Feature Article

As a local resident walked past Duncan McKinnon Reserve, they were pleased to see the development of the new sports pavilion. Only the framework could be seen but it marked the progress of Glen Eira Council’s mission to upgrade parks & sporting facilities across its suburbs.

Construction of the new pavilion began last year and completion of the project is expected in March of next year. Its conclusion will mark the second building constructed for sport activities by the Glen Eira Council in three years. Cr. Neil Pilling, Greens Councillor for the city of Glen Eira, has been behind the project at Duncan McKinnon from the beginning. “It’s been quite a long last four years, quite intensive, because we’ve approved all the funding and design, and the leg work for all the major stages.”

Glen Eira council has undertaken the task of upgrading all its facilities, putting in $2 million each year into a pavilion building fund. “[We’re] hoping to modernise the facilities…we’re going to have great facilities for the future.” The first order of business was prioritising the projects, “it [Duncan McKinnon Reserve] was the most in demand and the most used park in the municipality.”

The pavilion was primarily used by Glenhuntly Athletics and Caulfield and District Netball Association (CDNA) but also catered for the cricket and soccer clubs, along with school carnivals held at the athletics track. The council noticed that junior sport was booming and that their “first priority was to build a new pavilion to cater for that growing demand.”

The importance that these sporting facilities bring to the community should not be underestimated. Today’s generation of kids are part of a growing trend towards childhood overweight and obesity. A study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2008 found that almost one quarter of Australian children were overweight or obese (aged 5-17 years old). The obesity percentage rose from 5.2% in 1995 to 7.5% in 2008. Those numbers are expected to rise in the future.

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^ Graph from Australian Bureau of Statistics

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^ Graph from Australian Bureau of Statistics

Now more than ever is it important to encourage and motivate kids to engage in outdoor activities and sport. One of the ways to buck the growing trend of overweight kids is to have the facilities to allow them to participate in sport and have good grounds to compete on.

“Once you build these facilities it does encourage more people to get involved because you can cater for more people,” Mr Pilling said. “It’s about having options and opportunities.”

Clubs need to keep attracting new participants and encourage young kids to be involved in outdoors activities. Netball is the second most popular sport among girls aged 5 – 14.  Allyson Musster, Vice President of CDNA, runs the netball program, Net Set Go, which involves introducing young kids to netball and giving them the skills to play. “The program is widely popular in our area. Not many netball associations offer it [Net Set Go].” The program currently has 76 kids participating.

CDNA also tries to make a fun environment for the kids once they enter the competition. “We try to promote a family environment, with barbeques and a round robin at the end of the season.” The competition has rapidly grown over the last few years, now with over 1400 members competing in the Friday and Saturday sections.

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^ Graph from Australian Bureau of Statistics

While the local councils are more focused on providing decent facilities, it is important for governments, state and federal, to establish programs that are going to motivate young kids to get outdoors and play. Childhood overweight and obesity needs to be targeted by the governments, similar to the campaigns they do for smoking, gambling or alcohol related illnesses.

This concern isn’t just for today, but for the future. The long term medical consequences for these children cannot be underestimated. Diseases and conditions connected with overweight and obesity range from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nicole Harris from Obesity Australia said that “people who suffer from obesity are more likely to suffer disorders such as depression and cognition problems,” adding that “this can cause consequences in their work.”

There is also the issue of costs of the health conditions created. The direct and indirect cost on the health care system is estimated anywhere between $50 billion to $60 billion annually. This is creating a growing problem on our already strained health care system. “If the problem of obesity was a rarity, the health costs could be managed,” said Nicole.

If kids of today aren’t taught the valuable lessons of eating well and maintaining physical education, they will bring those bad habits into adulthood and risk passing them on to their own kids. Nicole noted that “obesity is easier to curb in children than in adulthood.”

There is also the effect being overweight has on a child’s mental health. A study conducted by the University of Tasmania found that children who carry excess weight into adulthood have an increased risk of depression.

Physical education is not only beneficial for their health, but also their social skills. Participating in sports allows kids to learn teamwork and communication, and these skills will be valuable for them as they enter adulthood. “Kids need to avoid the ‘couch potato’ lifestyle,” Nicole said.

When the pavilion is finally finished, junior sport will continue to boom in the Glen Eira area and the benefits will be seen long into the future.

