.

Elise Phillips, the deputy chief executive of Domestic Violence NSW, says resourcing in regional and rural areas is a major issue. In particular, the lack of housing and crisis accommodation.

“Women are having to choose between being homeless or between continuing to experience abuse,” she says.

Phillips points out that the Victorian government spends more than all of the other states and territories combined on DVF services. The NSW government spends less than half of what Victoria does, despite supporting a larger population.

“This means that frontline services on the ground are struggling to meet demand and frontline workers are faced with having to turn vulnerable women and children away,” says Phillips.

Meanwhile, women in rural areas across Australia are 24 times more likely to end up in hospital due to domestic violence issues, she says.

“We’ve made it very clear to [the premier, Chris Minns that] changing the bail laws alone is not going to get the job done,” Phillips says.

Antoinette Braybrook, the chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal-community controlled family violence prevention and legal service Djirra, also says data on the number of murdered and missing First Nations women is poor.

“The most recent national data suggests that Aboriginal women are 33 times more likely to be hospitalised and 11 times more likely to die from a violent assault than other women. But rarely are our stories covered or seen as newsworthy,” she says.

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has vowed to establish a taskforce to determine ways to curb the spate of women’s deaths.

Sturgess says solutions must be focused on early prevention and notes men’s behavioural programs are critical to help break intergenerational cycles of violence.

“There is a lack of support the further out you go for men, in particular in terms of behaviour change programs,” she says.

Such programs are critical, she says, for helping men, women and children.

“If we’re helping men, we’re helping women and children as well.”

Lauren Callaway, Victoria police’s assistant commissioner for family violence, says practical measures that could be considered include tougher penalties for perpetrators who breach family violence intervention orders.

Meanwhile, in NSW, an estimated 40% of police work is responding to domestic violence incidents.

A report released by the state’s police watchdog last year found there had been an improvement in how police respond to incidents, including introducing police teams that specifically focus on DVF in each of the state’s six policing regions.

But it found that in more than a third of complaint investigations reviewed by the commission, police failed to investigate reports of DVF properly, and the bulk of the work is still carried out by general police officers.

Though there is training related to responding to DVF, the training is not mandatory, and the lack of training was highlighted as an issue in the cases reviewed by the watchdog. The police agreed in principle to a recommendation from the report to make the training mandatory and increase the frequency.

The watchdog recommended that NSW follow Victoria and Queensland and establish separate commands which deal with DVF. But given the population and size of the state, it said a command for each region could be warranted.

In the Bega Valley region, Vesna Andric, who runs the region’s Staying Home Leaving Violence project, says police have one domestic violence liaison officer for the whole region and “it’s not enough”.

She wants to see more resourcing for police and domestic violence services, but also a greater focus on prevention.

“We need education in schools on healthy relationships,” she says. “We need something that allows men who are thinking about violence to come forward and get rehabilitation.”

“We need to set something up so an expert can talk to those men when violence is happening and, when they’re charged about what’s on their mind, what their plans are, rather than letting them stew and ruminate in the dark.”

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‘Enough’: thousands to join protests across Australia opposing violence against women

Organisers of the No More rallies say number of attacks keeps rising amid calls for prime minister Anthony Albanese to declare ‘epidemic’ a national emergency

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Thousands of people are set to take to the streets this weekend in 17 rallies across Australia calling for greater action on a growing epidemic of women killed in violent attacks.

Organised by advocacy group What Were You Wearing (WWYW), the first rallies will be held in Ballarat and Newcastle on Friday.

Saturday’s rallies will be held in Sydney and Adelaide, and on Sunday rallies will take place across the country in Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga, Orange, Perth, the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Canberra.

“Enough is enough,” the rallies’ organisers posted to social media. “The number keeps going up and this is why we are protesting this weekend. Fight with us for change.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will be in attendance at Sunday’s rally in Canberra.

It is understood he will raise the issue of violence against women at the next national cabinet following discussions with premiers Jacinta Allan, Chris Minns and Peter Malinauskas.

The South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who is among those scheduled to speak at the Adelaide rally, has called for Albanese to designate violence against women “a national emergency”.

“This is an epidemic and it’s time we started talking about it not in terms of just ‘violence against women’,” Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia in an interview for the Australian Politics podcast. “This is the murder of women. This is the terrorising of women in their homes and on the street. Women don’t feel safe.”

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WWYW’s founder, Sarah Williams, said the group had five demands including more funding for domestic, family and sexual violence support services as well as for Albanese to declare the violence a national emergency.

I didn’t expect when I started organising the rallies that so many people from everywhere over Australia would be not only angry but wanting to stand together in solidarity to really see an end to this,” Williams told ABC News Breakfast.

“I think there is no better time than now to really put some pressure on change-makers to make some change.”

Hanson-Young said that instead of political hand-wringing, there should be an “all-shoulders-to-the-wheel” approach, starting with better funding of support services and a “root-and-branch review of the justice system”, including apprehended violence orders and how well they protect women.

Asked if what she called “an epidemic” of violence against women should be designated as a form of terrorism, as some have suggested, Hanson-Young said Australians needed to “change the way we think about it and the way we talk about it”.

“Because what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Violence against women has long plagued Australia. There is no official counter for women’s deaths, but the number of women who die in gendered violence is collated by Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women and Femicide Watch’s Red Heart Campaign. According to their figures, an average of one woman a week was killed in domestic violence incidents last year. This year that average has grown to almost one woman murdered every four days.

“Right around the country our communities are reeling from an increase in family and domestic violence,” the independent senator David Pocock said.

“Find your nearest rally and get out there to show that enough is enough.”

Here are where the rallies will take place across Australia:

Friday

  • Ballarat: Bridge Town Hall at 5pm

  • Newcastle: Newcastle Museum on Nobby’s foreshore at 6pm

Saturday

  • Sydney: Belmore Park in Haymarket at 1pm

  • Adelaide: Parliament House at 11am

  • Hobart: Parliament House lawns at 1pm

Sunday

  • Melbourne: State Library at 10am

  • Perth: Parliament House at 1pm

  • Brisbane: King George Square at 11am

  • Canberra: Commonwealth Park at 2pm

  • Bendigo: Rosalind Park at 11am

  • Geelong: Market Square Mall at 11am

  • Coffs Harbour: Jetty foreshore at 11am

  • Sunshine Coast: Foundation Park at 11am

  • Gold Coast: Broadwater Parklands at 11am

  • Orange: Robertson Park at 2.30pm

  • Cobram: Federation Park at 11am

  • Wagga Wagga: Victory Memorial Gardens at 11am

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 988 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org

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Sarah Hanson-Young softens demand for inquiry into Murdoch media

Amid the threat of big tech, Greens senator says News titles are ‘trusted news providers’ and a royal commission should look at the whole industry

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The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has watered down her demand for a royal commission examining the role of the Murdoch media in Australia, now describing it as a “trusted” news provider compared with unregulated social media platforms.

Hanson-Young says she still wants a royal commission but that she is no longer advocating for it to focus specifically on media outlets owned by News Corp.

“Upon reflection, I think the community, while they’re upset and they distrust the Murdoch media, they’re increasingly looking at other players and going ‘you know, this needs a clean up across the board’,” Hanson-Young said in an interview for Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast.

She also listed the Murdoch media among “trusted news providers” which could have their journalism actively blocked from social media platforms if their owners make good on threats to deprioritise news.

