AstraZeneca and Pfizer now offered to all adults by mass vaccination hubs

Emily Thomas, 32, was out getting her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Photo: Hayley Ralph

State-run vaccination hubs in locked-down Melbourne are now offering the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine to under-40s for the first time.

Many months after Australians first started getting coronavirus vaccines, incremental changes are enabling more young people to access the jabs.

Previously, young people had to access the shot through a GP. But now they are able to book through vaccination hubs and chat to a doctor on site before getting their first dose of either vaccine.

The change in policy followed the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) updating its guidance to urge anyone in an area severely affected by COVID-19 to strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available shot.

To demonstrate they are mindful of the risk of the incredibly rare blood clotting side effect of AstraZeneca, thrombosis thrombyocytopenia syndrome, those at the hubs who supply informed consent will need to sign a document. Some people are hesitant about the illness as it was announced earlier this year that Pfizer should be the favoured vaccine for younger Australians by Australia’s expert advisory panel.

The news came as Victoria ramps up its vaccination efforts as the state government announced Australia’s first drive-through COVID-19 vaccination hub in Melbourne’s west after it fell behind NSW in recent weeks.

Younger Victorians are being advised by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and leading epidemiologists to pursue medical advice on AstraZeneca, saying “the best vaccine is the one that is accessible to us today” and cautioned them against the larger perils of health problems from coronavirus contagions.

Compared to 1.5 million in New South Wales, more than 1.2 million people are fully vaccinated in Victoria, according to the newest federal Health Department data. And compared to 3 million Victorians north of the Murray, 2.39 million have received their first dose.

Amount of first and second doses that have been delivered, by vaccine brand, at Victorian vaccination centres.  

Matthew Hunter, 20, who works at a pharmacy, said he booked an appointment to get the AstraZeneca shot as soon as it was announced that it would be available to young people.

“I would have preferred them to have tried a bit harder to make Pfizer available earlier, but I didn’t mind them giving it to the people who needed it more first,” he said.

Emily Thomas had a slightly different vaccination experience to most people, with her tendency to faint meaning she was lying down when she got the jab.

Her 33-year-old partner got the AstraZeneca jab recently, even though he would have been eligible for Pfizer.

Emily said he wanted to do the right thing as soon as he could.

“It seems to me that we’re the age group that is spreading the coronavirus now because we think we’re not going to get sick and that it’s fine,” she said.

“I’m glad to have it and I’ll be glad when everyone is getting vaccinated.”

Interviewees:

Matthew Hunter- Young Victorian citizen getting vaccinated

Contact: 0451 385 639

Emily Thomas- Victorian mother getting vaccinated

Contact: 0435 995 751

Yelled at by players, despised by supporters, who wants to be a footy umpire?

Brendan Rider, 19, urges people to give umpiring a go. Photo: Hayley Ralph

Phil McGrath believes the best way to stare down angry supporters from across the boundary fence is “with a little smile”.

The veteran umpire began adjudicating football matches in Melbourne in 1987, long before a code of conduct for players and supporters was introduced. 

It was not unusual for him to report multiple players in a game, or to negotiate with a coach to keep a player in the forward line and off the ball because said player was threatening to kill one of the umpires.

“You did get those times where you’d think; ‘Oh jeez, are we going to get out of here or not?’,” McGrath said.

But he has always enjoyed the challenge and has carried with him a simple philosophy to local football umpiring.

“I’ve got 36 guys out there under my jurisdiction, and I want to get all those guys to work on Monday,” McGrath said.

He says the respect for umpires has improved a lot since the introduction of a code of conduct and clubs are more supportive of umpiring.

But with some leagues still struggling to find enough umpires, McGrath says the key to survival is involving young people in umpiring and supporting them, so they are not “thrown to the wolves”.

As a member of the Ballarat Football Umpires Association (BFUA), which has been around since 1913, 19-year-old apprentice carpenter Brendan Rider says he’s been well prepared to handle the pressure of his first senior game.

“You’ve got to stand up for yourself,” he said.

“It’s a good skill to have — a lot of people don’t develop that until they’re older.”

But for Rider, the pay is the big drawcard.

“You get paid to get fit,” he said.

Before he turned 18, he earned $5,000 from umpiring and put it towards his first car.

Rider says joining the BFUA has been a great way to meet people and enjoys the social aspect of umpiring.

He says abuse is an issue, but it is usually forgotten after the match.

“After every game we go into the home rooms and we all have a drink together,” he said.

The BFUA currently has 330 umpires registered while across the state there are 6,650 registered community football umpires, according to AFL Victoria.

Without them there is no game.

Interviewees:

Phil McGrath- Veteran umpire

Contact: 0400 477 251

Brendan Rider- Umpire for Ballarat Football Umpires Association

Contact: Brendan.rider21@gmail.com

How to raise your daughters to be strong women

What Amber Walsh wants most for her daughters is for them to be happy — and happy within themselves.