On a Saturday morning, that same local resident walked past Duncan McKinnon.  The netball courts were filled with kids participating in games.  In the background the starting gun from the athletics track filled the air.

Links:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21500955

http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features20Sep+2009

http://www.acys.info/facts/obesity/FTF_Obesity_briefing.pdf
(this link needs to be entered into Google to work)

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-hlthwt-obesity.htm

http://www.obesityaustralia.org/general-public-fact-sheets/obesity-in-children

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood_what_can_be_done/en/index.html

‘Children Overboard’ – David Leser [Review]

The first reading of David Leser’s piece, Children Overboard, gives the reader more than one side to the story. I think the story is clever to introduce two different views on what happened that day in October. It allows the reader to visualise not only what it would have been like for the people on board the asylum vessel, but also the moral dilemma the navy personnel faced while trying to uphold their orders.

The feature is also well structured; first with introducing Hawraa Alsaai and her family with a brief backstory of how they ended up on board, followed by Laura Whittle, Navy personnel, and her view on what happened. The feature then ends back with Hawraa and what has happened to her and her family since the accident. I think this structure works really well for the reader and also the type of story that is being told.

The story is also very visual and graphic which I think adds a lot of drama for the reader. This makes the story more emotional and makes the reader more invested in the story. The firsthand accounts from both Hawraa, her family and Laura also make the story very confronting. The issue about boat people has always been a touchy subject in Australia and having the issue written about in such a way makes the story tough.

‘The world according to Bryce’ – Jane Cazdow [Review]

I like the way Cazdow has delivered different versions of the ‘truth’ to the reader to then let them then decide what they will believe. A great example of this is her telling of Bryce’s side of his story and then getting information from his sister, and conveying both sides of their childhood. As a reader, you get to see both side of the story and then decide who is telling the truthful story. She continues throughout the piece to deliver information in this ‘he said, she said’ manner but to me, it becomes apparent through all the different stories that the world according to Bryce is most likely a fabricated and embellished ‘lie’.

I think the line ‘I am uncomfortably aware that there are some strange inconsistencies in his life story’ is very powerful because I get the image of a journalist entering her profiler’s house and embracing him knowing that she will have to write contradictions on the many things he has to say about his story. For me as well, when you read through the piece, you grow a bit uncomfortable reading the fabrications that Bryce Courtney has made, knowing that this man is somewhat of an Australian literary icon.

As a reader, I am left wondering how many true stories Bryce Courtney has told in his life and also his motivations for making up so many untruths. Some would say it would be to bolster his standing in the public eye and make him appear more interesting. But for me, I think it would be more a case of his personality and the knowledge that he can weave these intricate stories to entice people into his ‘abnormal’ childhood and adulthood.

‘Where the hell is everyone?’ – Patrick Carlyon [Review]

The first thing I noticed about this article is the obscure way in which Patrick Carlyon writes it. He gives us details, and in fact the story, through people doing their day to day activities on the day of the fires. I think the way in which Carlyon introduces the first person, Colin Paul, pulls the reader into the story and builds a person that is relatable to the audience. He continues to introduce people in this way throughout the rest of the article.

He is able to describe different aspects of the town so the reader can picture this quaint town and what has happened to it. I find this an interesting approach because we do see a lot of articles written about bushfires and this article has taken a different style to describe the horror and loss that a bushfire can cause so devastatingly quickly.

One thing wrong with the piece is the lack of proof-reading by the author or an editor. The CFA is mentioned throughout the piece but Carlyon has forgotten to write out what this stands for. While most Australians would know that it stands for the Country Fire Authority, it is basic practice in journalism to first write out the full name of an acronym and then start using abbreviations thereafter. Another error in the piece is the mentioning of ‘the 1939 fires (that) flew over the leafy basin’. As a reader, I had no idea what the 1939 fires were so Carlyon would have been better to take a sentence to explain the severity of these fires to make them more relevant to the reader in regards to the rest of the article.

While this is not so much an error on Carlyon’s behalf, I found all the different people he introduced confusing after a while. All the names that kept being mentioned throughout the piece got mumbled. It was hard to remember who was who and what had happened to them in previous paragraphs. While the use of all these different aspects gives the reader a full picture of what has happened, it does make it hard for the reader to remember all the names written throughout the article.

