Australian actor Katherine Langford has taken on a challenging, yet necessary role, in playing Hannah Baker in the Netflix hit show '13 Reasons Why,' a character who has already committed suicide citing constant bullying and harassment from her High School colleagues, and releasing 13 'tapes' to the perpetrators to explain her actions as her parting thoughts.
I will preface the remainder of this article by saying, I have not made it all the way through the series. It is heavy. There is subject matter in the episodes that takes me a few days to process, but I am eager to finish it off, not merely to find out what happens in the end, but for the over-arching message that this series is sending out.
Suicide and mentally ill-health have been a taboo topic for far too long - particularly in Australia - we've got a "toughen up" reputation and it seems we like to keep it that way.
There are reasons for not reporting or bringing attention to suicide as a whole, and these reasons are valid, don't get me wrong, but they are also part of the problem.
The fact that we don't talk about either of these things, particularly as teens, means that we fail to understand exactly what they are, how to cope with and deal with such feelings, and importantly how having these thoughts doesn't mean that you need to - or are intending to - take action.
The Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia collaborated to produce the latest 'Five Year Mental Health Report' in Australia and it found that almost a quarter of Australian teens are suffering from the symptoms of a mental illness. Thats one in four, in classrooms and hallways all around the country. This has risen from 19% in their previous report released five years prior.
Mental Illness' prevalence continues to soar among the general population in Western cultures. Whereas there are many individual triggers that may vary peoples' onset of symptoms, many could be identified as societal pressure and peer pressure.
So why don't we start talking about it? Why don't we lift the supposed 'ban' that seems to exist over suicide, over the absolute epidemic we are facing?
13 Reasons Why is a step in the right direction for the acceptance of mentally ill-health in the grand scheme of things, and a step in the right direction to aid the discussions we need to have, but seem to not be having at all.
Back to the young, 21 year-old Katherine Langford who is at the centre of it all during her portrayal. Imagine how difficult a decision taking this role must be for someone of her age, confronted - no doubt - by things she would have witnessed (actively or passively) at her own time in High School; chastised on one side for the role but praised on the other; the flood of fan mail, messages, tweets and interactions she must have faced. Not all of it good.
With a role like this, comes something very harrowing. There will no doubt have been people suffering from a bout of differing symptoms that would have seen Hannah Baker as an idol, that would have fogged the glass between entertainment and reality, and I am absolutely certain that young Katherine Langford has had to be privy to some disturbing content over recent times.
People will have reached out, people will have praised her but most dangerously, people will have probably told her that her portrayal gave them the courage to leave this world.
Playing Hannah Baker is the bravest and most significant part of this series, because not only is it opening the world up to a long dismissed and forgotten about area of society, but it comes with its own set of stressors and challenges of which we can only imagine the outcomes and the pain that it may have caused.
Things could have been done a little better - if anything I'd like to have seen a content warning or conselling numbers displayed at the beginning of each episode (NOT the end, because the habit of Netflix users is to skip the credits), that being said, I for one believe that the positives of bringing these issues to the fore far outweigh what negatives may lie within.
We need to progress as a society. We need to remain inclusive and we certainly need to understand - more than ever - how our actions could potentially affect others. Possibly fatally, as in Hannah's case.
Look out for each other.
If you are uncomfortable with the content in this article or are experiencing any symptoms of a mental illness, please contact (Australia only):
LIFELINE - 13 11 14
BEYOND BLUE - 1300 224 636
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE - 1300 659 467
After a relocation from Brisbane, and a long time honing his singer/songwriter skills through the open mic scene of Melbourne, we spoke to Greg Steps about inspiration, influence and lemon trees in the lead up to the launch of his upcoming EP, ‘The Overland’, accompanied by his band – The Not for Prophets – which is taking place on Friday, February 24th at the esteemed Wesley Anne band room.
Before making the big move from Brisbane to Melbourne, Greg Steps had featured in a number of somewhat noisier, heavier band-type situations without ever really trying to go at it alone. Until the day that he did, and realised that Brisbane was no place for a solo singer/songwriter to develop.