While she knows many of the challenges they’ll face are out of her control, she is determined to give them the skills to navigate the world as resilient women who trust their instincts.

“Our favourite saying in this house is ‘effort equals reward’,” Amber says.

“You put in the effort and you’ll be rewarded for that — regardless of which sex you are.”

She and her husband, Steven, live in the suburbs of metropolitan Melbourne with their daughters aged 12 and 15.

“I think it’s giving them the confidence to be able to be recognised for their talents,” she says.

Before girls’ football was established, their eldest child joined a boys’ team. Within minutes of taking the field in her first training session, she was told to ‘go back to the netball courts’.

“She came off and said, ‘Mum, what should I do?’ I said, “if you want to play footy, then that’s exactly what you’ll do.”

“I don’t like to use the word ‘empowering’ but I definitely think its encouraging them and giving them the confidence to achieve all their goals, whether that’s in a male-dominated field or a more traditionally female-dominated field.”

Both girls now play for teams in a girls league and are coached by men who train them “just as hard, if not harder, than the boys”.

“They’ve both got great male mentors who respect women in their lives. I think that’s really important to making them feel like they’re capable to achieving whatever they want.”

Micro-moments make all the difference.

“It’s those small moments in the way that girls are parented that can have a massive effect on them for the rest of their life, which rob girls of their self-confidence and trust in themselves,” Amber says.

“We’re really conscious of making sure our girls understand that they are the maker of their own destiny and live by their own standards, which is quite different from the way we were raised. We were raised to be so concerned by what other people think.” she says.

“Many are shamed and embarrassed to speak out and be different- and then we wonder why they’re so worried about what other people think of them when they become teenagers, when it’s so often instilled in us when we’re young.”

The pair also believe in teaching girls they can make a difference in the world and that they aren’t “tossed around by external events”, such as comments from other people or something not going to plan.

Dr Andrew Scanlon, a writer and academic, says the skill of a girl learning to pick herself up and choose what she wants to take from a situation is powerful.

As is teaching consent.

“We’re having a whole debate in this country around the notion of consent,” Dr Scanlon says.

He says while a lot of the discussion refers to boys and how they are socialised, there is an opportunity for parents to talk to young girls about consent.

“A child’s primary way of learning is through play,” Dr Scanlon says.

“If you’re playing a tickle game or something like that and she says ‘stop’. Now stop.”

“This is a micro-moment where you can have that conversation. Now, it’s likely that the girl will go, ‘why did you stop? And you can say because you said ‘stop’.”

Psychologist, parenting educator and author Steve Biddulph says while boys can have their share of problems, girls are at great risk.

“It used to be boys who were in trouble, and girls flying ahead with the benefits of the women’s movement, but in the last decade or so there has been a sudden decline in girls’ mental health,” he says.

“Girls are at such a high risk now of self-harm, eating disorders, and anxiety is incredibly prevalent with 25 per cent of young girls taking anti-depressant medication.”

Biddulph notes “the terrible effect of social media” which he says can be hostile and judgemental.

He also points to the “predatory nature of the wider culture, boys who show ugly attitudes, harassment and worse”.

“You have to get angry at the world for treating them so badly, by luckily, we know a huge amount about what makes girls mentally healthy now,” Biddulph says.

He says life for children these days is often “far too rushed and overloaded”.

“Boys and girls are more alike then not in the way that what children need most today is just more time to dream, chill out and not be pressured.”

For Amber, her main aim is to teach her girls to take responsibility for the things they are in control of.

“You don’t do everything for them or act too much for them, but you always support them,” she says.

Recently her youngest child forgot to remind her they needed to pick up her footy mouthguard from the dentist.

“It got to 5:00pm and she goes ‘Mum, my mouthguard.’ I said to her, ‘sweetheart you were meant to remember that, I’ve got too much to do, you ring the dentist’.”

And she did.

She googled the number, introduced herself, and asked them to stay open another 15 minutes so they could collect it.

“I was so proud,” Amber says.

She hopes her daughters will grow into independent, resilient women.

“First and foremost, I always want them to be happy, but independent and self-sufficient and not feeling like their happiness or success depends on someone else,” she says. 

Amber says she tries not to shelter her daughters, because eventually they will leave the nest.

She recalls the advice her mother gave to her when she left for university.

“She said, ‘Amber, remember that only you get to live with all the decisions you make’.”

“I think that’s something that I’ll probably tell my girls too.”

Interviewees:

Amber Walsh

Contact: 0478 694 465

Dr. Andrew Scanlon

Contact: andrew.scanlon@unimelb.edu.au

Steve Biddulph

Contact: deeperforest@gmail.com

Should the AFL men’s game be rebranded to AFLM?