An important message conveyed throughout the story, via the writing and also quotes given by residents, is that fact that fires can come extremely quickly and sometimes without much warning. It is a good message to reiterate to readers that you always need to be aware of the dangers of fires, regardless of how far away they are or how safe you may feel in your area. It also showed the community that we weren’t prepared for such a thing to occur.

Overall, I think the piece does a good job in capturing the reader’s attention with the unique way in which the story is told. There is so much human touch given to the story that it makes the reader emotionally invested in the people and what has happened to them. It has also given me the idea/view of writing a story from a different angle to how the subject may have been written in the past.

Feature Pitch

The community story I will be writing about is the new construction of the sports pavilion building at Duncan McKinnon, a park that supports netball, athletics, cricket and soccer. The new pavilion has been on the council’s agenda for over 6 years. There have been difficulties and set-backs with its creation. Construction finally began late last year. I want my story to be about the community surrounding the park and what the new building will mean for locals and the sports clubs involved. I also want to try and link it in with the recent opening of the Glen Eira Sports and Aquatics Centre (GESAC) which is only a few kilometres from Duncan McKinnon.

The new building will be home to sporting groups such as the Glen Huntly Athletics and Caulfield and District Netball Association (CDNA). The pavilion will be providing better facilities for the clubs and create a hub for players and competitors to reside in. The car park surrounding one side of the park was recently re-developed and has created less clutter within the car park.

I plan on finding out background information about the initial idea to re-build the old pavilion, from there, the process of it finally being given the green light considering the prolonged time it took from its inception to construction, and eventual completion, due in the winter of 2014.

I also need to find out more about the people who will be using the building and their thoughts on it, as well as the local community who will be affected with the extra traffic and parking creating by the new pavilion. CDNA has experienced a rapid growth in the amount of teams playing in its competition and the new pavilion will be providing them with a state of the art building with facilities for its supervisors, umpires and players. They are currently using portables to house the umpires, equipment and match-day office.

I want this feature to explore the growing problem of childhood obesity in today’s society. I would like to talk about the importance of exercise and sport for young children to help curb this growing trend in kids. I plan on using statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to find out stats about today’s generation of children and the exercise patterns they have compared to past generations. This research will form the basis of my feature and help provide details into the problem. A recent study has found that the kids of today are spending over half of their free time in front of a screen.

I think this story would interest local news outlets because it focuses on a community building and its completion will benefit local sports clubs. News outlets have always had an interest in reporting of the weight issues of today’s society and also the effects of technology and fast foods have had on kids. They like to report on statistics that show that kids are not getting enough exercise and not spending enough time outside playing like kids of past generations. I would hope that the story would outline these issues and talk about what the new pavilion could mean for parents raising their kids around the area.

I want to focus on that area for the story because the problem with childhood overweight and obesity is becoming more and more of a problem each year and governments and communities need to be proactive and conscious of what they can do to help curb this growing trend. I think by looking into what a community can do to help with the problem will help parents think about the issue and get their kids more motivated to get involved with outdoor activities such as sport.

Obesity in children puts them at a higher risk for disease as an adult, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, and bone and joint problems. The world has changed over the last century and the habits of children in today’s society are increasingly attributing to childhood obesity. With more fast foods and fatty foods and drinks being available for kids, and an easier and cheaper option for parents to provide to them, kids aren’t eating as healthy as they used to. Add to that, kids are spending more and more time in front of electronic devices rather than using their time to play outdoors or even with proper old school toys that don’t require electricity to function.

The community needs to be aware of the risks involved in childhood obesity and make an effort to avoid their children becoming part of this growing issue. I think it is important to always keep social issues in the public eye and I think this issue is an important one not just for today’s society, but for future generations in which the trend is likely to grow if more isn’t done to stop it.

Another angle I was thinking of looking into is the fact that there is growing construction throughout residential communities with apartment complex’s and units. Instead of letting the dilapidated building be pulled down and used as a new site for housing, the government and city council have decided to re-invest with the interests of existing community members and focus on the important of keeping local parks and sports facilities. These sorts of facilities are an integral part of the community, providing residents with a place to join in sporting activities.

I aim for my feature to bring awareness to the childhood overweight and obesity issue. I also want to give the community an option to read up on the new construction and get information on it.