Hanson-Young has drafted a private senator’s bill calling for a special commission. Drafted last year and currently being examined by a Senate committee, the Murdoch media inquiry bill 2023 aims to create a commission of inquiry “into the current state of media diversity and conduct of media outlets operating in Australia, in particular the Murdoch media empire, and their impact on Australian democracy”.

Now, she said it should scrutinise all media equally.

“So, you know, maybe it’s a reframing,” she said. “But nonetheless, some type of independent commission to inquire to test and push the boundaries, to try to have that overarching regulation.”

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Hanson-Young also called for the government to use its existing powers to designate major tech companies that are no longer willing to pay traditional media organisations for the journalism they feature on their platforms.

Under the news media bargaining code, a formal designation would force the companies to pay for the news they feature. Currently, companies including Google and Meta are paying media companies under voluntary agreements. But Meta, which owns platforms including Facebook and Instagram, has indicated it will not continue the arrangement, arguing its users are no longer interested in news.

Hanson-Young said the government’s code designation should go beyond payment.

“Along with designating these social media platforms to have to pay for the content, the news content, I actually think they need to be designated to carry news in the public interest,” she said.

The senator described a scenario in which a conspiracy theory could be spreading via a social media platform but its owner blocks users from sharing factual, countervailing information from “trusted news providers like the Guardian, like the ABC, like the Murdoch press – like the local newspaper in a small rural town”.

Questioned about her change of tune on News Corp, she said there were “some decent journalists” at the company “who do good work”.

“It’s the business model of outrage that I see coming from Murdoch management that worries me the most and their undue influence.”

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, told Guardian Australia this week that social media companies had a “social responsibility”, including to carrying news on their platforms.

“There needs to be a place where people can go and get fact-tested, reliable information. In Australia, journalism is one of the critical sources of that information,” Jones said.

“If people are going to Facebook or other social media platforms for that information, then they should be able to get it there.”

During negotiations on the first round of the code in 2021, Facebook blocked all news on its platform in Australia, and inadvertently blocked information and government pages, including health and emergency services. The ban was later reversed, but with Canadian news outlets also facing long-lasting bans on Facebook, there is concern that Meta may enact similar responses in Australia.

Jones urged Meta not to repeat that response here.

“They [Meta] have threatened in Australia and around the rest of the world that they’re going to remove news content from the screens. We think that’s both a concern and anti-democratic,” he said.

“It’s absolutely fundamental to a well-functioning democracy that people have access to fact-tested news and reliable information sources. We intend to back local journalism, we think it’s a critical pillar in our democracy.”

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Georgia Godwin is ready to show the world what Australian gymnasts can do

With an eye on making the team final in Paris, the Commonwealth Games champion wants her sport back in the spotlight

Georgia Godwin may be the queen of Australian gymnastics, but sitting on a throne is not on her to-do list.

She is the 2022 Commonwealth Games all-around gold medallist, seven-time national all-around champion, a stalwart on representative teams for a decade, and now priming herself for the Paris Olympics.

To Godwin however, there is more to do inside and outside the gym. First and foremost, she wants to make sure Australians don’t take artistic gymnastics – and its craft, composition and downright difficulty – for granted.

“When I try and explain gymnastics to someone … we’ve got names for all our skills and it comes across a bit like jargon,” she said. “But when you break a skill down, the audience actually gets to understand how difficult a skill is.”

Since being recognised last year as the fifth Australian woman to have a skill named after her, Godwin has done dozens of interviews. But she said she never gets bored, or frustrated, in answering questions about the move.

“Every single time I get asked, it’s a nice reminder that, yeah, I’ve done this really cool thing,” she said. “My skill took over a year from trying it for the first time to actually performing it, so it’s not something that just happens overnight.”

Media engagements typically begin with the same first question: what exactly is “the Godwin”? “Everyone just looks at me with blank faces,” Godwin said.

The Godwin involves a handstand on the uneven bars, looping forward and down under, and then back up into a handstand. The Australian added an extra full turn before arriving back in the handstand.

It’s difficult to understand because, according to Godwin, it’s difficult to do. And that’s largely the challenge – and opportunity – with attracting a wide audience to gymnastics and helping them appreciate the intricacies of the sport.

“It’s not just ‘a flip on the beam’,” she said. “The beam is actually 15cm wide. It’s however many years to actually achieve that skill. It’s not something that we just thought up and do. So I think it’s important to explain what the skill is, and all the intricacies of it, and how long it’s taken to get there.”

Godwin speaks with an authority that can only come with experience. At 26, she is the senior member of an Australian team that included two 16-year-olds last year.

While in the past gymnasts may have been moved along as they reached their 20s, Godwin is now recognised to be at her physical and mental peak. Indeed, Uzbek Oksana Chusovitina competed at age 46 at the 2021 Games where, for the first time in more than 50 years, there were more non-teenagers than teenagers competing in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Godwin, who was born to a Japanese mother and Australian father, describes herself as ageing “like a fine cheese”. (She is not a wine drinker.) “I’m trying to enjoy every single moment and just see where it takes me,” she said. “As I’m getting older, I’m just looking at training a little bit differently.”

Last year the Queenslander made the bold step of leaving her longtime coaches at Delta Gymnastics in Brisbane and moving to Canberra, to train under coach Josh Fabian at the Australian Institute of Sport. Godwin said the facilities and medical resources in the capital were an attraction, but also “change is good.”

“It was my decision all along, and kind of last minute,” she said. “I approached the coach [Fabian] and was like, ‘hey, this is what I’m thinking, I’d love to give it a go, what are your thoughts?’”

It was a big risk given she had won two gold medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. But the relocation appears to have paid off. Under Fabian she perfected the Godwin, and last year helped Australia qualify for the Olympics team event for the first time since 2012.

Thanks in part to Godwin’s consistent performances across vault, bars, beam and floor at the world championships in Belgium, Australia can now send five gymnasts to Paris. It means Godwin, who qualified for the Tokyo Games as one of just two Australians in women’s artistic gymnastics, will now be joined by four teammates.

“As a team we qualified in ninth at the world championships, and that is one spot out of a team final, so we’re looking really strong,” she said. “We’ve really bonded as a group so hopefully we can make that team final at Olympics and show the world what Australia can do.”

While she is widely expected to be selected, Godwin must first compete in the national championships in May. And she continues to juggle training with 15 hours a week of part-time work as well as study in medical imaging.

“I plan on cutting back a bit but I’m still planning on doing study over the Olympics, just because it’s a nice way to give my brain a break from the gymnastics,” she said.

Godwin has no official plans after Paris, apart from giving her body and brain a short rest. But she is not ruling out continuing on to Los Angeles 2028, and even revealing the Godwin, mark II.

“I’ve got a few more interesting moves up my sleeve,” she said. “But you just have to watch this space.”

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Beetroot and beefless bourguignon as Paris Olympics embraces vegetarian cuisine

Top chefs say the Games will rebrand French gastronomy as a showcase for plant-based food

It will boast the world’s biggest salad bar, offer fans vegetarian hotdogs and bring in up to half a million bananas by boat to meet athletes’ insatiable demand for the fruit while avoiding the carbon footprint of air travel.

As part of its efforts to cut carbon emissions, the Paris Olympics will make history by offering more vegetarian cuisine than in any Games.

France, the nation of steak tartare and creamy blanquette de veau, is the European country with the highest beef and veal consumption per inhabitant, but chefs say the Olympic Games will rebrand French gastronomy as a showcase for plant-based food.

