Author Archives: Abby Mac

About Abby Mac

Hi. My name is Abby. I am teenager. I am also the editor and publisher of Growing Pains. And I'm writing about being a teenager. It's called Growing Pains.

“I Promise This To You, Sophie Collombet.”

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BY ABBY MAC

It’s an odd and near inexpressible feeling to grieve for someone you didn’t know. A someone who you never met or touched, saw or even spoke to. Many might assume that you are being over-sensitive or just wanting to get in on the “action”; to be part of the community mourning if you grieve for this stranger. But, that’s not true for me.

Sophie Collombet was a young woman who travelled from her home country of France to Australia to study Business at Brisbane’s, Griffith University. On March 27, during the late hours of the night, Sophie Collombet was raped and bashed to death, eventually found by a jogger the next morning, at Kurilpa Park in South Brisbane.

Sophie Collombet

Sophie Collombet

I did not know Sophie or have any relation to Sophie, yet Sophie’s death has ripped my heart apart and an immense flood of grief has taken over my body. Pinpointing the exact reasons for my grief are hard but they vary from imagining the terror Sophie was experiencing in the last minutes to possible hours of her life. The fact that she died alone and near the bank of the ominous, Brisbane River. She died with the Brisbane City nightlife buzzing around her, yet no one could save her. Or mostly, that she died hurting all alone or, very potentially, with her evil offender near her.

Thursday night, along with over a thousand people, I walked in the candle-lit vigil from King George Square to Kurilpa Park to mourn, remember and show strength for Sophie and her family and friends. It was emotional. Tears from strangers was normal and once gathered at the park where Sophie was found, the crowd quietly sung “Amazing Grace” for the woman who was stripped of her life, due to senseless and disgusting violence.

Sophie Vigil

Rest in Peace Sophie – Candle-lit Vigil for Sophie on Thursday Night

Since Sophie’s death, community outrage has grown fierce that Brisbane is not really the safe city precinct which it claims to be on paper. Meena Narayanan, 27, was stabbed to death in Upper Mount Gravatt at the hands of her alleged boyfriend, late last month; Eunji Ban, 22, was a South Korean student studying in Brisbane bashed to death in a Central Brisbane park in November last year and Min Tae Kam, 28, was found in a shallow grave in Algester on December 19, last year.

The records of the above deaths as a result of unprovoked violence, are only some of the deaths which have occurred in Brisbane in the past six months. There are dozens more. What can be identified is that most of the victims are females under 30.

At the vigil for Sophie, I felt such shame as a citizen of Brisbane that just like Eunji Ban, Min Tae Kam and Meena Narayanan – who had all chosen Brisbane to study tertiary education, we had a responsibility to keep them safe. And then I realized, that our responsibility doesn’t just extend to those who come across the seas, but as a city and nation which have a duty to keep all our citizens – whether they be male, female, students, children, the elderly, whoever – safe and not be innocently stripped of their lives.

Many of the deaths have been cases of horrific violence against women committed by absolutely sickening men. The fact about Sophie’s death is that it is not the first of it’s kind, even for Brisbane. Her death was not the first time that a woman was a victim of horrendous violence and yet, our response as a community is similar to the ones before. We mourn, we grieve and we become outraged. We follow the pattern of calling on some sort of justice and methods to fix this violence against women. The same discourse occurred after the terrible tragedy involving Melbourne woman, Jill Meagher, who was raped and then murdered on the 22 September, 2012.

The conversations occurring to stop violence against, in particular, women, involve members of the public calling for more police precence or improved street lighting. Whilst I concede that this form of action is needed and would make some impact, these responses are not the only answers. The increasing cases of violence against women does not have one answer but many, which are hard and not easy. And, that’s very possibly why they aren’t being actioned.

Sophie Collombet’s murderer had an alleged history of mental illness and was homeless at the time, Jill Meagher’s murderer was countlessly released on parole or bail, or served minimum terms for the many incidents where he was convicted of violence against women, including rape. Eunji Ban’s killer, too, has recorded issues with mental health.

What we see is various issues which are already underlying problems in Australian society, yet are not being dealt with, and therefore are having serious and long-term affects in other areas of life. These underlying problems range from poor mechanisms to dealing with mental health, to homelessness, alcohol and drug misuse, unjust sentencing and notably,the perception that violence against women is a second-rate offence.

Again, we can improve lighting and police presence in these risky areas, but until we – as a society – start looking critically at the hard issues facing us, we will continue to see the dreadful ramifications in not only violence against women, but violence against the general community, self-violence, increased suicides and long-term economic effects.

So, I promise this to you, Sophie Collombet. I will never let you have died in vain. Your death and the tragic circumstances involving your death will not go unnoticed and I promise that I will do my very best to change the issues which contributed to your passing. You deserved a hell of a lot more from Brisbane and Australia than what you endured and I promise that I won’t sit in silence. I will yell and scream my loudest until someone else becomes loud with me, and what needs to be changed to prevent deaths like yours, will occur.

This, I promise to you.

Four international students have been killed in Brisbane since November, last year.

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What do you think of the circumstances respecting the death of Sophie Collombet? What about the other deaths in Brisbane? How can we – as a society – handle the problems leading to such violence?

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Listen Up. I Deserve to Be Heard.

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BY ABBY MAC

To be honest, I am quite slack at this blogging business. I relish the stages where I want to publish an update everyday and my post-it note wall is spewing with ideas and then there are the miserable phases where I don’t post for months (note: this post is the first one in almost five months). Now, don’t get me wrong. My intermittent periods of posting and then not posting are not driven by my desire to post. Not. At. All.