“Brisbane doesn’t have – or at least to my knowledge – doesn’t have much of a folk scene,” reminisces Steps beneath the lemon tree at his Coburg residence, “Whereas down in Melbourne, with open mics and stuff like that, and plenty of like-minded individuals… so it just seemed like a good idea at the time”
Having been in Melbourne for what’s coming up to four years now, you would be quite likely to walk into any of the abundance of open mic nights at any given time and find Greg Steps on the list to play – belting his heart out with his slightly country twang and the storytelling nous of a folk star in the making.
Greg has not only used this scene to build connections in the new place he calls home, but also to reinforce his already clear line of talent, and present a form of his music that he had not always been 100% comfortable with.
“Open mic is kind of a dirty word… especially amongst ‘real musicians’…” says Greg, “But for artists like myself, it’s been really important for my development and pretty much everyone I know in Melbourne is purely through the open mic circuit”
To really appreciate the Greg Steps experience, you need to see the live show. There are a number of singer/songwriters in this town whom you can tell just how much the story they are sharing with the audience means to them, and Steps is no exception, with raw emotion not only shown in what you see from his physicality in front of you, but with the way in which he relaxes deeper into every song, calmly blows away at his impressive collection of harmonicas and speaks of each tune with a memory.
Stylistically, it is difficult to pinpoint Greg’s crossroads. It’s some sort of a coming together of alt-country, folk and a dash of that ‘Australiana’ thing – a Jackson Browne meets Neil Young meets Paul Kelly kind of quality.
“It’s quite bizarre how it came about, because I don’t listen to that much folk music, and country; country is a genre I know nothing about… maybe connections through people like Neil Young, with a bit of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even though they are not strictly country,” he emanates; “It was more songwriting that I was drawn to, and folk and country, I think, is just an excellent format for writing songs”
“It’s like the bare bones of the song,” Greg continues, recounting his adornment for the rawness and openness of the singer/songwriter format; “[The songs are] completely stripped back, and there’s little distraction and I really am drawn to that…”
“When you have a band, there’s a lot of options that can distract how bad a song can be… [but] there’s no tricks to folk and country music. If the songs’s not good, it’s not good! It’s blatantly obvious.”
‘Early Hours of Morning’ was a video release from Greg Steps in 2016 which told a somewhat solitary and dark tale and proved to be a very worthy visual accompaniment to the song itself. This was Greg’s first foray into the world of music videos, and the hardest part of the process, he says, isn’t probably what many people would think.
“Acting was really hard. I never realised that walking, and trying to make it look like you’re walking normally – I’ve never been so self-conscious about walking in my life – they just said ‘walk normally,’ I’ve never walked normally in my life – then I had to think about it…”
“You look like you’re walking and you know you’re being filmed!”
Reflecting back on the production and release of ‘The Overland’, Greg admits that the impending release has been a “long time in the making,” with songs written and being performed over a number of years and an unpaid band “doing it out of the goodness of their heart”, Greg outwardly possesses a gratitude for the kindness and support they have shown to believe in his songs and be an integral part of this project.
Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets release & launch the EP ‘The Overland’ on Friday, February 24th at The Wesley Anne – 250 High St, Northcote. Support from Anna Cordell and Oliver Downes. Tickets $10 at the door with CDs available on the night.
In the early hours of the morning - American time - on the 9th of November, 2016, society failed.
Society failed and entrusted the most powerful economy in the world to a man whose entire campaign was fixated on the idea of fear.
Fear of people who are 'different' to the lowest common denominator. Fear of people who do vow to change society's views and stretch our entrenched fabric. Yet that is the exact thing he has brainwashed his followers in to believing he will do, whilst he closes the opportunities for everyone else.
My deepest fear with Trump isn't what he might say - although that is a problem in itself; it isn't who he will segregate - although that is a problem in itself; it isn't about who will get left behind, who will be worse-off, which country he will antagonise - although all of these things are problems in themselves.
No, my biggest fear, is how his supporters will react when he can't do the things he has told them he is going to do.
