Matildas ride winning streak into Newcastle for Brazil rematch

Chloe Logarzo, Emily van Egmond and Gema Simon in Newcastle on Monday. Picture: Simone De PeakMatildas midfielder Chloe Logarzo traces the side’s hard-won popularity back to the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Japan 15 months ago.
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waltzed through the final qualifying tournament undefeated, playing to a TV audience back home of more than 300,000.

They carried that form to the Rio Games, where they lost on penalties to hosts Brazil in the quarter-finals, then they topped their group at the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March, in front of the Netherlands, Sweden and China, before losing to Denmark on penalties in the third-place play-off.

Matildas ride winning streak into Newcastle GOLDEN GIRLS: The Matildas celebrate after Lisa De Vanna scored with a long-range volley against Brazil on Saturday in Penrith. The FFA expects a crowd of more than 14,000 for Tuesday’s night’s second game at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: AAP

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald on Monday.“The fact we’ve started being successful, everything feels like it’s falling into place and we are being portrayed as the elite athletes we should be.

“We were so successful in the Japan campaign for the Olympic qualifiers, and that’s where we really first sparked the love and everyone really got behind that and watched us.The TV ratings were ridiculous, and that was a really goodstart.”

Logarzo, who last appeared in the W-League for Newcastle early last year and now plays for Norwegian club Avaldsnes, came off the bench inthe last 15 minutes on Saturday and hopes for more game time in front of her adopted home crowd on Tuesday.

Fellow midfielderEmily van Egmond said beating Brazil again last weekend, after the 6-1 rout in California, was “sweet” revenge for the Rio disappointment.

“They’ve knocked us out of an Olympic Games, and obviously it hurt,” she said.

“Tournament of Nations they were missing some key players, so that’s what made the victory even more sweet on Saturday at Penrith.I think they were pretty close to their full-strength squad.

“To have a five-time player of the year come out like Marta and to beat them 2-1 is awesome and shows what direction this team’s going in.”

She said the recent success followed years of hard work by the players, coach Alen Stajcic and his support staff, who include her father, assistant coach Gary van Egmond.

“I think we had success in America, and I don’t know if we would have had these crowds [without it], but we’ve been playing some exciting football for a while.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to come home and show the exciting brand that we are playing.We’ve heard nothing but good things about the crowd.”

The former Newcastle midfielder, who now plies her trade with Wolfsburg in Germany’s Women’s Bundesliga, said n football was following the lead of other sports with better pay for women at W-League and international level.

“I think women’s sport in general in is going in the right direction. You see what AFL are doing, even Cricket with their contracts.

“With that comes a high level of professionalism and expectation, and that’s what we want to aim for, to be regarded among the other best countries in the world.”

Jets captain and Matildas left back Gema Simon, who also plays forAvaldsnes,did not take the field on Saturday but said the sellout crowd was “surreal”.

“Growing up in Newcastle and always wanting to play in the national team, to be able to do both at home is pretty special,” she said.

Simon and Logarzo will fly out of on Wednesday and are due to play in Norway on Saturday.

Simonsaid she would return to Newcastle after her club commitments end on either November 4 or 18. The W-League starts on the last weekend in October.


The winners of the Newcastle Herald Matildas ticket giveaway for the game in Newcastle on Tuesday night were:

Melinda Cullen, Brendon Farrar, George Cottrell, Steve Harrison and Emma Levine

Mental health groups sound alarm over dramatic same-sex marriage survey spike

Mental health groups are in urgent talks about how to deal with a dramatic spike in demand they are attributing to the same-sex marriage postal survey, with fears the situation will worsen further as the campaign goes on.
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Digital youth service ReachOut saidit has seen a 20 per cent surge in people accessing its online advice relating to LGBTIQ issues since August, when the postal survey became Turnbull government policy.

ReachOut –a frontline group that has about 1.5 million unique visitors to its website every year –saidits online forums have also recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scaredand tired of personal attacks.

Digital youth service ReachOut said it has seen a 20 per cent surge in people accessing its online advice relating to LGBTIQ issues since August. Photo: Andrew Meares

One of the country’s top mental health experts –former n of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry –is in no doubt the spike is linked to the divisive debate unleashed by the postal survey campaign.