The restaurant in the athletes’ Olympic Village, serving 40,000 meals a day and open 24 hours, will become the biggest restaurant on Earth. One-third of its 500 recipes will be vegetarian, including locally grown lentils and quinoa.

For the first time, a plant-based meat substitute firm, Garden Gourmet, a subsidiary of Nestlé, is an Olympic sponsor, providing plant-based burgers and chickpea and beetroot falafels in an attempt to make France more “flexitarian”.

“We’re in France, so food is important,” said Georgina Grenon, environmental excellence director for Paris 2024. “But it is about presenting another way to eat deliciously, even in a fast-paced way, like vegetarian hamburgers and hotdogs at a stadium.”

With 13m meals served during the Games – including for fans, staff, volunteers and athletes – the focus is on locally grown vegetables. The 15,000 athletes, who eat according to strict training rules, will have access to locally sourced meat and fish. But the number of vegetarian dishes on offer to them will be much higher than before.

Meanwhile, of the estimated 5m meals and snacks sold to fans at stadiums and venues, 60% of those in Paris and the surrounding Île-de-France area will be vegetarian. This will include a signature vegetarian hotdog tested last year at mountain biking trials, where it vastly outsold the meat option.

There will also be a special egg muffin for athletics fans at the Stade de France, where races are often held in the morning, and venues will also offer organic vegetarian crepes and a vegan escalope sandwich. The urban park at Place de la Concorde, which will host skateboarding, breakdancing and BMX, will be meat-free. Officials said this would appeal to the “younger, very international crowd”.

The strict carbon footprint restrictions ensure no food for the Paris Olympics will come by plane. This means bananas will be shipped by boat from the French Caribbean and passion fruit, which needs to fly, is banned.

“Of course great gastronomy can be vegetarian,” said the Michelin-starred French chef Akrame Benallal, who was asked to create a handful of signature dishes for athletes. These include a reworked version of his famous savoury quinoa muesli, made with quinoa grown south of Paris, a touch of mascarpone and parmesan and crunchy fried grains on top. He has also created mushroom croquettes with black cardamon.

“It was about trying to create a cuisine that would make sense to everybody, and which everyone could enjoy, whether athletes eat kosher, halal, vegetarian, it was about everyone taking pleasure in it,” Benallal said. “They have to put down their spoon and say, ‘Wow, that’s very, very good.’”

One of Benallal’s restaurants, Shirvan in Paris, inspired by the silk route, already serves 60% vegetarian dishes. “French cuisine for me is one of the most varied, mixed, diverse in the world, because there is a lot of influence from many, many countries and its riches lie in the cooking techniques,” he said.

Charles Guilloy, executive chef for the firm Sodexo Live!, will run the restaurant at the Olympic Village, where, at 3,500 seated places, athletes will for the first time eat off washable plates, instead of disposable ones. His signature dishes include a dal made with locally grown French green lentils, topped with skyr, coriander and a slither of corn bread.

“The false stereotype remains that French gastronomy is meat, meat, and only meat,” Guilloy said. “In fact, traditions are built around excellent, local, seasonal vegetables. Beef bourguignon is a very French recipe but I’ve reworked it for Olympic athletes as a vegetarian bourguignon with seasonal vegetables, potatoes, carrots, peas, young leeks and shallots. I like to eat a vegetarian dish with a knife and fork and for it to be just as pleasurable as animal products. The area around Paris produces great vegetables, all types of cabbage to cress and lentils. I’ve created a lentil dal with local green lentils and locally grown coriander because lentils have been a staple through the ages.”

Guilloy’s other dishes include a tarte tatin of tomatoes and onions.

Meanwhile, canteens for Olympic staff and volunteers will serve 50% vegetarian meals. On some days, only vegetarian dishes will be on offer.

Philipp Würz, in charge of catering on the Paris 2024 organising committee, said that for fans “we wanted to reverse the tendency to offer vegetarian options as an afterthought. Here, vegetarian is the majority, meat options are there but fewer in number.”

Athletes will be able to eat according to their culture and dietary needs, from locally produced Korean-style kimchi to Chinese-style rice.

But he said teams had also requested good quality pizza and pasta. “We’re not just feeding sports people before their events – when their competition is over, they may want to relax and tuck in. At that point, a good pizza is surprisingly in demand.”

Olympic food in numbers

13m meals served to athletes, staff, volunteers, journalists and fans

40,000 meals a day served in the Olympic Village athletes’ restaurant, with 500 approved recipes for the 15,000 athletes

Up to half a million bananas arriving by boat for athletes

600,000 cereal bars ordered for athletes in the Olympic Village, rising to an estimated total of about 1m, including competition sites

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Indigenous youth suicide is an appalling blot on Australia’s conscience

Karen Middleton

The death of a 10-year-old boy in foster care is a grimly familiar one. Existing ‘prevention schemes’ aren’t preventing anything and must be reformed

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A 10-year-old Indigenous child dies in apparent suicide in Western Australia. Family and community are devastated and the incident is so utterly awful – the child so young – that it catches national attention.

It happens in March and a month later, when it’s made public, everyone says something must be done.

This wasn’t March this year. It was March 2016.

Eight years ago, the news of a little girl taking her own life in the town of Looma, south of Derby, in WA’s north-west, sent a jolt of horror and shame through the Australian community.

Now comes the recent news of a little boy, the same age, also allegedly dying by his own hand in the WA, this time in state-sponsored foster care, though a coroner is yet to investigate.

In 2024, the jolt of horror should be at least as great, the shame certainly greater.

In between those two highly publicised incidents, the West Australian coroner, Ros Fogliani, held a special inquiry into the deaths of 13 Indigenous children and young people in remote WA, including the little girl from Looma. All had died between 2012 and 2016 in the same manner and there is a suppression order on the details. The coroner found 12 were suicide and returned an open finding in one case.

It was the second such WA inquiry in just over a decade. In 2008, former WA coroner Justice Alastair Hope examined 22 deaths by self-harm – with particular focus on links to alcohol and drugs – and pronounced the suicide rate among Indigenous young people in the Kimberley increasing at an “alarming” rate.

Hope reported that Indigenous deaths by self-harm in the Kimberley region in 2006 numbered 21. Among its non-Indigenous population, there were three. His 27 recommendations traversed broad terrain – housing, education, living standards, health including mental health, policing, drug and alcohol use and the child protection system. He decried the lack of political leadership.

In 2019, Ros Fogliani also examined the big picture. Fogliani made 42 recommendations, many of which focused on alcohol. She made findings on housing, family violence, mental health, education programs, recreational facilities, and welfare.

There was also an emphasis on the importance of cultural competency. Only one recommendation dealt directly and specifically with suicide prevention and intervention. Fogliani recommended that child protection workers and school teaching staff receive appropriate and regular training in identifying and mitigating suicide risk.

Accompanying that recommendation, her key observation applied to every case: “The deaths of the 13 children and young persons the subject of this Inquest were all preventable.”

The news in the past fortnight of the 10-year-old boy’s death has reopened debate, both about the rate of Indigenous suicide and the state of the child protection system.

Strict laws prevent any identification of children in care or their families. But enough detail of the alleged circumstances has emerged to prompt what federal Indigenous affairs minister Linda Burney said the boy’s case demanded “deep reflection”.

Burney told ABC Radio National this week that there must be a greater emphasis on prevention, not “waiting till a child or a family gets to the edge of a cliff and falls off and [having] an ambulance at the bottom waiting for us”.

Burney acknowledges the national failure to meet target 12 of the closing the gap targets, which says that Indigenous children should not be overrepresented in the child protection system.