There are many extreme policies in a proposed Donald Trump presidency, the most famous ones we know - building the wall between Mexico and the USA; ousting all Muslims and banning them from entering the USA; removing trade arrangements with China - and many of these policies were proven to be unpopular within his own party. So we wonder precisely just how much control he will have, given the division that exists within his own standing members.
And the followers, they aren't a group of people that I want to see get angry. The litany of uneducated, free-wheeling bigots that Trump spoke to with aplomb is outstanding. He has forced people out of political hibernation, who had never voted before and probably planned to never vote in their lives, because of the measured and diplomatic speak and tone of politicians.
Up steps Candidate Trump with his blatant racism, misogyny, and disregard for decency. A loose cannon ready to fire no matter where he's aiming. BOOM! Black America; BOOM! LGBTIQ; BOOM! Latinos; BOOM! Women.
The other fear that strikes me is with America itself. The fact that they couldn't bear the idea of a female president.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't endorse Hillary Clinton as a candidate in the first place, but it is who we had, and it is who was expected to lead the charge and come out victorious for the good of humanity on Wednesday.
America couldn't handle it.
They think they have voted for progress - they have voted for regress. A return to the height of fascism for the so called 'Greatest Place on Earth,' I tell you what, it was a much greater place on Tuesday evening.
The political thought bubble in the United States of America is flabbergasting to an outsider. It is a land that believes universal healthcare is the only step you need to take to be labelled as a communist nation, yet the right to owning a gun and being able to fire it at will is something that is sacrosanct and should never be removed from the rights of the people.
I would like to say that I am surprised, but quite frankly I am not. Having spent some of my formative years living in this country, and having close family still living there today, I am privy to exactly what the psyche of much of the population is, and how little they actually know how to think for themselves.
My fear is that America has voted for Progress and for a state of 'Revolution,' yet both progressiveness and revolution are dirty words on the right side of politics, and I'm sure the Republican Party would not stand for these types of labels.
Donald Trump's only interest in this election, in this position, in gaining the title of President, is entitlement for the entitled. The poor middle and upper-class white man is finally seeing things shift to an equilibrium (I said shift - there's a bloody long way before it gets anywhere near there!) after centuries of domination and having the world at his feet, and he feels he is entitled to his entitlement.
Trump will govern for Trump. He is a billionaire businessman with his own interests at heart. He's certainly not Richard Branson, whom if elected I would have no doubt would do a sterling job as he displays the qualities of compassion, empathy and resolve with his fellow man. Donald Trump identifies with a certain type of person, but he certainly doesn't feel for them, he doesn't care for them, and he certainly isn't going to defend them if it comes between him or the people.
It is clearly disparaging to me, and to many other decent folk, that such a horrible man could become so powerful. A man with no morality, the stability of a see-saw and the rationale of a fascist.
America has elected the face of capitalism to try and take it to capitalism.
Can anyone else see how this isn't going to work?
Society has failed. Failed to be a society. Failed to care about the lives of others and succeeded in confirming that being selfish is a human trait that no extent of evolution will ever absolve.
At the tender age of 27; it's fair to say that I've already lived a lifetime worth of disappointment; fear; sadness; disadvantage and the like, and the unfortunate thing is, that even when I don't expect it, it appears that more is just waiting right around the corner for me.
So, I've done what any person in similar circumstances might be expected to do: I've taken advantage of support & welfare services, but even I can admit that I've done it for far too long.
The problem, I guess, is I have never had a substantial period of time away from hardship to be able to let go of my dependence on taxpayer-funded support.
I'm not writing this piece because I am proud of that fact, I am writing it mostly for the purpose of self-reflection, and to give some insight into people who think I'm "no good" or a "bludger," typical of that 'stuck on Centrelink' stigma.
In the past, I used to feel that I deserved something for my hard work, my dedication and my suffering, but the truth is, deserving anything is something we're conditioned into believing, and generally, nothing could be further from the truth.
Variables exist, opportunities may be missed, mistakes may be made, undesirable outcomes occur and your mood and emotional state through all of these things will fluctuate greatly.
So, I'm no more deserving of a steady income and something to fill my time than anyone else. I'm no more deserving of a roof over my head than a man that has been homeless for a long period. I'm certainly no more deserving of a life full of everything you could wish for, than Cardinal George Pell (minus the child sexual abuse thing, I suppose!)