“We are hearing a lot from LGBTIQ people that this is reviving traumatic experiences, particularly from their school years,” said Professor McGorry, now the executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

” is on the threshold of something really positive but we do have to manage the risk to vulnerable people over the course of the debate.”

Digital youth service ReachOut said it has seen a 20 per cent surge in people accessing its online advice relating to LGBTIQ issues since August. Photo: Andrew Meares

While ReachOut and Orygen have gone public with their concerns about the spike in demand, Fairfax Media understands half-a-dozen of the nation’s most prominent mental health organisations have been part of crisis talks during the last three weeks. Some have taken their concerns directly to the government.

ReachOut CEO Jono Nicholas said young LGBTIQ ns were discriminated against every day and were already at high risk of self-harm.

The national debate about their right to marry was “heightening this level of distress”.

“The debate around the postal survey has been, and will continue to be, a significant drain on both the LGBTIQ community and the mental health organisations that support them,” he told Fairfax Media.

“We fear will be counting the cost of the postal survey for many years to come, and not just to the budget.”

Another major service under pressure from the increased demand, but which did not want to be named, said young gay people were reporting feeling “hated by ns” as a result of the debate.

The groups say they are hearing not just from gay people but from friends and family similarly distressed about the debate. They say they fear most of all for young people who don’t seek help, with concerns thousands of young people are suffering in silence and at risk of harm as the ‘no’ campaign intensifies.

Opponents: Lyle Shelton, managing director of the n Christian Lobby and Karina Okotel, vice-president of the federal Liberal Party. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Opponents of same-sex marriage officially launched their ‘no’ campaign in Sydney on Saturday, led by conservative politicians Cory Bernardi, Matt Canavan and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Supporters of the reform launched the ‘yes’ campaign in capital cities across the nation on Sunday.

Many same-sex marriage advocates wanted a free vote on the issue in federal Parliament and opposed a public vote –whether by plebiscite or postal survey –partly because of fears about the mental health impacts.

But some opponents of the reform have dismissed the mental health concerns of the campaign, including Senator Canavan, a Nationals MP who said people should stop being “delicate little flowers”.

“Can’t we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate hasn’t been that bad,” Senator Canavan said in response to warnings from the National Mental Health Commission last week. The worst of the debate had actually come from “vile tweets and statements we’ve heard from ‘yes’ campaigners”, he said.

Federal Liberal Party vice-president Karina Okotel said last week it was not just gay and lesbian ns facing harassment. She said she had been the victim of “vitriolic abuse” for her stance against same-sex marriage.

“A culture has developed whereby it’s acceptable to vilify, mock, abuse and shame anyone who stands in the way or even raise questions about whether we should legalise same-sex marriage. I have been called a homophobe, a bigot and been told that my views are disgusting,”she told the National Press Club this week.

National Mental Health Commission co-chair Allan Fels said the survey debate had heightened discrimination against gay and lesbian ns, with LGBTIQ people experiencing “damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media”.

Worth its weight in fame: China looks sharp ahead of this year’s Emmy Awards

The Emmy award is a copper, nickel, silver and gold sculpture of a winged muse holding aloft an atom – representing the television “arts and sciences” – and wholesale she’s not worth much more than $US400.
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To the winner – either the television programs which take out drama, comedy and limited series, or the actors, directors and writers nominated for those same programs – the long-term value is much greater.

The precise economics of an award’s “worth”, however, is hard to pin down.

The Oscar “bump”, as its known, is worth an average of around $US14 million in box office terms.

Nicole Kidman was nominated for the lead actress Emmy for her role in Big Little Lies. Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

Television’s commercial metric is harder to break open, but few disagree an Emmy win is worth its weight in … well, at the very least copper, nickel, silver and gold.

Some shows –The West Wing,30 RockandLostamong them – actually posted audience drops after Emmy wins; but others, such asThe Shield, were saved from commercial uncertainty because the afterglow of the Emmy win soothed skittish advertisers.

is going into this year’s 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards with an impressive form, and two wins from four nominations at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

Fashion designer Perry Meek and creative director John McKelvey won outstanding costumes in a variety, nonfiction or reality program and outstanding commercial respectively; Sam Neill and Ben Mendelsohn, nominated for outstanding narrator and outstanding guest actor, lost out.

