Followup on school chaplains program (religious discrimination)

(This is a followup to my previous post concerning the Australian Federal Government’s announcement of a discriminatory plan to fund religious positions in government and private schools.)

The Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) has a page on the National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) and a fairly enlightening FAQ. Most significantly, it describes the eligibility requirements for who can be a school chaplain (and clearly prescribes that they have a religious affiliation).

The NSCP and FAQ page are riddled with weasel words and phrases. They government reminds us that chaplains play an significant role in many schools (disregarding that teachers and cousellors play an integral role in all schools). They remind us that the chaplains are to helps students regardless of the students’ religion (to detract from the fact that the chaplain is necessarily non-secular). They remind us that they are contributing funding to other programs (even though the total for these other programs amounts to less that the NSCP funding and more than half is for drug education).

I think perhaps the most incredulous thing about the NSCP FAQ page is that the government is clearly contradicting all of the values they are presenting to students under their ($29.7 million) National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools program:

  • If the government were “doing their best”, they would not be introducing a discriminatory program unfairly biased towards private education.
  • The government is denying professionally trained secular consellors “a fair go”.
    By ignoring the overt discrimination and using weasel words, the government is not being upfront and “honest”.
  • The government shows no “respect” for professional education and personal traits, because they value then less than religious faith.
  • By introducing this program, the government is communicating that it sanctions religious discrimination. This is clearly not “responsible”.
  • The NSCP is clearly not “inclusive” because this funding is only available to hire people with a religious affiliation.

Details of the application process and assessment criteria will be made available in December.

Federal Government condones religious discrimination

The Australian Federal Government has recently committed $90 million to fund chaplains in public and private schools. This overt act of religious discrimination is absolutely astonishing. Whatever happened to seperation of church and state?

Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews said:

I think there is a broad concern in the community, amongst parents and indeed amongst a lot of young people, that having someone like a counsellor – like a chaplain – that they can go to and talk to is very important

Even if you concede that a counsellor could be “like a chaplain”, why not support and fund counsellors rather than chaplains? Why must the candidate have a religious affiliation? Isn’t it more important for them to have professional training?

The government hit back against claims of religious discrimination by noting that the program is voluntary and not limited to any particular religion. Prime Minister, John Howard asserted:

The great majority of people will support this as a very sensible initiative, and I’m quite sure that Islamic schools and Jewish schools will be as enthusiastic about this as Catholic and Protestant schools, and so they should be.

Since when are public schools Christian, Islamic, or Jewish? All goverment schools should be have no religious directives. This funding is weighted heavily towards private schools (which are predominantly religious),

John Howard continued to say:

We’re not going to discriminate, but clearly we reserve the right to say ‘no’ to somebody who’s plainly unacceptable, whatever that person’s background may be.

They are clearly discriminating based on whether the person has a religious affiliation, and the sponsoring religious organisation will be discriminating on whether the person is of the appropriate faith. This discrimination is both outlandish and overt.

Also from John Howard:

Chaplain has a particular connotation, people understand it, they know exactly what I’m talking about.

That particular connotation is that a chaplain is a Christian guidance consellor. It is blantantly ridiculous that a professional youth counsellor, who is not a member of a major religious organisation, would be inedligible for funding under this scheme. It is similarly ridiculous that an untrained, religious person would be eligible and hired in preference.

This motion communicates that the government believes that faith plays a bigger role in ethics and proficiency than any other factor. This is not only misguided, but also grossly offensive to secular people and mental health educators because it indicates that the government completely disregards years of training in preference for religious affiliation.

Update: I encourage everyone to write to John Howard and Kevin Andrews regarding this issue. I also encourage complaints to the Human Rights & Equal Opportunities Commission which deals with “breaches of human rights by or on behalf of the Commonwealth” and in particular “the impairment of equal opportunity in employment on particular grounds including: religion…”.

Update: I added my letter to John Howard to the comments section of this post.