It seems like a harmless enough suggestion; AFL men’s may need to rebrand due to the rising recognition of AFL women’s, commonly known as AFLW.

Many believe that changing the name of the men’s competition to AFLM would acknowledge the triumph of the women’s league, and that the men’s game would no longer be deemed the ‘premiere’ or ‘default’ club. 

“But the AFL name is historic! It dates back 29 whole years! You can’t change that, it’s blasphemy!” says outraged fan Christopher Burge.

The impassioned debate reached a pivotal moment last year when the league’s head of football operations Steve Hocking was asked on ABC’s Outer Sanctum show whether the AFL would formally change the name to AFLM. He replied that he was “all ears” to the arguments for it, however, after speculation started to swirl on social media, AFL House promptly tweeted that they had no plans to change its name.

14 teams now take part in the women’s league, following the inclusion of Richmond, Gold Coast, West Coast and St Kilda last year.

Only Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Sydney and Essendon are without AFLW players out of the 18 AFL clubs.

Kasey Symons, a researcher at the Sport Innovation Group of Swinburne University, believes that women’s sport is lessoned by the current situation, but using acronyms like AFLM and AFLW are unnecessary.

“I never thought the title AFLW was a good idea,” says Dr Symons. “They should’ve established it under the banner of the Australian Football League, so that both genders in the national competition were sitting equally.”

Indeed, it’s been suggested that the solution may be to remove the gendered markers from both competitions altogether, a step not unprecedented in sport.

The gesture of adding an ‘M’ would be a small one. But many trust that it would be a profound and meaningful step. But it is also a reminder of the various barricades that linger in the pursuit of gender equality in sport, given the disparate feedback at the mere prospect of retitling AFL to AFLM.

Perhaps time – as the full potential of the AFLW grows closer- could force change.

Interviewees:

Kasey Symons- Researcher at Swinburne University’s Sport Innovation Group

Contact: ksymons@swin.edu.au

Christopher Burge- Disgruntled AFL enthusiast  

Contact: cburge@mit.edu

Labrador Lovers, Australian Border Force are on the lookout

By Hayley Ralph

Volunteers are being sought by Australian Border Force in Melbourne’s north and west.

A loving home and plenty of activity is required to raise an Australian Border Force pup, so long as you enjoy some exercise, have a secure backyard and most importantly, love dogs.

Hayden Cooper has been a foster carer in the Detector Dog Program for over two years now. He’s devoted the majority of his time to the program, trained pup’s from nine weeks old, and lost the majority of his outdoor furniture.

And he’s loved every minute of it.

“I’m chuffed to be able to raise these dogs from such a young age and help them grow into capable working dogs. To have such a good-natured companion to foster, especially one who will hopefully go on to patrol Australia’s borders, is just such a satisfying feeling.”

Now, the Australian Border Force (ABF) is on the hunt for foster carers like Cooper to offer a home for the next generation of working detector dogs. The Detector Dog Program allows families or individuals to make an important contribution to the security of Australian borders, while at the same time, enjoy the fun of raising a puppy.

Many foster carers who join the Detector Dog Program are repeat carers or foster multiple dogs. Cooper is currently fostering his second pup, and says it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

“When the time comes to give it up, it’s hard, for sure, but you know the dog’s going on to do great work for Australia. You get great satisfaction out of seeing these dogs develop from a puppy to then go on and do their job.”

The ABF Detector Dog Program plays a vital role in the enforcement capability at the Australian border. Working in a range of environments across the country, they are routinely on duty to search luggage, mail, parcels, cargo containers, sea and air cargo, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, structures and people.

Joining the Detector Dog Program and becoming a foster carer is a way of evading the costs associated with dog ownership while still enjoying a canine companion. Carers get them used to the smells, sights and sounds of their suburban areas, priming them for working in the busy ABF environment, and also providing a safe home for the pup. In return, ABF covers all costs associated with caring for the pup, including veterinary needs and equipment as well as food, while also providing expert training and advice.

The Australian Border Force’s Detector Dog Program has been protecting Australia’s borders for 50 years; an incredible achievement of continuous service that contributes to security at the border and the protection of all Australians.

ABF Detector Dogs are trained to search for narcotics, currency, explosives, firearms and tobacco. An ABF Border Operations Release reported that last year, Detector Dog teams made over 2000 detections of prohibited items and illicit substances across airports, postal gateways and seaports.

The foster care program is continually evolving and expanding to meet emerging threats at the border and has grown from modest beginnings in 1969. The first detector dogs were trained to detect drugs, but 50 years on, 60 detector dog teams across the nation are dedicated to detecting drugs, firearms, explosives, currency, and tobacco.

The breeding program began in Melbourne in 1993. Now, over 3000 pups have been bred and developed to be trained as detector dogs.