Luminous performance: Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper in Feud.

But we sail into this weekend’s “night of nights” with a robust form: actors Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, director Kate Dennis and producer Bruna Papandrea all up for key awards.

Given the critical acclaim for their work – notably the stunning reviews forBig Little LiesandThe Handmaid’s Tale– we’re in with a reasonable chance in the categories where we are competing.

And for Dennis in particular, the nomination alone has been transformational, effectively shifting her into a high tier of Hollywood directors: among themBetter Call Saul’s Vince Gilligan,The Crown’s Stephen Daldry andHomeland’s Lesli Linka Glatter.

Coming out of last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys – where the first 93 of the 120 Emmy Awards were given out in a heaving two-night extravaganza – Netflix’sStranger Thingsand HBO’sWestworldwere trending strongest.

Those two shows took home five Emmys apiece, ahead of HBO’sThe Night Of(which had four wins),Big Little Lies,The Handmaid’s TaleandVeep(three wins apiece) andThe CrownandFeud: Bette and Joan(two wins apiece).

The night’s biggest category – outstanding drama – is almost splitting at the seams, but was gifted a little breathing room by the absence ofGame of Throneswhich, this year, fell outside the qualifying airdate.

Director Kate Dennis is an Emmy nominee for her work on The Handmaid’s Tale. Photo: Paul Harris

The seven nominees are:The Crown,The Handmaid’s Tale,Westworld,Stranger Things,This Is Us,Better Call SaulandHouse of Cards.

It’s a formidable lineup, and whileThe Crown,WestworldandThe Handmaid’s Taleare rock solid contenders, it’s hard to imagine notoriously weepy American sensibilities not giving the award toThis Is Us. Given it’s a network show, that’s a huge win.

In the drama acting categories, its hard to go pastThis Is Us’ Sterling K. Brown for outstanding actor in a drama series. He was luminous. For outstanding actress, most likely it’s Elisabeth Moss forThe Handmaid’s Tale. (Unless she’s given a royal outpacing byThe Crown’s Claire Foy.)

The seven outstanding comedy nominees areBlack-ish,Atlanta,Veep,Master of None,Silicon Valley,Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtandModern Family.

It’sVeep’s to lose, particularly given the clock is now ticking towards its series finale, butBlack-ishis a strong emerging contender and it would be nice to see a network comedy wrestle the award back from cable.

In the comedy acting categories, the smart money is on Donald Glover fromAtlanta, unless he’s bumped byTransparent’s Jeffrey Tambor; outstanding actress will surely go toVeep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, though it would be nice to see it go toBlack-ish’s Tracee Ellis Ross.

2017 Primetime Emmys n form guideNicole Kidman, nominated for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie.

Up against:Felicity Huffman, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon and Reese Witherspoon.

Prediction:Kidman’s stunning performance inBig Little Liesought to secure the win, but Hollywood has a hard-to-shake affection for Lange.

Geoffrey Rush, nominated for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie.

Up against:Riz Ahmed, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert De Niro, Ewan McGregor and John Turturro.

Prediction:In a dense field, Ahmed and Turturro are serious contenders, but it’s hard to see anyone outpacing Robert De Niro.

Judy Davis, nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie.

Up against:Laura Dern, Jackie Hoffman, Regina King, Michelle Pfeiffer, Shailene Woodley.

Prediction:Tough to predict; Davis’ performance was luminous but ifBig Little Liessweeps the night it’s down to Dern and Woodley.

Kate Dennis, nominated for outstanding directing for a drama series.

Up against:Vince Gilligan, Stephen Daldry, Reed Morano, Lesli Linka Glatter, the Duffer Brothers and Jonathan Nolan.

Prediction:Dennis is the dark horse in a tight race, but Nolan’sWestworldand the Duffer Brothers’Stranger Thingsare both favourites.

Bruna Papandrea, nominated (as producer ofBig Little Lies) for outstanding limited series.

Up against:Fargo,Feud: Bette and Joan,GeniusandThe Night Of.

Prediction:Aside from strong contenders inFeud: Bette and Joanand HBO’s amazingThe Night Of,Big Little Liesshould have this sewn up.