“The number of Aboriginal children in care is growing and that must be arrested,” Burney said.

She emphasised that from 1 July, Australia will have its first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner. The government is also funding 100 extra child protection workers nationally and introducing mandatory health checks for children in home care.

Will any of it be enough?

The rate of Indigenous suicide in this country, especially among children and especially in the north-west of Western Australia, should sit as an appalling blot on our national conscience. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among Indigenous children nationwide.

Five years ago, concluding her report, coroner Ros Fogliani described the fact that “mainstream” suicide prevention programs were still being “adapted in an endeavour to fit into a culturally relevant paradigm” instead of being properly designed “in a completely different way”.

“The situation in the Kimberley region is dire and children and young persons have continued to die by suicide, despite the valiant efforts of service providers, despite the increased governmental funding, despite a better understanding of the importance of being culturally competent, and despite the numerous initiatives being implemented to avoid these preventable deaths,” Fogliani pronounced in 2019.

Soon there will be another coronial inquiry into the 10-year-old boy’s death.

There will be more recommendations and more money and more programs. How many of them will be designed with the input of Indigenous people, bespoke to their communities and taking account of both immediate individual circumstances and underlying traumas?

Perhaps there needs to be a rethink on what prevention actually looks like. Because if it isn’t stopping this from happening, it isn’t prevention at all.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available on 13YARN on 13 92 76.

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Indigenous youth suicide is an appalling blot on Australia’s conscience

Karen Middleton

The death of a 10-year-old boy in foster care is a grimly familiar one. Existing ‘prevention schemes’ aren’t preventing anything and must be reformed

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A 10-year-old Indigenous child dies in apparent suicide in Western Australia. Family and community are devastated and the incident is so utterly awful – the child so young – that it catches national attention.

It happens in March and a month later, when it’s made public, everyone says something must be done.

This wasn’t March this year. It was March 2016.

Eight years ago, the news of a little girl taking her own life in the town of Looma, south of Derby, in WA’s north-west, sent a jolt of horror and shame through the Australian community.

Now comes the recent news of a little boy, the same age, also allegedly dying by his own hand in the WA, this time in state-sponsored foster care, though a coroner is yet to investigate.

In 2024, the jolt of horror should be at least as great, the shame certainly greater.

In between those two highly publicised incidents, the West Australian coroner, Ros Fogliani, held a special inquiry into the deaths of 13 Indigenous children and young people in remote WA, including the little girl from Looma. All had died between 2012 and 2016 in the same manner and there is a suppression order on the details. The coroner found 12 were suicide and returned an open finding in one case.

It was the second such WA inquiry in just over a decade. In 2008, former WA coroner Justice Alastair Hope examined 22 deaths by self-harm – with particular focus on links to alcohol and drugs – and pronounced the suicide rate among Indigenous young people in the Kimberley increasing at an “alarming” rate.

Hope reported that Indigenous deaths by self-harm in the Kimberley region in 2006 numbered 21. Among its non-Indigenous population, there were three. His 27 recommendations traversed broad terrain – housing, education, living standards, health including mental health, policing, drug and alcohol use and the child protection system. He decried the lack of political leadership.

In 2019, Ros Fogliani also examined the big picture. Fogliani made 42 recommendations, many of which focused on alcohol. She made findings on housing, family violence, mental health, education programs, recreational facilities, and welfare.

There was also an emphasis on the importance of cultural competency. Only one recommendation dealt directly and specifically with suicide prevention and intervention. Fogliani recommended that child protection workers and school teaching staff receive appropriate and regular training in identifying and mitigating suicide risk.

Accompanying that recommendation, her key observation applied to every case: “The deaths of the 13 children and young persons the subject of this Inquest were all preventable.”

The news in the past fortnight of the 10-year-old boy’s death has reopened debate, both about the rate of Indigenous suicide and the state of the child protection system.

Strict laws prevent any identification of children in care or their families. But enough detail of the alleged circumstances has emerged to prompt what federal Indigenous affairs minister Linda Burney said the boy’s case demanded “deep reflection”.

Burney told ABC Radio National this week that there must be a greater emphasis on prevention, not “waiting till a child or a family gets to the edge of a cliff and falls off and [having] an ambulance at the bottom waiting for us”.

Burney acknowledges the national failure to meet target 12 of the closing the gap targets, which says that Indigenous children should not be overrepresented in the child protection system.

“The number of Aboriginal children in care is growing and that must be arrested,” Burney said.

She emphasised that from 1 July, Australia will have its first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner. The government is also funding 100 extra child protection workers nationally and introducing mandatory health checks for children in home care.

Will any of it be enough?

The rate of Indigenous suicide in this country, especially among children and especially in the north-west of Western Australia, should sit as an appalling blot on our national conscience. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among Indigenous children nationwide.

Five years ago, concluding her report, coroner Ros Fogliani described the fact that “mainstream” suicide prevention programs were still being “adapted in an endeavour to fit into a culturally relevant paradigm” instead of being properly designed “in a completely different way”.

“The situation in the Kimberley region is dire and children and young persons have continued to die by suicide, despite the valiant efforts of service providers, despite the increased governmental funding, despite a better understanding of the importance of being culturally competent, and despite the numerous initiatives being implemented to avoid these preventable deaths,” Fogliani pronounced in 2019.

Soon there will be another coronial inquiry into the 10-year-old boy’s death.

There will be more recommendations and more money and more programs. How many of them will be designed with the input of Indigenous people, bespoke to their communities and taking account of both immediate individual circumstances and underlying traumas?

Perhaps there needs to be a rethink on what prevention actually looks like. Because if it isn’t stopping this from happening, it isn’t prevention at all.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available on 13YARN on 13 92 76.

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Drivers face record petrol prices thanks to weak Australian dollar and rising crude oil costs

Motorists shouldn’t blame retailers for rising fuel prices, can expect some relief soon, analyst says

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Australians are paying more than ever at the fuel bowser as a weak Australian dollar collides with rising crude prices, new data shows.

The average price of 91 octane unleaded has soared to 217.92 cents per litre in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, according to Compare the Market data, breaking the $2.17 record set last September.

Brisbane motorists were paying the highest average price for their fuel at $2.30 per litre, and as much as $2.35 per litre.

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Melburnians were paying about $2.25 for regular unleaded on Friday while in Sydney motorists were facing $2.13 a litre.

Perth had the lowest average price of the five major capitals at $1.94 per litre.

Compare the Market’s Chris Ford said there were a number of factors behind the spike, but motorists should hold off from blaming retailers.

“Firstly, some wholesale prices have jumped from an average of $1.65/litre at the start of the year to $1.88/litre now – a 13.9 per cent hike,” he said.

“The higher the wholesale price, the more retailers fork out for fuel and the more likely these costs are passed on to motorists.”

Ford said a weaker Australian dollar relative to the US dollar was also affecting prices at the pump, along with a stronger price for crude.

“Oil prices are also climbing due to conflict in the Middle East,” he said.

“Oil prices aren’t far behind the highs we saw last September, which could be why we’re now seeing those national average retail price records being smashed.”

Compare the Market believes fuel prices should ease soon.

“Adelaide operates in more regular fuel pricing cycles than cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which means the city-wide average should start to drop in the coming days and bring down that national average,” Ford said.

“It’s a similar story in Perth, where the city-wide average has already dropped 21 cents since Wednesday.”

