Letters to the editor - April 13

Job well done 

Congratulations to the small group of people who initiated and organised the Deakin Fire Relief fundraiser on 7 April.  At such short notice it was a remarkable success and raised more than $9,000 to assist those who have suffered from the recent bushfires. The support of vehicle owners from near and far and the backing of donations of goods, services and cash from local businesses and individuals, shows the generosity of people.  I am proud of the good-hearted people who gave so much to achieve such a great result.  Well done.

Graeme McLeod, Warrnambool

Problem parking meters

So the Council has voted to maintain the pedestrian crossings at Lava/Liebig and Koroit/Liebig intersections. No surprise there. In fact, despite the protests, the crossings have not caused a major problem for most drivers, and are indeed of significant assistance to those wishing to walk through the centre.  A bigger problem are the new parking meters.  Supposedly installed to make things easier for those wishing to park, they are in fact too complicated, and cost the car-using ratepayers more money, as it is almost impossible to park, drop 20 cents in the meter and get something quickly from the shops. The process alone takes more than five minutes, and is terribly confusing to visitors. If the council really wishes to make the CBD attractive for shoppers, then they must provide more free parking - even if only with a 2 hour limit. Only then will people return to the CBD from Gateway and other shopping venues.  Why not make all car parks (Target, Timor Street and others) free, and limit street parking in Liebig street for business and disabled use only.  This will provide incentive to come and shop, and leaves the pedestrian areas free for a better shopping experience.

Eric van der Wal, Warrnambool

Live exports blight

The gross torture and death of animals sent overseas for slaughter is a blight on all reasonable people. The most recent atrocity was a prolonged strangulation of 2500 sheep smothered on a ship to the Middle East. Vets on the ship who have criticised the conditions have been sacked at the end of the trip. It has been going on for decades and no one (particularly the Federal Government ) gives a damn about it. I urge all people to support the efforts of Derryn Hinch to guarantee the humane treatment of all our animals that they ship off our shores.  

Gary Lucas, Warrnambool

It’s just not footy

Just as Australian cricket is under scrutiny over its attitude towards the game, so should the AFL and the AFL Player's association be taken to task over the on field behavior of players. Each week we are subjected to watching gangs of players physically and verbally confronting opposition players who have made an error of judgement. Then we also have the negative targeting of specific players to nullify their effectiveness. No other football code exhibits these degrading methods of belittling and humiliating opponents, yet apparently it is acceptable in the AFL despite the recognizable fact that players are regularly succumbing to mental health issues brought on by the stresses of an extremely competitive game. It is another form of sledging and it is so sad to see it occurring so regularly in front of young impressionable supporters. What is permitted to happen at elite levels will eventually filter down to lower grades and I can just hear extreme supporters at junior games encouraging their team members to get in the face of opposition players who make a mistake. I acknowledge the competitive nature of our game but this group confrontation is spoiling the spectacle for me.

Peter Cooke, Warrnambool

Different view

As I write this it's the 7th of April, not even a quarter of the way through the month and like many other people on the autism spectrum I have had enough of Autism Awareness Month. The impact of this month long awareness campaign can be incredibly detrimental to our mental health, a fact that many well-meaning campaigners are probably not aware of. So I'd like to share with you why this month aimed at assisting people on the autism spectrum can often do the opposite and ends up being a time of huge distress. 

Well meaning people have turned April into a month that many autistic people dread and can’t bear to face without the aid of detailed self-care plans and deeply relieving satire. The fact that we have to have self-care plans or strategies in place to get through the month illustrates that something has to change. The very people that are supposed to be supported during this month often end up suffering instead. 

When accessing the media during the month of April we are inundated with the colour blue and puzzle pieces as well as messages implying that autism is family destroying, autistic people are burdens, autism as a disability is an epidemic and a disaster, parents are blaming autism for their misery, and autistics are damaged people who bring suffering to those around them. Sadly many well meaning campaigners again do not understand the distress that these representations can cause.  

Many people on the autism spectrum, particularly adults diagnosed later in life, have many stories to tell you of bullying, social exclusion and ridicule and will have had at least one if not several traumatic experiences during their lives. For some, this has occurred in their own homes as well as in society. Sadly, during Autism Awareness Month when autistics try to speak up and have their voices heard, in many instances it is a case of history repeating itself. Being a minority group their voices get drowned out by a majority who don’t share their views hence triggering past emotions and experience resulting in for some more emotional distress and trauma. 

Whilst people are not intending to offend others by choosing these colours or symbols and expressing their opinions about autism, the fact is that they are still triggers for autistic people. Often the way that autism awareness is celebrated is not done in conjunction with autistics’ voices and often does not reflect their needs and views. We don’t need solving, we don't need a cure we just need support and to work together in an inclusive fashion to make Autism something that is understood and accepted. There is no expectation that everyone becomes an autism expert, but if people were to have more understanding, ultimately leading to autism acceptance, together we can all make the world a more autism friendly place.

Kate O'Brien, Warrnambool