The 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air live on Monday from 10am on FOX8 or can be streamed on Foxtel Now

What we love about Newcastle: John Earle

Hollywood was the centre of the world no longer NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak
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NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak

TweetFacebook Meet JohnAS a kid, John Earle wondered why he was stuck in Newcastle, when, in his eyes, Hollywood was the centre of the world.

Half a century on, as one of the city’s best known artists, Earle sees his hometown differently.

“This place is like the centre of things to me,” he says. “It’s where it’s at.”

Many have seen Newcastle through the eyes and paintings of John Earle. He has meticulously recorded the city’s most beautiful features with his paints and brushes, from the harbour to the ocean pools.

But Earle’s favourite spot for converting life into art is the long strip from Bar Beach to Merewether.

“This is just gorgeous,” he murmurs, as he stands at the northern end of Bar Beach, with a paint-smeared palette and the bones of a new work just waiting to be fleshed out by his brushes. In front of him, the sand is speckled with sunbathers and the sea is a luscious green and blue, its colours being flushed out by the early afternoon sun.

“And look at all those colours there,” he gestures towards the array of swimsuits. “Turquoise, pink, all against the beige setting of the sand. “And when the tide is going out, the rocks look like blue lumps, they add complexity to it.”

When he was a teenager, this place was a source of recreation more than inspiration. He loved surfing and would coax his mother to drive him from New Lambton Heights to the beach. It wasn’t until he was at art school in his early 20s, when he saw the sea on a grey day, that Earle quickly sketched the scene and realised the beach was where he wanted to be artistically.

Earle lived in Sydney and travelled the world painting, but about thirty years ago, he returned to Newcastle to live and work. He’s been painting his home ever since.

“Newcastle’s got an incredible amount of variations,” he says. “I could paint this place every day of my entire life.”

More than being a source of painting subjects, Earle and his wife Amanda Pitcairn love living here. They often stroll along this band of sand that he has painted in hundreds of images. For a holiday, they sometimes travel all the way from their Merewether home and studio and book into Noah’s, “just so we can wake up in this incredible beach city”.

“You’ve got the ocean, the harbour, it’s almost like an island,” he says. “In 100 years’ time, it will be Manhattan by the sea.”

India v China, 1st ODI: Aussies fall short in rain-soaked opener

Chennai: have fallen short in their pursuit of a revised target, losing the rain-affected first one-day international against India in Chennai.
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Chasing 164 off 21 overs after a lengthy delay on Sunday, the visitors slumped to 4-35 in the eighth over when David Warner nicked Kaldeep Yadav through to MS Dhoni.

Glenn Maxwell tried to launch a rearguard action, but his 39 off 18 balls wasn’t enough to save his side from going one-nil down in the five-match series.

David Warner heads back to the pavilion as rain stops play in Chennai. Photo: AP

With the required run rate in excess of 10 with 11 overs remaining, the hard hitting allrounder kicked into gear by plundering 22 off a Kuldeep Yadav over including three consecutive sixes.

But Maxwell was caught in the deep off Yuzvendra Chahal (3-30) looking to clear the boundary for a sixth time before Marcus Stoinis (three) departed three balls later.

From 6-76 the mountain was too steep to climb and finished 27 runs short at 9-137.

It was a cruel loss given the match was only minutes from being abandoned when play resumed.

Rain started falling shortly after India fought back to post 7-281 off their 50 overs after the n bowlers dominated early.

Persistent drizzle abated minutes before the match was due to be abandoned, giving the chance to make a quick dash for victory.

Earlier, West n fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile made a dream start to his first international match since June last year with a sensational opening spell in Sunday’s series-opener.

The 29-year-old picked up three wickets in 13 balls including the prized scalp of India captain Virat Kohli who was out for a duck to a sensational one-handed Glenn Maxwell catch in the gully.

Kohli may have been regretting his decision to bat first under overcast skies as Coulter-Nile made the most of conditions to shape the ball away from the right- handed batsmen.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni made a solid 79 off 88 balls for India. Photo: AP

He had opener Ajinkya Rahane (five) and Manish Pandey (duck), both caught behind and was unlucky not have a fourth wicket when Steve Smith missed a chance to catch Hardik Pandya at slip.

Showing no signs of the stress fracture in his back, which has cruelled the last 15 months of his career, Coulter-Nile finished with 3-44 off his 10 overs.