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Conservatives condemn Kristi Noem for ‘twisted’ admission of killing dog

Revelation in new book that possible Trump running mate killed ‘untrainable’ hunting dog prompts widespread revulsion

Conservative pundits have condemned the South Dakota governor and possible Trump running mate Kristi Noem, amid widespread horror over her admission in a new book that she killed both an “untrainable” dog and an unruly goat during a single day in hunting season.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, a Trump White House staffer turned critic, said: “I’m a dog lover and I am honestly horrified by the Kristi Noem excerpt. I wish I hadn’t even read it. A 14-month-old dog is still a puppy and can be trained. A large part of bad behaviour in dogs is not having proper training from humans.

“Dogs are a gift from God. They’re a reflection of his unconditional love. Anyone who would needlessly hurt an animal because they are inconvenient needs help.”

The Guardian revealed Noem’s story, which is contained in a book out next month. In No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward, Noem describes her frustrations with Cricket, a 14-month-old wirehair pointer who Noem says ruined a pheasant hunt and killed a neighbouring family’s chickens.

“I hated that dog,” Noem writes, saying Cricket was “untrainable … dangerous” and “less than worthless … as a hunting dog”.

“At that moment,” Noem says, “I realised I had to put her down.”

Noem describes taking Cricket to a gravel pit on her farm and shooting her. Remarkably, Noem then describes how she also chose to kill an unruly, unnamed, un-castrated goat, first botching the job then finishing the animal off with a third shotgun shell.

The news roiled the race to be named running mate to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, of whom Noem is an ardent supporter.

Sarah Matthews, another Trump aide turned opponent, said: “When I saw tweets about Kristi Noem murdering her puppy, I thought to myself, ‘Damn, one of the other VP contenders’ teams found some oppo,’ until I realized SHE wrote about it in HER book.

“I’m not sure why anyone would brag about this unless they’re sick and twisted.”

Rachel Bade, senior Washington correspondent for Politico, said: “Not sure who advised Kristi Noem that it was a good idea to boast about killing her 14-month-old puppy but I’m willing to bet this would be a big problem for her if she [was] chosen for VP. Makes [2012 presidential nominee Mitt] Romney’s dog-on-the-car-roof story look quaint.”

Meghan McCain, a pundit whose father, the late Arizona Republican senator John McCain, made one of the most famous running mate selections in history when he chose the extremist Sarah Palin in 2008, wrote on X: “You can recover from a lot of things in politics, change the narrative etc. But not from killing a dog.

“All I will distinctly think about Kristi Noem now is that she murdered a puppy who was ‘acting up’ – which is obviously cruel and insane. Good luck with that VP pick[,] lady.”

Noem responded by doubling down.

“We love animals,” she said, “but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm. Sadly, we just had to put down three horses a few weeks ago that had been in our family for 25 years.”

The governor also promised “more real, honest and politically incorrect stories that’ll have the media gasping”.

But in political and media circles, most gasps were of horror – alongside mourning for Cricket and the unnamed goat.

Joe Biden’s re-election campaign seized on the story, tweeting pictures of the president and his vice-president, Kamala Harris, happily interacting with dogs. The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, called Noem’s words “truly disturbing and horrifying”.

“Our message is plain and simple,” the DNC said. “If you want elected officials who don’t brag about brutally killing their pets as part of their self-promotional book tour, then listen to our owners – and vote Democrat.”

Dan Lussen, a hunting dog trainer, told Rolling Stone a 14-month-old dog was a “baby that doesn’t know any better”, adding that unruly dogs were the result of a lack of guidance, training or discipline by the owner.

The pressure group Peta – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – said: “Most Americans love their dogs, and we suspect that they will consider Governor Noem a psychotic loony for letting this rambunctious puppy loose on chickens and then punishing her by deciding to personally blow her brains out rather than attempting to train her or find a more responsible guardian who would provide her with a proper home.

“Governor Noem obviously fails to understand the vital political concepts of education, cooperation, compromise and compassion.”

Celebrity dog lovers joined the condemnation.

The actor Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, posted a picture with his two dogs and said: “Despising animal cruelty should be bipartisan.”

Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, addressed Noem directly: “You are so full of shit it’s not even funny. You just couldn’t be bothered to train that puppy. And if [s]he truly couldn’t be a birddog, I am quite sure [s]he would have been a great pet for a family that didn’t need to shoot birds to give [her] something to do. #psychopath.”

Back in politics, Rick Wilson, a former Republican operative, called Noem “deliberately cruel” and “trash”. Later, the Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group Wilson co-founded, released a short video ad.

Over shots of dogs looking lovable but acting rambunctiously, a solemn voice said: “Dog owners know our furry friends can be a lot to keep up with.

“But when those tough moments come, you have options. Shooting your dog in the face should not be one of them. And if you do happen to shoot your dog in the face, please, don’t write about it in your autobiography.

“This has been a public service announcement directed at any Republican who may be considering murdering their dog.”

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WhatsApp and the Wakeley riot: how a messaging platform became a fake news broadcaster

On the night of the alleged stabbing of a Sydney priest, the spread of misinformation escalated violence faster than news outlets could report the story

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It took less than 30 minutes for a video of an alleged stabbing attack at a church in western Sydney to snake its way through WhatsApp groups across the city.

As chaos was still unfolding inside the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley last Monday night, clips from the alleged attack – during a livestreamed memorial service where a 16-year-old boy allegedly stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel – were being shared.

Then, quicker than most news outlets could report on the incident, large WhatsApp groups that connect people across western Sydney – some with more than 800 members – were inundated with forwarded videos, photos and voice notes. Some with inflammatory messages, some with pleas for calm and others that were plainly wrong.

Outside the church, the situation spiralled quickly. Police believe about 2,000 people descended on the scene, smashing police vehicles and injuring a number of officers. Police officers and paramedics say they were stuck in the church for more than three hours.

Police had been called to the church at 7.10pm. Guardian Australia has heard indirectly of how quickly the first video of the alleged attack captured on livestream spread; the earliest verified time stamp on WhatsApp is at 7.38pm.

While false claims about the Bondi Junction attack spread widely on public and quasi-public platforms such as X, Telegram and Facebook, the encrypted nature of WhatsApp makes it difficult to track exactly where forwarded content comes from.

But the way the information spread on the night of the Wakeley attack shows how WhatsApp can go from being a way to communicate between friends and neighbours to a rapidly moving broadcast platform for unfiltered, unmoderated and unverified content.

The initial spread

Fadi* is in several large WhatsApp groups and said he was receiving content and information “very quickly”.

“People were sending things almost as it was being shot and it [was] going around many groups. You couldn’t really filter it out because of the speed at which it was coming through.”

Messages alleging the church-goers were holding the attacker and preventing police from entering the church were being sent at 8.03pm. They also claimed the 16-year-old was “bashed” and that “they chopped his finger off” – which authorities later said was not the case.

Laila* said her son was urged to go to the church almost immediately after the attack.

“His phone was going crazy literally minutes after we received the first video, because some of his friends are Assyrian,” she said.

That claim is backed by videos that began spreading before 8.30pm, showing a large police presence at the church.

“We just kept receiving things all night, and my son’s work mates almost immediately said they were going down [to the church],” Laila said. “It was literally minutes after. It was so quick.”

She said she was receiving footage “much faster” than was being reported in the media.

Videos that were circulating at about 8.30pm show huge crowds gathering in the streets surrounding the church and a mob trying to enter.