Update: The ABC website is reporting that the Greens and the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations are opposed to this plan.

The internet’s own ethical code

Note: I should mention at the offset that this post is from an Australian perspective and may not relate to (the laws of) your region.

The internet seems to have its own ethical code that contrasts fairly dramatically with the legal system in a number of areas. By “the internet” I clearly don’t mean the millions of machines connected by cables; I mean the people who comprise the internet. Predominantly those that run websites and participate actively in forums and social networks.

Here are a number of key areas in which I think that internet culture deviates significantly from the law. I feel the internet community generally regards that:

  • Looking at porn is fairly normal (or at least very common)
  • Downloading shows that have been broadcast on television is alright
  • Downloading roms to play on emulators is alright
  • Hotlinking is theft. Copy and link to the source.


Porn is incredibly big business on the internet and most people associate the internet with porn to a large degree. If porn is in such high demand and downloading porn is so strongly associated with internet use, why can it only legally be sold (at retailers) in the ACT? All other states and territories in Australia absolutely prohibit the sale of porn (even to adults).

TV Shows

Although this is soon to change, it is illegal in Australia to record television shows or rip your audio CDs to your MP3 player. I think that the general consensus from the internet community is that it’s alright to share videos of shows that have been publically broadcast. I think that the argument is that public broadcast puts the show in the public domain. Legally, this isn’t the case.

Emulators and ROMs

The internet community tends to regard very old games or software as abandonware. This seems to include video game ROMs for old arcade machines and superceded consoles. ROMs and emulators are very popular downloads, but using an emulator to play a ROM is generally illegal (even if you have the original game). Legally, games companies still hold copyright on these games and they cannot be copied or downloaded.


Hotlinking is probably the most contrasting example here. Giving credit to an author doesn’t give you a legal right to copy their image. It’s still a copyright violation unless you have explicit permission to use their image. Now, linking to a website is not copyright infringement (because you do not make or host a local copy). So arguably hotlinking is the most appropriate thing to do legally. However, it is widely frowned upon online. The general feeling seems to be that you should create a local copy (which is illegal without permission), but always provide a reference link to the site where the content was originally found.

Avoiding stereotypes

Mainstream media tends to pander to viewer insecurities and associates very negative attributes to “internet geeks”. I want to be clear that one shouldn’t extrapolate too much from the views I mentioned above. I feel that those that believe the above will (like most people) still assert that:

  • Downloading complete DVD rips is pretty dodgy
  • Selling burnt copies of games downloaded from the internet is wrong
  • Using fake credit card details is very wrong
  • Child porn is absolutely reprehensible

Reconciling our legal system

Do these internet views reflect wider social mores? If so, it seems that many of our laws are out of sync with current social values, and I believe they should be brought into line.

Official report on IGDA Perth’s second meeting

A few days ago I posted my writeup on the IGDA Perth Chapter social night. The official summary is now online and it includes pictures (yay!). It’s more detailed than my writeup and (obviously) not from my subjective perspective.

In related news, I’ve been accepted onto the IGDA Perth Chapter working committee as a representative for OneTwenty. I look forward to helping out in any way that I can. Here’s a picture of us (OneTwenty) at the IGDA social night:

OneTwenty at the IGDA social night

Thanks to Martin for the photo!

Awesome Video Games, Video Games Awesome

I came across Awesome Video Games a couple of weeks ago via Destructoid. It’s a sort of Bill-And-Ted or Wayne’s World style show with a couple of “dudes” doing retro reviews of NES videogames.

It’s pretty funny and I love the mindless old-school theme song (obviously all done in a robot voice with 8-bit music):

Awesome video games, beep beep bop boop ba beep, video games awesome.

There are quite a lot of videogame and retro themed shows coming out under the banner of I have found their offerings to be a bit of a mixed bag overall, but there are some real pearlers in there. (Some episodes of GameJew are suprisingly good!) The production values are a lot higher than standard YouTube fare and it really helps set their videos apart.