India were reeling at 5-87 when Cartwright took a simple catch to dismiss Kedar Yadav for 40 off the bowling of Marcus Stoinis (2-54).

The situation was tailor-made for MS Dhoni, who combined with Pandya for a 118-run partnership.

While Dhoni rotated the strike, Pandya’s power hitting came to the fore as he hit three consecutive sixes off legspinner Adam Zampa (1-66) in the 37th over, which yielded 24 runs.

Pandya looked to be on his way to a century, but he top-edged an attempted slog sweep to third man off Zampa to end his innings of 83 off 66 balls, including five sixes and five fours.

Dhoni holed out to deep mid-off in the final over, off James Faulkner’s bowling, (1-67) after making 79 off 88 with two sixes and four fours.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar added a useful 32 off 30 balls to help the home side to finish strongly.


Minding the gender gap: how schools are trying to stop boys falling behind

Triplets (from left) Aidan, Bailey and Corey say they are reading more after their school library’s makeover. Photo: Joe ArmaoThe gender gap reared its ugly head in the testresults.
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Most boys at Park Ridge Primary School lagged behind girls in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation in NAPLAN.

Desperate for a solution, the Rowville school turned to its library, an outdated space full of books that didn’t interest boys.

“Boys weren’t reading for enjoyment,” said Anna Christofis, the school’s leading literacy teacher. “So wesurveyed students and identified which authors they connected with.”

The school refurbished the space, stocking the shelves with books about extreme sports, elite athletes, cars and graphic novels.

Co-ed schools arerolling out initiatives geared towards boys in a bid to help them educationally and socially.

Boys areless likely to complete year 12 and more of themaresuspended and expelled.

Park Ridge Primary School worked to get boys reading more for enjoyment. Photo: Joe Armao

A recent study found that one in five year 3 boys hasan emotional or behavioural problem that leads them to lag ayear behind their peers in reading and numeracy.

A greater proportion of Victorian girls meet the national minimum standard in all areas of NAPLAN, including numeracy.

And malesare outnumbered by female students at university.

Triplets Aidan, Bailey and Corey said the library makeover at their school hadinspired them to read more.

“There’s more books to choose from,” Aidan said. “There are books that entertain me.”

The 10-year-old brothers are also improving their reading and writing skills through the school’s literacy program for grade 4 boys.

Assistant principal Adele Gregson meets themtwo times a week, one on one, and helps them decode words, discuss texts and select books suitable for their skills.

“We wantto engage them and support them with the development of their reading skills,” she said.

A focus on girls’ education in the 1980s led to a higher proportion of girls finishing year 12 and pursuing tertiary education. It also helped close the achievement gap between boys and girls in maths.

The focus now needs to shift to boys, according to Marymede Catholic College deputy principal Tracey Kift.

Her co-edschool in South Morang recently employed a counsellor who specialises in mentoring adolescent boys. He has been running sessions with year 9 and 10 boys about organisation, self-esteem and regulating emotions.

The school has also been providing training for teachers on educatingboys.

“The education system has valued compliance,” Ms Kiftsaid. “But boys tend to becharacterised as more significant risk takers. We need to capitalise on those tendencies for boys to push boundaries.”

Monash University senior lecturer David Zyngier said the notion of boys and girls having different learning styles had been debunked.

But he said boysdeveloped more slowly than girls.

“It is scientifically shown that boys develop more slowly with language,” he said.

Amanda Keddie, a professor of education at Deakin University, said that while girls performed well at school, they faced huge inequities when they graduated, including lower pay and high rates of violence.

Tackling inequity in education was more complicated than focusing on gender, she said.

“Gender is not the most accurate predictor of educational disadvantage, but it does matter.”

Warning over commonly prescribed immunosuppressant after two die

Patients taking a commonly prescribed immunosuppressantare being urged to consult their doctor after two people using it died during a clinical study.
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Methylprednisolone, first used in the 1950s, is a commonly prescribed drugfor a wide range of conditions including arthritis, allergies and cancer. But it also has potentially dangerousside-effects.

Experts sayanyone using it should continue, as it is dangerous to stop using the drug suddenly.

Methylprednisolone was first used in the 1950s.