Videos of violence began circulating soon after, with clips showing damaged police cars and violence near the church just after 9pm. In one video people can be heard urging the mob to “get in” as the person filming eats popcorn.

Videos shot before 9.30pm feature a growing crowd that seems increasingly outraged, with one video showing people yelling “bring him out” and others show police standing guard around the church.

Rumours of backlash begin

Before 9pm on the night, rumours began circulating on the nature of the attack, and of alleged plans for retaliation against Muslim places of worship.

At 8.48pm, videos of a string of police vehicles parked on a street were being shared, alongside a message saying “this is at a masjid” and “I think they went to the local mosque” without any further details.

Such claims grew in number as the night wore on, with some spreading voice notes that expressed shock and anger that any mosques could be targeted in retaliatory attacks.

Fadi said what stood out to him throughout the night was the breadth of unverified claims that were flooding his group chats.

“The number of different theories and opinions people had about what was happening, none of them verified, was overwhelming,” he said. “Sometimes we would get the same picture or video, with different stories attached to them.”

In one voice note Guardian Australia has heard, prior to 9.23pm, a man can be heard saying he was “ready for jihad” and that he would “go down to anywhere”.

Only 10 minutes later, another voice note from an unknown man called for people to not “shy away from what needs to be done, but at the same time we don’t jump the gun and assume and run off emotion”.

“If they want to retaliate and go eye-for-an-eye, so be it,” he says in both English and Arabic. “We know that among the believers are men. Go be near your local mosque if you can.

“Let the facts come out.”

Earlier, at 8.03pm, a rumour was being spread that a firebombing threat had been issued against a mosque.

But those who heeded the calls and went to their local mosques found little to report.

In a video that was being forwarded just after 10pm, a man says he is at Green Valley mosque and that “there is nothing”.

“Please, stop spreading fake news,” he says.

The alleged attacker

Videos and photos that showed the face of the alleged attacker also spread quickly.

Other voice notes later in the evening were shared by people who claimed they knew the alleged attacker and described him as being “poisoned”.

By 9.25pm, a wrong name that had been circulating linked to the alleged attacker was also being debunked via a screenshot of an apparent Facebook post where a man denied it was him.

Later that night, claims circulated about the alleged attacker’s age, his high school and that he was Muslim.

Laila said there were many rumours that circulated very quickly, including that the alleged attacker had previously been in jail, or that he was “an Assyrian before, and turned to Islam”.

“My son was reading and sending screenshots of messages he was getting, and there was just lots of stories being spread,” she said.

“I was not coping with the anxiety in my house that night. I couldn’t sleep.”

‘A type of virality’

WhatsApp is a key platform for many groups, including diaspora communities and neighbourhoods, to share news and information. But while the platform is often characterised as a private messaging app, that’s not always accurate.

WhatsApp group sizes can reach up to 1,024 members, and its channel function lets organisations broadcast content to multiple followers.

“Despite WhatsApp not having algorithmic curation … which happens on Twitter and Facebook, content can still be made highly visible to many people at one time by that content being forwarded rapidly between groups,” said Amelia Johns, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney who has studied the app’s use globally.

“That creates a type of virality that’s more organic and user driven.”

Laila said she was getting all of her updates from WhatsApp, where information was being shared “much faster” than anywhere else.

“We were at least an hour ahead of anyone else reporting on it. And it was mostly coming from group chats.

“The amount of messages were making me very, very nervous. Eventually I just refused to open any of them any more.”

Fadi said the amount of misinformation being shared was “dangerous” and led to the escalation on the night, and community leaders have called “for increased vigilance and security measures” to protect religious institutions.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, limits the number of times a message can be forwarded to five chats at a time as part of efforts to “slow down the spread of rumors, viral messages, and fake news”. If a message has been forwarded through five or more chats, it is also labelled as “forwarded many times”.

WhatsApp messages are encrypted, which means they can’t be read by people outside the groups where they’re shared.

Meta did not comment on whether it had received any requests from New South Wales police regarding WhatsApp data linked to the attack or its aftermath.

“We regularly cooperate with law enforcement and comply with government requests in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service,” a spokesperson said.

* Names have been changed for privacy and safety

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WhatsApp and the Wakeley riot: how a messaging platform became a fake news broadcaster

On the night of the alleged stabbing of a Sydney priest, the spread of misinformation escalated violence faster than news outlets could report the story

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It took less than 30 minutes for a video of an alleged stabbing attack at a church in western Sydney to snake its way through WhatsApp groups across the city.

As chaos was still unfolding inside the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley last Monday night, clips from the alleged attack – during a livestreamed memorial service where a 16-year-old boy allegedly stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel – were being shared.

Then, quicker than most news outlets could report on the incident, large WhatsApp groups that connect people across western Sydney – some with more than 800 members – were inundated with forwarded videos, photos and voice notes. Some with inflammatory messages, some with pleas for calm and others that were plainly wrong.

Outside the church, the situation spiralled quickly. Police believe about 2,000 people descended on the scene, smashing police vehicles and injuring a number of officers. Police officers and paramedics say they were stuck in the church for more than three hours.

Police had been called to the church at 7.10pm. Guardian Australia has heard indirectly of how quickly the first video of the alleged attack captured on livestream spread; the earliest verified time stamp on WhatsApp is at 7.38pm.

While false claims about the Bondi Junction attack spread widely on public and quasi-public platforms such as X, Telegram and Facebook, the encrypted nature of WhatsApp makes it difficult to track exactly where forwarded content comes from.

But the way the information spread on the night of the Wakeley attack shows how WhatsApp can go from being a way to communicate between friends and neighbours to a rapidly moving broadcast platform for unfiltered, unmoderated and unverified content.

The initial spread

Fadi* is in several large WhatsApp groups and said he was receiving content and information “very quickly”.

“People were sending things almost as it was being shot and it [was] going around many groups. You couldn’t really filter it out because of the speed at which it was coming through.”

Messages alleging the church-goers were holding the attacker and preventing police from entering the church were being sent at 8.03pm. They also claimed the 16-year-old was “bashed” and that “they chopped his finger off” – which authorities later said was not the case.

Laila* said her son was urged to go to the church almost immediately after the attack.

“His phone was going crazy literally minutes after we received the first video, because some of his friends are Assyrian,” she said.

That claim is backed by videos that began spreading before 8.30pm, showing a large police presence at the church.

“We just kept receiving things all night, and my son’s work mates almost immediately said they were going down [to the church],” Laila said. “It was literally minutes after. It was so quick.”

She said she was receiving footage “much faster” than was being reported in the media.

Videos that were circulating at about 8.30pm show huge crowds gathering in the streets surrounding the church and a mob trying to enter.

Videos of violence began circulating soon after, with clips showing damaged police cars and violence near the church just after 9pm. In one video people can be heard urging the mob to “get in” as the person filming eats popcorn.

Videos shot before 9.30pm feature a growing crowd that seems increasingly outraged, with one video showing people yelling “bring him out” and others show police standing guard around the church.

Rumours of backlash begin

Before 9pm on the night, rumours began circulating on the nature of the attack, and of alleged plans for retaliation against Muslim places of worship.

At 8.48pm, videos of a string of police vehicles parked on a street were being shared, alongside a message saying “this is at a masjid” and “I think they went to the local mosque” without any further details.

Such claims grew in number as the night wore on, with some spreading voice notes that expressed shock and anger that any mosques could be targeted in retaliatory attacks.

Fadi said what stood out to him throughout the night was the breadth of unverified claims that were flooding his group chats.