Update: Episode 2 and episode 3 of Awesome Video Games are much better than episode 1 (embedded above).

Welland MediaBank ME-747AP review

As I mentioned in my IGDA Perth Chapter social night writeup, I’m now the fortunate owner of a Welland 3.5″ MediaBank HDD Media Player.

ME-747AP box

It’s a neat piece of kit, but has a few flaws and irritations. On the software side of things, there’s nothing wrong that can’t be fixed by a firmware upgrade. However, it seems that no such upgrade exists yet! I’ve included a quick one-line conclusion below, but keep reading for many more pictures and my full review.

Conclusion: Gingerly Recommended (if you need heaps of portable storage and it doesn’t cost you much more than a standard external case).

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October IGDA Perth Chapter social night wrapup

It really feels like all things gaming are starting to take off in Perth. The second IGDA Perth Chapter social night was last night and the turnout was great! David Kazim (the organiser of the upcoming GO3 Electronic Entertainment Expo) has done a great job organising and sponsoring these events.

The event was again held at the Velvet Lounge, and I was again greated by booth babes at the entrance. I’ve said before that having booth babes at these IGDA events seems fairly incongruous to me, but also that I wasn’t personally offended. I think at the first event I was expecting a “meeting” (which is fairly formal), but this event was labelled as a “social night” (which is fairly informal). I guess I feel that if someone steps up to do something, they can pretty much do it their way.

Form the time I arrived, I seemed to keep bumping into people I know or people who know me. It’s a little odd when people mention they read your blog. Not in a “man that’s creepy” sort of way, more in a “um… what do I talk about now… what don’t you know already!” manner. After allowing generous time for general mingling, Paul Turbett gave a brief welcome speech thanking the event sponsors and introducing the speakers and guests for the evening.

Nullarbor 2007

The first speaker was Martin Masek. He talked about next year’s Nullarbor Demo Competition. Important details are that it will be part of next year’s GO3 Expo and there will be a new category for 3D artwork (Yay for local content creators!). Shortly after Martin’s talk, Interzone Games announced that they would be sponsoring next year’s Nullarbor Demo Competition to the tune of $5000! If that translates into prize money, it should provide some extra incentive for programmers and artists out there.

GO3 Electronic Entertainment Expo 2007

David Kazim gave a presentation on his experiences at the recent Tokyo Game Show. The overall impression I got from his slideshow and videos is that TGS is huge. The pavillion that they hold the event in is around six times the size of the Perth Convention Centre, but it’s not just the physical size of the event that makes it huge. It’s the magnitude of presentation and presence that takes it to that next level.

Another point that David made was that, unlike E3 which is a trade expo, TGS is for consumers and GO3 will be following the same model. In fact, GO3 and TGS will be partnered events! There are a lot of large fringe events such as cosplay competitions that he would also like to try to reproduce here. I’ll have to talk to my old housemate Phil, now President of Japanese Anime Fans Western Australia (JAFWA), about this.

I talked to David after his presentation to tell him how happy I was that he had managed to get two of my suggested speakers (and favourite game developers) to come to Perth: Goichi Suda (Killer 7, Heroes) from Grasshopper and Matsaya Matsuura (Parappa the Rapper, Vib-ribbon) from NanoOn-sha. I was the guy at the front yelling out “yeah!” and “whoooooo!” when he showed a picture of Goichi Suda and asked “does anyone know who this guy is?” (Read more about my warm fuzzies regarding the speaker lineup in this article I wrote for Aeropause).

He mentioned that they are just the tip of the iceberg and that he’s heading back to Japan to finalise talks for a number of other speakers. I won’t name anyone until he chooses to make an official announcement, but the names he mentioned were very high-profile indeed.