In an interesting conversation with a friend a few nights back, I identified that in the history of my life's ups and downs, and with all the battles I appear to face on an everyday basis (whether they be reality or negative mental concoctions), there exists somewhere deep, deep inside of me, the belief that I am destined for something better - and I do hate to use the term 'destiny' or 'fate,' but am finding it hard to pick another word there - for that simple believe that is held deep below anything on the surface that tells me how disappointing and cumbersome my life has been, is the key reason that I am still here today and that I still fight for myself.
I didn't ask for this life, nor was I given it, despite my thoughts in the past. Each moment, each decision and everything I've been through has led me to here. I realised that it was high time that I took ownership for my own reality, that I stopped blaming others; blaming society; blaming every external factor under the sun for it being 'outside of my control'.
I, whether I like it or not, put myself here - BROUGHT myself here: to a position where I am heavily broken; my life terrifyingly uncertain, and without a place to call home.
So, no - there is no way that I deserve 'the best' of anything; I do however continue to hope that something 'better' eventually comes along.
There's been a question rattling through my head of recent times, following the announcement of the women's national AFL competition, and the inaugural Women's Big Bash League in the past 12 months. That question is merely, why do we not pay as much attention to valid forms of female professional sport?
Curiously, that question extends to the premise that we need to pay women considerably less for following the path of a professional athlete than we do with their male counterparts.
Of course, if we're talking dollars and cents, the answer is that women's sport doesn't attract the same amount of sponsorship dollars as men's sport; but then again, there still lingers the question: why?
From the outside looking in, it appears that as a society that we completely devalue the realm of female professional sport. In a world where were are constantly playing catch-up on the dark ages where men brought home the bacon and women cooked it and cleaned up afterwards, it feels that the intricacies of the modern world just aren't being paid enough attention.
Professional sport for females is nothing new; Australia has posed long-term success in athletics, field hockey, swimming, golf and pro surfing just to name a few, but it is within the sports that are earmarked as 'male-dominated' or perceived as 'men only' where problems continue to present themselves.
First is the problem in the above perception. With this at play, it is no surprise that women aren't valued in these sports. They're (apparently) only for men, so women that play it mustn't be serious. Right? Wrong.
Absolutely anybody that pursues a career in professional sports: male; female; straight; gay; African; Asian; European - they are all serious about it - mark my words. It takes constant hard work and determination to gain success in an industry that is largely dog-eat-dog. Most athletes start with next to nothing, and have to build their profiles through endorsements and public appearances before they even begin to make a living out of their performances on the field - and yes, this is typical of MALE sportspeople; so let's take that difficulty and multiply it for women.
The main idea of writing this article is to pose the question; "Why do we not hold female sport in the same regard as male sport?"
It is not uncommon for a talented female athlete to be trained-up in multiple sports, and playing multiple sports, just so that they can make some sort of a living off their chosen career. The most recent example of such being professional cricketer and soccer player, Ellyse Perry, who has successfully represented her country in both sports at the highest level.
I can't see any valid reason why we should be treating the two any differently. Sportspeople are sportspeople. They undergo the same training, the same setbacks, the same grueling schedules to attain the best possible results for themselves, and - if relevant - their teams or their countries.
Luckily enough, in 2015, the Victorian Athletic League, Stawell Athletic Club and, major sponsor Woolworths, eventually agreed, and presented equal prize money for both the men's 120m Gift and Women's 120m Gift; the richest foot-races in Australia.
I feel a change is afoot, and may have been led by the aforementioned announcements of national professional leagues, however, until we are seeing women sportspeople getting equal recognition, admiration, coverage and - most importantly - equal PAY; then it is very hard to take these steps towards professional female sport in this country seriously.
Originally published by Daniel Wilcox, www.theroar.com.au on Jan 2, 2016.
Being an umpire or referee in any sport is a tough, and often thankless job. You are constantly assessed and criticised by the vast majority of people that are watching, even if the viewer has little or no idea of what is happening with the game.
These people look at one thing: free kicks. Namely, free kicks that they disagree with, usually for the reason that it went against their team.