The founding stud dog was named Ajax. Ajax worked as a detector dog for three years before becoming the first ever stud dog of the breeding program. In Bulla, Victoria, a statue of Ajax stands proudly at the front of the National Detector Dog Program Facility.

In order to produce a dog that is bold and outgoing, highly driven, thrives on play reward and possesses a strong hunt drive, breeding pairs are carefully selected. Development activities include hunt and retrieval games, manual handling conditioning and exposure to different sounds, surfaces and sights. These development and assessment activities are designed to provide each pup with the best possible opportunity to reach their genetic potential as detector dogs.

The Detector Dog Program continues to develop detector dog capabilities. According to the World Customs Organisation’s 5th Global Canine Forum, the 2018-2019 financial year alone had over 800 illicit narcotic detections, detected over seven million dollars of undeclared currency and prohibited over four tonnes of tobacco products in the air and sea cargo environments.

Detector dog teams around the country completed over 24,000 targeted operations in support of ABF priorities in 2019. These operations included the mass screening of passengers, cargo, postal items, and arriving vessels and aircraft. The program also supports operations with the Australian Federal Police and various state police forces.

Canine Development Officer Ricki Boyd says it’s nice to know that we’re all working together to contribute to the safety of Australia.

“We are very proud of all the ABF and Customs staff who have helped create our world-class Detector Dog Program and I congratulate all those who have contributed to the protection of our borders for the past 50 years.”

“The Detector Dog Program has evolved over the decades to become a global frontrunner in detector dog training and breeding,” says Boyd. “Our Labrador Retrievers are in demand from both domestic and international law enforcement agencies.”

The National Border Force Detector Dog Program Facility in Melbourne is a purpose-built, world-class facility for breeding and training detector dogs. The facility can house up to 200 dogs and provides the ABF with all their operational detector dogs.

In addition to breeding and training dogs for the ABF, the program has provided hundreds of detector dogs for domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police, Corrective Services, Japan Customs and Singapore Police.

The Detector Dog Program currently has a network of over 200 volunteer foster carers who are integral to the development of their future detector dogs.

Pups are fostered out to safe and loving homes from nine weeks of age. Foster carers enjoy the rewarding experience of raising a pup, providing them with social and environmental experiences which grow their confidence and independence in preparation to become working dogs.

Teaching Australian Border Force dogs the skills required to become a working dog is a process that begins long before the commencement of a formal Detector Dog Training Course. The development program for their juvenile dogs consists of regular assessments by their team of Development Officers, in combination with all the work performed by the foster carer community.

By the age of 12 months, all dogs will have developed basic detection capabilities that enable them to systematically search for and detect a learned target odour. There is a focus on environmental conditioning, allowing dogs to train and work assuredly, in a wide range of challenging situations. This foundation training is vital for their future as working dogs. Only the dogs with the strongest temperament and drive will go on to become ABF Detector Dogs.

Australian Border Force detector dog training is a highly technical and challenging course. Each detector dog team requires approximately 8 months of formal and rigorous training before becoming operational resources. It takes more time for these dogs to become fully proficient as they continue to expand their search and detection capabilities. During the formal detector dog course, which runs for 12 weeks, dogs are trained to detect a range of target odours including drugs, explosives, firearms, currency and tobacco.

The training focuses on developing independent search and decision-making abilities. Fully trained dogs have the capacity to work in a wide range of work environments, and the independence to follow their own instincts.

The dogs have a working life of about six to eight years. When they retire from their detector dog role, they’re placed into loving homes. In many cases, it’s with their former handlers.

Australian Border Force officials are currently urgently searching for foster carers to provide homes for some of their newest and cutest recruits. Volunteers are being sought in Melbourne’s north and west to welcome a puppy into their home for up to 18 months while it’s assessed for suitability to become a detector dog.

“For a lot of foster carers, it actually does suit their lifestyle,” says Kate Azzopardi, a Canine Health and Early Development Supervisor.

“Having a dog for 14 to 18 months does suit a lot of people if they can’t commit to 12 plus years of a dog’s life… they might be travelling, or moving soon.”

To become a foster carer, you need to live in the Melbourne or Geelong area, undertake three socialisation activities each week, take the pup for daily walks and have access to a vehicle. All vet, food and equipment costs are covered by the program, and trainers will even pick them up from your home when they’re required for training days each month.

But, if you think handing back a best mate sounds unbearable, the experts are assured it’s actually that moment that makes it all worthwhile.

“It’s like the kid going off to college analogy where you’re just so proud and happy to see them going off, doing what they’re born and bred to do. And if you love the program, then you can always put your name down and get another puppy,” Azzopardi says.

You can experience the joy of raising a pup for up to 18 months, with the knowledge that someday, your dog may grow up to defend Australia’s borders.