But ProfessorVladoPerkovic​, oneof the authors ofthestudy, which was released last month, advised users to see their doctor to “ask if the benefits of this treatment outweigh the risk”.

The clinical study involved researchers from the NSW-based George Institute for Global Healthpartnering with researchers in China. The study set out to test whether methylprednisolone was an effective treatment for IgA nephropathy, a kidneydisease also known as Berger’s disease.

The immunosuppressant is sometimes used to treat the condition, despite there being no convincing clinical trials supporting its use.

IgA nephropathy is a common autoimmune condition affecting 1 to 2 per cent of the population. It damages the filtering ability of the kidneys; sufferers often find blood in their urine. In about 30 per cent of cases it leads to kidney failure.

Despite a lot of work, specific treatments for the condition are still lacking.

The researchers followed 262 IgA patients from and China for three years.Half were given the drug and half were given a placebo. They planned to eventually enrol 1300 patients.

But the trial had to be stopped early when 20 people in the methylprednisolonegroup suffered “serious adverse events”. Among this group two died, 11contracted serious infections, two suffered gastrointestinal bleeding andtwo suffered bone-tissue death.

“Participants were more prone to catching infections, and if they got an infection it was much stronger than it otherwise would have been,” Professor Perkovic said.

“Two patients treated ended up dying,” he said.

“We weren’t expecting risks anywhere near this large.”

The study, published in the peer-reviewedJournal of the American Medical Association, found the rate of serious adverse effects was five times higher in the group taking the treatment. However, the study also found evidence the drug might prevent serious kidney damage in IgA nephropathy.

Independent experts say the study reinforces what is known about methylprednisolone: it is effective but potentially dangerous.

“The results are not surprising,” said Monash Medical Centre director of nephrology Professor Peter Kerr.

“One of the reasons we have not used it in the past is the treatment may be worse than the disease.

“Like many medications when you give it, it has a risk-benefit assessment. If you had someone who was deteriorating quickly, you might use it.”

Kidney Health ‘s clinical director Dr Shilpa Jesudason​ encouraged anyone using the drug to consult their doctor to ensure it was still right for them.

“This study is a good reminder that we should be assessing the risk profile of methylprednisoloneevery time before it is administed.”

The country where the pursuit of happiness is a national, economic goal

Thimphu, Bhutan:Given significant levels of dissatisfaction with the performance of politicians in Western democracies, what can we learn from a country that assesses all of its government policies based on how much they contribute to the happiness of its people?
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Looking at the stats, Disneyland may have to give up its claim to being The Happiest Place on Earth. Bhutan’s recent Gross National Happiness Index found 91 per cent of its citizens are happy, with almost 50 per cent of people being deeply happy or extensively happy.

Come to the think of it, Disney’s claim to being The Magic Kingdom also gets a run for its money from Bhutan. With its mist-shrouded mountains, ubiquitous monks and universal acceptance of reincarnation, there is a real sense of magic here.

The story of the monarchy rivals any Cinderella, Mulan or Pocahontas tale. A benevolent king devolves his power to a democratically elected parliament. He then resigns early to hand over the role to his handsome son and his glamorous, humble and compassionate princess. Together the family lives in a couple of single-level bungalows in the nation’s capital, Thimphu, having refused overtures from the parliament to build them a grand palace.

Photos of the young king, his queen and their new son adorn most houses and businesses. These are not stiff monarchical portraits, rather they could be snaps from a family album, with the young couple kissing, holding hands or, together with the former king, playing with the young prince.

This is not a place caught in time warp – there has never been anywhere like Bhutan. This is a unique Himalayan kingdom whose borders have never been invaded and who only opened to the world some 40 years ago.

A daughter of Bhutan. Photo: Scott Woodward

In 1979 the then-king captured the world’s imagination when he said in an interview “we do not believe in gross national product. Gross national happiness is more important”.

This is different to theWorld Happiness Reportasurvey of the state of global happinesswhich ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, and this year putNorway at the top of the list, with in ninth.

The results of Bhutan’s focus on the happiness of its citizens speak for themselves. Bhutan is one of the top 20 fastest-growing economies in the world (6.5 per cent last year). It was the only country in South Asia to meet all of the UN Millennium Goals. It has a free press, a good education system and there is universal free healthcare.