On the other end, you often have a coach or assessor at the ground, whose job it is to evaluate your performance. These people look at everything you do; positioning, game control, body language, communication.
There is a whole side to officiating a game that most people only notice when something goes really wrong.
Like a footy club, umpires work as a team. From a junior game with two field umpires, right up to a full panel of 11 umpires (three field, four boundary, two goal, two emergency), everyone works together on the day to minimise the incorrect calls. It is not uncommon to hear another umpire yell “nice bounce” or “good throw” after good execution in a game. Alongside positioning, teamwork is one of the major factors affecting how many incorrect decisions are made in a game.
During the week, just like a footy club, umpires train together. Twice a week, the umpires from the local area will go through drills to improve their fitness and skills.
Also like a club, sometimes everyone will train together, whether you are state league level, or about to do your first Under-12s game as a teenager. Other times, people train separately, so that the session is at a pace that will suit everyone.
The general football population expects umpires to be perfect. On the one hand, I see this as a compliment; that perfection is within reach. If the level of officiating was consistently lower than the expected level, then expectations would be altered to reflect this. However, the expectation is still that there will be so few mistakes in a game, that those mistakes can be individually discussed (and often criticised).
There is a saying around the umpiring world: “The day you have a perfect game is the day you retire.” In other words, there is always room to improve.
But umpires are only human. In one game, a field umpire will make many thousand decisions (or non-decisions), all in real time, with less than a second to process each one. Then you have the distractions: the crowd, the weather, players, runners, trainers, all in the same space as you. All it takes for one of these people to obstruct your view of a contest is to run past at the wrong time. In the blink of an eye, you may have ‘missed’ something, even though you are in perfect position.
Spectators often think they have a free pass when talking about umpires. They believe that it is their ‘right’ to use abusive language, and insult the umpire as a person because of what they do.
In a game I officiated earlier this year, a player going for the ball was crunched in a big (but legal) hip-and-shoulder from a much larger opponent. The opponent who laid the hit was very sportsmanlike, checked that the injured player was okay, and signalled to the bench when the answer was no. The player was helped from the field by his team’s trainers, and the game continued.
A few minutes later, at the three-quarter-time break, the injured player’s mother stormed out onto the field (into the area that is set aside for only umpires), swearing at us, calling us incompetent, and demanding that the player who laid the bump be reported and sent off the field.
A polite explanation of our course of action was met with increased abuse from the woman, who had to be taken away by some of her son’s teammates to settle down.
Another example, and one that I am less proud of, was from earlier in my career as an umpire. A young field umpire was just starting out, and learning very quickly. A group of us were in the stands to provide some support to the umpire (a common occurrence), when again, a player’s mother was complaining about every ‘mistake’ that the umpire made, even though most of the complaints were completely baseless.
A few of the less tolerant in the group (including the young umpire’s brother) quickly figured out who the lady’s son was, moved directly behind her, and started to make comments every time he missed a kick or dropped a mark. The mother didn’t take long to get annoyed at the complaints about her son, and asked why they were singling out her son like that. When they pointed out that she had been doing the same to one of their friends, her response was, “But he’s an umpire.”
After a few minutes to calm down, both groups apologised to each other.
But what happens if you don’t have a group of semi-confrontational people willing to stand up against that ingrained abuse? A lot of spectators don’t even realise what they are saying about the umpire, and some believe that because they are talking about an umpire, they can say what they want.
A shift away from the abuse of officials at higher levels is slowly filtering down through competitions, but there needs to be more people pushing this message right through to the grass-roots level, as that is breeding ground not just for players, but the next generation of officials as well.
Robert Murphy has been a vocal proponent of showing umpires more respect, and a favourite quote of his sticks with me for every game of sport that I watch, officiate, spectate, or am involved in any capacity:
“For anyone going to the footy this week, at any level, raise a glass to the umps. Footy needs them.”
In closing, I have a simple request: imagine the umpire or referee out there giving up their time to run the game is your son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend or teammate. If you wouldn’t say what you are thinking to them, why should someone else have to cop it, just because ‘they are an umpire’?