SYDNEY, Australia — Hundreds of Australian Aboriginal leaders gathered on Friday at Uluru, a massive sandstone monolith in Australia’s central desert, to call for constitutional recognition of their people. Around the same time, a new emoji was quietly added to Twitter: the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
The emoji showing both flags together amounts to a small (very small) action, but for the group of people it stands for, the digital recognition carries deep significance.
“Emojis are huge,” said Luke Pearson, a digital producer of the Indigenous radio unit of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We use them all day, every day, on so many different platforms. They aren’t entirely insignificant, because they’ve become such a core part of our communications.”
The new emoji arrived the same week Australia is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the vote to include its indigenous people in the national census. In a week that includes National Sorry Day and the anniversary of the landmark Mabo case, which dealt with indigenous land rights, the flags amount to a form of recognition that can be easily shared; they become available on Twitter when users include certain hashtags, such as #IndigenousAU, #ReconciliationWeek, or #1967Referendum.
But as Australia’s indigenous peoples still struggle to overcome more than 200 years of colonization, with a population that is grossly overrepresented in prisons, and that has drastically poorer health and a lower life expectancy than the rest of Australia, does an emoji even matter?
Other issues seem much more important; the leaders who gathered in Uluru, formerly known as Ayers…
Australian designer Thomas Puttick earned high marks for his powerful fashion show at Fashion Week Australia on Monday, which featured one of the most diverse catwalks yet.
The young designer featured women who aren’t professional models in his resort 2018 collection, including Aminata Conteh-Biger, a refugee from Sierra Leone, and Anne Aly, Australia’s first female Muslim MP (member of parliament). The show also featured other non-models ― like a musician, an activist and a graphic designer ― alongside woman of many different ages and sizes.
“The new series is a way for us to present empowered women who have a strong message, and who carry themselves,” Puttick told News AU. They all rocked the runway:
Australia’s biosecurity officials have a big job. They stop plants and animals from entering the country—species that could disrupt its delicately balanced ecosystem. But in their quest to protect Australia, they’ve accidentally destroyed some important biological specimens bound for local researchers. Back in March, for example, biosecurity officials incinerated a plant specimen because of a paperwork mix-up.
The destroyed item was the type specimen for a flowering plant (the exact species hasn’t been released), which means it was the specimen that was used to describe the species officially. The plant had been collected in the mid-1800s and ended…
A children’s doctor injects a vaccine against measles, rubella, mumps and chicken pox to an infant on February 26, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Australia might soon ban unvaccinated children from attending preschools and daycare. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull didn’t mince words on the proposed law, dubbed “No Jab, No Play.”
“This is not a theoretical exercise – this is life and death,” he said. “If a parent says ‘I’m not going to vaccinate my child’, they’re not simply putting their child at risk, they’re putting everybody else’s children at risk too.”
Australia has been moving towardstricter vaccination laws for years. In 2015, the federal government stripped welfare and tax benefits from parents of unvaccinated children, a move that led to an increase of about 200,000 child vaccinations.
Vaccination laws that restrict unvaccinated children from attending schools already exist in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. But Turnbull and the Australian Medical Association want to enforce them nationwide.
“If you, as a parent, expect the community to support you by either welfare payments or access to care, then you need to do your bit to contribute to that community by protecting other children,” Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association, told Fairfax Media.
Still, some think Australia’s this strong-arm legislation could empower the anti-vaccination movement.
“People without any previous interest in vaccination may defend anti-vaccination activists and join their cause because they are concerned about the threat to civil liberties,” said Julie Leask, a professor and researcher at the University of Sydney.
One anti-vaccination mother living in a suburb outside of Sydney recently proposed starting a daycare center for unvaccinated children.
“Many families are concerned about vaccinating. Yes it’s in response to No Jab No Play,” the post read. Alarmingly, some were supportive of the idea, suggesting they open similar daycares in nearby cities.
Such a move could put whole communities at risk by weakening herd immunity.
Herd immunity is all about strength in numbers. Society becomes protected from outbreaks when enough people are…