Not bad for a country that, up until the 1960s, had no national currency, no telephones, no schools, no hospitals, no postal service and no public services.

The Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan. Photo: Steven Berry

It is the only country in the world that is actually increasing its level of forest cover – 72 per cent, with the constitution enshrining that the level can never drop below 60 per cent.

While it has its share of troubles: high national debt, stubborn youth unemployment and a recent border dispute with China, it does make a claim to being a real-life Shangri-La.

Bhutan has no traffic lights and no advertising billboards. Cars are banned from city roads one day each month to reduce carbon emissions. The country absorbs three times as much carbon as it emits. On the food side, the government is close to achieving its goal of becoming the world’s first wholly organic country.

Just celebrating the eighth birthday of its parliament, it is one of the youngest democracies in the world and, according to the Global Peace Index, it has very low levels of corruption.

Spinning a prayer wheel helps accumulate wisdom and good karma in Bhutan. Photo: Nick Abrahams

Buddhist philosophies are at the core of this country. Its national prosperity and security over the centuries is put down to not so much their “external soldiers”, as the army is known, but the power of the “internal army”, being the 12,000-strong Buddhist monk population. While there is a sharp decline in numbers joining religious orders in the West, in Bhutan more people than ever are joining to become monks and nuns.

A core value is the good treatment of all sentient beings, including animals. Stray dogs are everywhere, but unlike mange-riddled street dogs in other developing countries, these dogs are surprisingly fit and healthy, barking not to be menacing but in the hopes of picking up a friendly pat. They used to have a zoo but it was closed down as it was not a natural environment for the animals.

The concept of Gross National Happiness is a major driver of government policy and the GNH Index done in 2010 and most recently in 2015 is a tangible way of measuring success.

The GNH Index is not a simple survey of wellbeing. It is not Pharrell Williams euphoric dancing in the street-style happiness that is being measured. Rather it measures prosperity, using nine domains including the physical and emotional health of its people, the strength of communities and the condition of the natural environment.

Bhutan’s 10-year plan states “the GNH Index is a critical evaluation tool for results-based planning …to ensure that development truly contributes to the achievement of GNH”. This has been echoed by the Prime Minister,Tshering Tobgay, including in a TED talk.

According to Tshewang Tandin, the director-general of Bhutan’s Royal Institute of Management, “people need to have certain subsistence needs met first, adequate food, shelter, healthcare and so on. After that, the GNH Index is a way of measuring real wellbeing of people – their true contentment”.

People walk near a billboard of the Chinese military reading “courageous”, in Beijing, last month. Beijing is intensifying its warnings to Indian troops to get out of a contested region high in the Himalayas where China, India and Bhutan meet. Photo: AP

Bhutan sits as a beacon of peace and prosperity in a world that has become increasingly fractured and unpredictable.

But it is not all fairytale. The kingdom has its challenges. Most serious is arecent Chinese road-building project in the Doklam Plateau, an area on the disputed border between Bhutan and China. Given the proximity of the area, India has responded strongly leading to yet another significant dispute between China and the maturing global superpower.

Economically, Bhutan needs to diversify its revenue base from its hydro-electric power exports to India, which have been the engine room of its economic prosperity. The investment in hydro projects has led to national debt levels outside normal International Monetary Funds (IMF) thresholds.

General unemployment is at an enviable 2.5 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 2000, thanks to targeted government policies including skills programs and incentives for small businesses, especially in rural areas. The problem issue is youth unemployment, sitting at 9.6 per cent.

Bhutan is a country of contrasts. From the solemn sight of devout followers, with shoes on their hands for protection as they make kneeling prostrations every step of long pilgrimages, to youths with boy-band haircuts, traditional dress and mobile phones.

“We are doing a staged transition to a modern economy while protecting our culture,” says Dasho Karma, president of the Centre for Bhutan Studies, then noting with a chuckle that his daughters were out that afternoon to see a touring Korean pop band.

The US Declaration of Independence says governments need to protect the inalienable right of humans to live their lives in the “pursuit of happiness”.

Management thinker Peter Drucker said “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. So perhaps it is incumbent on governments to measure their success in terms of the happiness of their citizens.