“The number of different theories and opinions people had about what was happening, none of them verified, was overwhelming,” he said. “Sometimes we would get the same picture or video, with different stories attached to them.”

In one voice note Guardian Australia has heard, prior to 9.23pm, a man can be heard saying he was “ready for jihad” and that he would “go down to anywhere”.

Only 10 minutes later, another voice note from an unknown man called for people to not “shy away from what needs to be done, but at the same time we don’t jump the gun and assume and run off emotion”.

“If they want to retaliate and go eye-for-an-eye, so be it,” he says in both English and Arabic. “We know that among the believers are men. Go be near your local mosque if you can.

“Let the facts come out.”

Earlier, at 8.03pm, a rumour was being spread that a firebombing threat had been issued against a mosque.

But those who heeded the calls and went to their local mosques found little to report.

In a video that was being forwarded just after 10pm, a man says he is at Green Valley mosque and that “there is nothing”.

“Please, stop spreading fake news,” he says.

The alleged attacker

Videos and photos that showed the face of the alleged attacker also spread quickly.

Other voice notes later in the evening were shared by people who claimed they knew the alleged attacker and described him as being “poisoned”.

By 9.25pm, a wrong name that had been circulating linked to the alleged attacker was also being debunked via a screenshot of an apparent Facebook post where a man denied it was him.

Later that night, claims circulated about the alleged attacker’s age, his high school and that he was Muslim.

Laila said there were many rumours that circulated very quickly, including that the alleged attacker had previously been in jail, or that he was “an Assyrian before, and turned to Islam”.

“My son was reading and sending screenshots of messages he was getting, and there was just lots of stories being spread,” she said.

“I was not coping with the anxiety in my house that night. I couldn’t sleep.”

‘A type of virality’

WhatsApp is a key platform for many groups, including diaspora communities and neighbourhoods, to share news and information. But while the platform is often characterised as a private messaging app, that’s not always accurate.

WhatsApp group sizes can reach up to 1,024 members, and its channel function lets organisations broadcast content to multiple followers.

“Despite WhatsApp not having algorithmic curation … which happens on Twitter and Facebook, content can still be made highly visible to many people at one time by that content being forwarded rapidly between groups,” said Amelia Johns, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney who has studied the app’s use globally.

“That creates a type of virality that’s more organic and user driven.”

Laila said she was getting all of her updates from WhatsApp, where information was being shared “much faster” than anywhere else.

“We were at least an hour ahead of anyone else reporting on it. And it was mostly coming from group chats.

“The amount of messages were making me very, very nervous. Eventually I just refused to open any of them any more.”

Fadi said the amount of misinformation being shared was “dangerous” and led to the escalation on the night, and community leaders have called “for increased vigilance and security measures” to protect religious institutions.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, limits the number of times a message can be forwarded to five chats at a time as part of efforts to “slow down the spread of rumors, viral messages, and fake news”. If a message has been forwarded through five or more chats, it is also labelled as “forwarded many times”.

WhatsApp messages are encrypted, which means they can’t be read by people outside the groups where they’re shared.

Meta did not comment on whether it had received any requests from New South Wales police regarding WhatsApp data linked to the attack or its aftermath.

“We regularly cooperate with law enforcement and comply with government requests in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service,” a spokesperson said.

* Names have been changed for privacy and safety

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Two people die after glider crashes near Mount Beauty airport

Paramedics treated the pair but both died at the scene of the crash, which occurred about 1.45pm north of Falls Creek in Victoria

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Two people are dead after their powered glider crashed near an airport in Victoria’s alpine region.

Emergency services were called to the incident at Mount Beauty, north of Falls Creek, after 1.40pm on Saturday.

“It is believed the pair were flying over Embankment Drive when the aircraft crashed about 1.45pm,” a Victoria police spokesperson said.

Country Fire Authority crews from Mount Beauty were the first to arrive on the scene followed by Tawonga’s fire brigade, road and air ambulance services and police.

Paramedics treated the pair but both died at the scene.

“Paramedics responded with significant resources dispatched to the scene including Advanced Life Support paramedics, Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance paramedics and an air ambulance,” an Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said.

The two people, who have not been identified, were the glider’s only occupants.

Country fire crews deemed the incident under control at 2.13pm and safe at 3.34pm.

Emergency service crews were expected to remain on the scene.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

The accident comes after Mathew Farrell died in September 2022 when his plane crashed after taking off from Mount Beauty airport.

The 42-year-old died when the plane he was flying crashed into dense bushland east of Tallangatta.

A search was launched after he failed to reach his destination in Wollongong and his body was found a day later in an area that required heavy machinery to access.

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Two dead in separate stabbings in NSW

Police are investigating after the deaths of a 16-year-old boy in Dubbo and a 28-year-old man in Sydney’s Quakers Hill

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Two people have died after separate stabbings in New South Wales overnight.

Police are investigating the death of a man found with stab wounds in Sydney’s north-west, and the stabbing death of a teenager in the state’s west.

The 28-year-old man was found in a critical condition at Narcissus Avenue in Quakers Hill about 8.30pm on Friday. Paramedics worked to save the man but he died en route to hospital.

Detectives probing the incident have asked anyone with CCTV footage, dashcam or information about what happened to come forward. A crime scene has been set up at the residential street.

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Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy died after a stabbing in the state’s west. Emergency services were called to a home in the small town of Narromine, about 40km west of Dubbo, at 9pm on Friday after reports of a stabbing.

Officers arrived to find a 16-year-old boy with stab injuries to his neck. He was treated at the scene by NSW ambulance paramedics before being rushed to Dubbo airport where he later died.

Following inquiries, police arrested a 26-year-old man at a home nearby. He was taken to Dubbo police station where he was assisting police with inquiries.

Police have established a crime scene and detectives have launched an investigation into the incident.

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Operation Zufolo: Australia deployed a ‘charade’ to sustain indefinite immigration detention – it failed

Exclusive: The federal government set out to show it was trying to deport non-citizens, knowing there was a risk a key high court ruling could be overturned. But an insider says it was purely symbolic

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In July 2022 Australia’s immigration minister, Andrew Giles, was warned of legal “risks” associated with immigration detention and the need to show “concrete and robust steps” to deport non-citizens stuck in limbo.

A taskforce had been set up within the home affairs department to explore third country options to resettle long-term detainees in immigration detention. Its existence was never publicised and references to it were redacted from documents released under freedom of information.

But in the high court on 17 April the Australian Border Force operation that succeeded the taskforce was revealed for the first time: Operation Zufolo.

The solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue, said the operation was a look at “all the long-term cases to evaluate whether there was any possibility of third countries” for resettlement.

But lawyers say there is no evidence the taskforce has succeeded in removing anyone to a third country, and government sources concede it served as a device to head off or boost prospects in problematic court cases.

One government insider says Operation Zufolo exists to “look like we are symbolically doing something” to consider resettlement.

A departmental spokesperson confirmed to Guardian Australia that in May 2022 it established “a third country options taskforce to enhance efforts to address removal barriers for long-term detention cases, particular for those individuals that could not be removed to their home country”.

In November 2022 it was succeeded in the ABF by Operation Zufolo, which is described as the operational and removal phase.

Removals ‘highly unlikely’

The ABF removed 2,274 unlawful non-citizens last financial year, all or almost exclusively to countries that cooperate with removal of their citizens, such as New Zealand.