Interzone Games

Robert Spencer and Mike Turner from Interzone Games spoke briefly about their desire to setup a studio in Australia to develop a AAA Massively Multiplayer (MMP) game that they have secured funding for. I mentioned Interzone Games in my previous post. They didn’t really reveal much more information when speaking to the crowd, but seemed to be working the room and getting a good feel for what talent is available in Perth.

An obvious concern with Perth is the lack of seasoned developers with a number of shipped titles under their belts. I think we have a lot of smart people, but they would really need to find the right mix of old and new blood. Here’s hoping they do find that in Perth, because it would be great for the local industry.

Prizes and Swag!

There were a lot more sponsors and a lot more swag this time. Game Traders brought along a couple of Xbox 360 consoles and large LCD screens. They seemed to see pretty good use throughout the evening. Door prizes were provided by Anyware and consisted of USB massagers and Snoopy (soft-toy) webcams. Raffle prizes were provided by Dark Zone and Game Traders. (Please let me know of any sponsors I forgot to mention, I think they deserve recognition).

I’m not sure why, but it always seems that people generally win either no prizes or a multiplicity of prizes. One of the students from the ECU game development course won $225 worth of gift coupons (a $75 coupon and a $150 coupon)! Anyhow, my mate Tone won a $150 coupon (for a Wii pre-order deposit no doubt) and I actually won something too! I’m now proud owner of a USB massager and a Welland 3.5″ MediaBank HDD Media Player USB2.0 Interface (that’s exactly what it says on the box). I’ll post more about it after I get a chance to try it out.

Note: There seemed to be a number of “official photographers”, so I didn’t take out my camera. I’ll post links to the photos when they appear on the IGDA Perth Chapter website.

Update: The official summary (with photos) is now online.

Interzone Games may be setting up in Perth!

Interzone Games are a new games company looking to setup in either Perth or Melbourne. I had an opportunity to talk with Robert Spencer (COO) and Mike Turner (Producer) as an ex-60Hz member of OneTwenty.

They both come off as very genuine and driven people, and they have considerable experience developing AAA game titles. The Perth game development scene is mostly comprised of indie developers working within very limited budgets. A large game studio could really invigorate the local community and I hope that Interzone decide to base their high-profile game development projects in Perth.

They will be speaking at the IGDA Perth Chapter social event tomorrow night. This is all the more reason for anyone in Perth interested in game development to come along to the IGDA event. I’ll post a writeup of the event soon after it happens.

Mancini’s Woodfired Pizzas

I’ve added Mancini’s Woodfired Pizzas to my Places To Eat guide (and also updated a few of the other entries). I suppose you’d call it a gourmet pizza place because they don’t make the standard Domino’s style pizza. It’s not a fancy restaurant though. It’s just a nice casual place to eat (like Interfoods in Fremantle used to be).

The menu consists of Antipasti (including Prosciutto and Rockmelon), Pizzas (including Calzones), a few other mains (pasta and chicken), salads, and desserts (more pizzas!). The variety of pizza is good and ranges from Salmon (with rocket and served with sour cream) to Calzone Oriental (with shitaki mushrooms and chilli). You’d usually expect to pay quite a bit for these gourmet pizzas, but the prices are very reasonable.

Large pizzas are between $11.00 and $16.00, and small pizzas are $6.50 to $9.00. Like most pizza places, they have a special consisting of a large pizza, garlic bread, and 1.25 litre soft drink (for $17.95). With a salad, I’ve found this to be enough for two people. However, they also have a combo that adds a garlic bread and can of soft drink to any small pizza. This is more than enough for an individual and means that you can get a great meal for under $10.00.

The pizzas are billed as “light healthy tasty” and from my experience that holds true. The chef used to work at NYC Pizza in the QV1 building, and people may be familiar with their “non greasy” pizzas. Mancini’s pizzas are similarly non-greasy (like most woodfired pizzas I guess).

Conclusion: Highly Recommended.

Keep reading for the (sappy) story about how I found out about Mancini’s.

Continue reading “Mancini’s Woodfired Pizzas”