Nick Abrahams is a lawyer, author and entrepreneur. He leads the APAC Innovation Practice for Norton Rose Fulbright and is a director of global think-tank The Institute for Economics and Peace. He was in Bhutan for the launch of the institute’s 2017 Global Peace Index.

Matildas great Cheryl Salisbury collects PFA’s Alex Tobin Medal in Newcastle

Cheryl happy to see Matildas in spotlight HONOURED: Cheryl Salisbury with her PFA Alex Tobin Medal at Merewether on Sunday night. Her dress is by Q’nique from Atelier Rose at The Junction and her earrings from Williams the Jewellers, The Junction. Picture: Local FC
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HONOURED: Cheryl Salisbury with her PFA Alex Tobin Medal at Merewether on Sunday night. Dress by Q’nique from Atelier Rose at The Junction. Earrings from Williams the Jewellers, The Junction. Picture: Local FC


“We’ve got such a good breeding ground.Matildas who went through my era,there was myself, Bridgette Starr, Michelle Prouten, Amber Neilson, Lauren Colthorpe, Katie Gill.

“Newcastle has a big history of women’s football, so to bring it to Newcastle on the back of a sellout in Penrith, I think it’s going to be huge.”

Salisbury played in an era when female stars would get changed on the bus because there were no dressing rooms for women, and her national teammates would tape over worn boots because they had no sponsors.But she is conscious that, despite recent improvements in pay and conditions in and overseas, elite female players are still light years behind their male counterparts.

“Do I wish I was 16, 17? Absolutely. There’s a lot of challenges along the way to try and play andsupport yourself.Yes, you can work and play, but you need to find an employer willing to give youfive or six months off at the drop of a hat.”

The world No.6 Matildas beat the USA for the first time, Japan and Brazil at the Tournament of Nations.

“Everyone loves a winning team, but I think the girls have started to put those together back-to-back,” Salisbury said.

The modern Matildas had done a “great job” of carrying on the work of promoting the women’s game.

“They’ve proved at the weekend they can sell out a stadium. It just never got really tried before.

“I don’t think people put in enough effort and belief.”

Politicians who voted for Parliament House fence alarmed now they’ve seen it

The giant steel fence slowly encircling Parliament House is a “monstrosity” and risks furtheralienating the public from their representatives, one of the few politicians to vote against the fortification says.
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Construction workers placed the first2.6-metre steel panels across the upper reaches of the building’s sloping roof this week, withwork to acceleratebefore MPs return to Canberra in mid-October.Large gum trees have also been chopped down, and manicuredlawnsripped up to dig trenches for the structure.

The fence – and a series of new guardhouses –will eventually seal off vast stretches of the Parliament’s exterior currently accessibleto the public. The security overhaulwill cost taxpayers$126 million.

The security fence is installed across the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares

Workers install the first panels across the building’s sloping lawns. Photo: Andrew Meares

Fairfax Media has spoken with a number of MPs who voted for the fence but arealarmed by the scale of the structurenow they’ve seen it.None would criticise the project publicly because they still acceptsecuritytook priority overthe symbolism of broad public access to “the people’s house”.

But Greens leader Richard Di Natale said he was stunned by theimpact of the fence and questioned why it was being built.

“The fence is an absolute monstrosity,” Senator Di Natale said. “It goes against everything this building was designed to represent when it was built but it’s a perfect symbol of where politics is at these days.

“Most politicians want to wall themselves off from ordinary people as much as humanly possible, and this fence is just a physical representation of that trend. It’s everything that’s wrong with the political establishment.”

Of the 226 MPs, includingsenators, in Parliament, just nine voted against the fence: Senator DiNatale, his Greens colleagues, and independent senatorDerrynHinch.

The project has been shrouded in secrecy since it was announced in December last year, with the Senate president Stephen Parry, House of Representatives speaker Tony Smith and parliamentary officials refusing to release exact costings, designs or any security advice to justify the upgrade. These details were released for earlier security upgrades.

MPs were given secret briefings about the fence last year prior to the plan being rushed through both houses of Parliament in December. Fairfax Media understands MPs were not told nearly two dozen towering gum trees would be chopped down around the building, and there is a dispute about whether the final appearance of the fence reflects the briefings.

The upgrades were prompted by the 2014 terror attacks against the Canadian Parliament.