But the department acknowledges there are “ongoing challenges” removing a “significant proportion of the detainee population” because they are owed protection, are stateless, or their home country won’t accept them due to their criminal history or their refusal to cooperate with deportation.

These are the long-term detainees Operation Zufolo seeks to resettle in third countries, but it is unclear that it has ever successfully done so.

In its July 2022 submission to the immigration minister, the department told Giles it was “highly unlikely” a person would be accepted without “at least significant ties” to the proposed third country.

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Sanmati Verma, the managing lawyer of the Human Rights Law Centre, says the centre is “not directly aware of any instances in which the Australian government has successfully arranged third-country resettlement for a person in [onshore] detention”.

The US and New Zealand resettlement deals are limited to those who came to Australia by boat after July 2013 and then languished in offshore detention.

The onshore detention cohort is made up of the much larger group who flew to Australia legally on another visa and then claimed asylum, or who became unlawful non-citizens by overstaying their time-limited visa or because their visas were cancelled under character provisions.

The department and ABF did not respond to questions seeking anonymised examples or statistics of successful third country resettlement from onshore detention.

“The department and ABF actively explore all avenues to remove unlawful non-citizens from Australia as soon as reasonably practicable” including “genuine efforts to address barriers to removal in all cases, including exploring third country options”, a departmental spokesperson said.

‘Increased risks’ to indefinite detention

Since the high court’s 2004 Al Kateb decision, the Australian government had operated on the basis that indefinite immigration detention was lawful, even in circumstances where it was not possible to deport the non-citizen.

But in November 2023 the high court overturned that precedent in the NZYQ decision, which has so far resulted in more than 150 people being released from detention.

“Before NZYQ, warehousing people in immigration detention was standard practice,” Verma says.

“The government did not consider itself to be under any real obligation to bring an end to people’s detention through their resettlement in another country.”

Despite the Al Kateb precedent standing for two decades the legal risks were building. The department warned Giles it needed to respond to “increased risks” from court cases finding it needed to “pursue third country options”.

Coalition and Labor governments were both advised of the risk that Al Kateb – which was decided by a “bare majority” of four judges to three – could be overturned. The department believed good-faith efforts to resettle those detained would boost the prospect it would continue to be upheld.

Whether Operation Zufolo was thought likely to actually resettle detainees or simply to “look like we are symbolically doing something” on resettlement, as the government insider says, the object to avoid or bolster prospects in court cases was the same.

Verma at the Human Rights Law Centre, which intervened in the NZYQ case and others, says the government “engages in a flurry of activity directed at removal once court proceedings are commenced, but not before”, arguing this is done to cut off challenges.

A ‘leisurely approach’ to removal

One such litigant was Tony Sami, an Egyptian man whose visa was cancelled due to fraud offences and who then stayed in detention for a decade, desperate to remain in Australia to prevent separation from his two Australian children.

Because Sami was refusing to cooperate with Egyptian authorities to obtain a travel document, authorities considered his detention “three-walled”, meaning he could end it at any time by returning to Egypt.

But that changed when in December 2022 the federal court’s Justice Debra Mortimer said there was “no real likelihood” of Sami being removed, a finding that prepared him to go to the high court to challenge Al Kateb.

Mortimer said before the case departmental officers had taken a “leisurely approach” to removing Sami, followed by a “vastly increased pace” of activity in the weeks before the case’s hearing.

After those damning findings, the Australian government succeeded in involuntarily removing Sami to Egypt.

For others removal proved impossible or was not seriously tried. In the high court, the lawyer Lisa De Ferrari criticised efforts to remove her client ASF17, a bisexual man who refuses to return to Iran, where sex between men is illegal and can attract the death penalty.

“What the commonwealth means by, ‘we did explore third country options’, was limited to … going to him and asking him, ‘are you sure you do not have any relatives in any other country but Iran that we might be able to use as avenues to investigate other countries?’

“That was all that it ever was,” she said. “It never was … about exploring with any third other country – nothing.”

Donaghue said the officer responsible for ASF17’s detention had explained that he was instructed he didn’t need to ask about third countries because Operation Zufolo determined none was available.

“So, the evidence is actually that we [the commonwealth] did try to find somewhere else,” he told the high court. “Unsurprisingly, for a citizen of Iran who could be returned to Iran if he cooperated, we did not find any.”

Undeportable NZYQ wins in high court

The commonwealth eventually met its match in the form of NZYQ, a Rohingya man, who proved impossible to deport because he is stateless and he had been convicted of raping a 10-year-old.

NZYQ launched his high court case on 5 April 2023. From 26 May to 18 September, the government considered giving NZYQ a visa in light of “litigation risk”, a proposal to release him and remove the foundation for the high court challenge.

Yet on 31 May the commonwealth agreed facts of the case including: that the department “had not identified any viable options to remove the plaintiff from Australia”; and had “never successfully removed a person, who has been convicted of an offence involving sexual offending against a child” except to a country of which they were a citizen. NZYQ could not be removed from Australia.

All this was agreed before a single country had been asked to take NZYQ.

Between July and September officials sounded out Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia because NZYQ had family members in both.

On 29 August the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, asked the department to progress all avenues to remove NZYQ, to leave “no stone unturned”, according to a departmental email.

On 16 September, Giles’s office said he was comfortable with this approach. Ministerial involvement resulted in approaches to Australia’s Five Eyes allies.

The commonwealth amended the facts of the case to include its removal efforts, as the legal strategy shifted to arguing that – unlike Al Kateb – it was not impossible to deport NZYQ.

No country said yes. The best the commonwealth could say when the high court heard the case on 7 and 8 November was that the US had agreed to take a “hard look”.

Deportation was a key component of the legal strategy, to distinguish NZYQ from Al Kateb by showing removal was still possible.

In the hearing NZYQ’s counsel, Craig Lenehan, said the removal efforts were done “under the shadow of this litigation”.

A “charade of working towards” removal was not enough to justify indefinite detention, he said.

The high court ruled there was “no real prospect of the removal of the plaintiff from Australia becoming practicable in the reasonably foreseeable future”.

All seven justices agreed that if deportation is not possible, then detention is punitive and breaches the constitution’s separation of powers.

The bare majority who gave a green light to indefinite detention in Al Kateb had been replaced by a unanimous red light from the Stephen Gageler court.

By one of its key performance indicators, propping up the legality of indefinite detention, Operation Zufolo had failed.

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Iraqi TikTok star Om Fahad shot dead outside Baghdad home

Officials say unidentified man killed influencer who had previously been imprisoned over dancing videos

A man on a motorbike has shot dead a social media influencer known as Om Fahad outside her Baghdad home, Iraqi security officials have said.

The unidentified attacker shot Om Fahad in her car in the Zayouna district on Friday, a security official said, requesting anonymity because he was not cleared to speak to the media.

Another security source said the attacker appeared to have pretended to be making a food delivery.

Om Fahad became known for lighthearted TikTok videos of herself dancing to Iraqi music wearing tight-fitting clothes.

In February last year, a court sentenced her to six months in prison for sharing “videos containing indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality”.

The government launched a campaign in 2023 to clean up social media content that it said breached Iraqi “morals and traditions”. An interior ministry committee was established to scour TikTok, YouTube and other platforms for clips it deemed offensive.

Several influencers have since been arrested, according to authorities.

Despite years of war and sectarian conflict since the 2003 US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq has returned to a semblance of normality. But civil liberties – for women, sexual minorities and other groups – remain constrained in the conservative society.

In 2018, the model and influencer Tara Fares was shot dead by men in Baghdad.

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