I always want to post, though at times my want is stronger than at others. The level of my posting is mostly dictated by the time I have available.

Currently, it is holidays so my post rate will quadruple. During school times my posts tend to dwindle off because Growing Pains ever so slowly dwindles to the very bottom of my “To-Do” list and on very, very rare occasions do I reach anywhere close to the end of the list.

However, what always draws be back to this blog is not primarily an abundance of time that I am gifted with. It’s the fact that without this blog I don’t have a voice greater than my home, school or friends. My voice can’t be heard, or it is limited, without this platform which I can vent, rage, embrace, love or call for change. I am constantly brought back to this blog because with Growing Pains, I can be heard by anyone, anywhere and at anytime. And, this excites me and is empowering.

Today, I opened up my computer to write after reading stories such as the refugee who walked free from child kidnapping due to “cultural differences” and saw no time in prison after the molestation of a child. Or, when the hair-removal company, Veet, published ads claiming that an unshaven woman becomes a “man”.

So, whilst I sat and read articles like the above, I became outraged and felt so small. How could I – a young woman who lives in tiny Suburbia and hasn’t yet even had the chance to vote – change all these wrongs which infiltrate our world? Then I realized, not every change-maker has started with a voice which can be heard by the many people who populate our world.

Nelson Mandela did not begin with a voice, Gloria Steinem was not listened to and Martin Luther King Jr was oppressed due to the colour of his skin, but still, these people have all accomplished the greatest of greats and shaped history like few before us.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem raised her voice for the women’s movement in the 1970s.

I am lucky for the fact that I have this platform – the Internet – to express my opinion and not fear extreme penalty for telling the world.

Now, I vow, that no matter how far down the “To-Do” list my blog sits, I will write. I will write not for fame or money or glory, but because I deserve to be heard and my blog, is where I can be.

How do you use your voice to speak up? Do you sometimes feel silenced?

Time Magazine’s 16 Most Influential Teenagers.

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BY ABBY MAC

Time Magazine has released their annual list of “16 Most Influential Teenagers of 2013”, which notably only includes 15 names. This list is not necessarily the most successful or most empowering teenagers, just incredibly influential. Take a look at the list and the biography of each teenager from Time Magazine, and tell us what you think.

1. Hailee Steinfield, 16
“Steinfeld had nearly no previous acting experience when she was nominated for an Academy Award at age 13 in 2010 for her role in True Grit. Now she’s playing a student at a military space academy in the sci-fi film Ender’s Game. “I still consider myself very much a beginner,” she told the Guardian.”

2. Chloe Grace Moretz, 16
“Chloe Grace Moretz is a leading lady for the first time in Carrie, but the blood-drenched horror film is hardly this 16-year old’s first rodeo. The Atlanta native has had supporting roles in (500) Days of Summer and Hugo, and she’s an up-and-comer in the fashion world, too. Next, she’s starring opposite Kiera Knightly in Laggie, out in 2014.”

3. Beth Reekles, 17
“The Welsh high school student was looking for something to read other than stories about vampires and werewolves when she decided to write her own teen fiction book. The then-15-year-old used story-sharing site Wattpad to release her novel, The Kissing Booth, which earned more than 19 million views and caught the attention of Random House Children’s Publishers U.K. The author, now 17, scored a three-book deal with the U.S. arm of Random House and has since appeared on the Today show. But writing remains a hobby for the teenaged literary sensation, who plans to major in physics in college.”

4. Justin Bieber, 19
“The Canadian-born pop star has become an industry to himself, valued by Forbes at $58 million. He released his first single at age 15, and in 2010, he became the youngest solo male artist to hit #1 on Billboards Hot 100, with My World 2.0, since Stevie Wonder. His high profile breakup earlier this year with fellow star and girlfriend of two years Selena Gomez landed him in gossip sections the world over, as did an altercation in March with a photographer.”

5. Maya Van Wagenen, 15
“The 15-year-old author rose to fame for keeping a diary in her quest to become popular, following antiquated tips from the 1950s self-help book, Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens. Her musings about applying lessons such as always wearing white gloves and pearls as she navigated the social scene of a small Texas town landed her a six-figure Penguin book deal for, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, last month DreamWorks optioned the rights for the novel, making the budding author the “youngest non-actor to ever make a deal” at the film studio.”

6. Malia Obama, 15
“At high-profile events, like her father’s second Inaugural Address, Malia and her sister, Sasha, act with the poise of adults. Thanks in part to Michelle Obama, they seem to lead as normal lives as they can while still meeting the demands of being in the limelight. (Such as 15-year-old Malia’s satirical send up in the Onion.) President Obama often mentions his daughters in speeches, and says that they influenced his stance on gay marriage.”

7. Ionut Budisteanu, 19
“The 19-year-old scientist’s design for a low cost, self-driving car won first place and $75,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for high school students in May. The prototype signals the potential of manufacturing autonomous driving vehicles to the masses, costing only $4,000 to build as opposed to Google’s $75,000 self-driving car. Budisteanu, a student in Romania, used artificial intelligence technology and a mounted camera on the car to identify traffic lanes, curbs, cars and even people.”

8. Kiernan Shipka, 14
“Mad Men’s Sally Draper is the sassiest character on TV, all thanks to Kiernan Shipka. The 14-year old actress has been playing Don Draper’s rebellious daughter since she was six and a half, but she’s still not allowed to watch the hit AMC show. Shipka also nails her red carpet appearances, with a quirky but age-appropriate style that gets her raves from the fashionable set. Watch out for her performance as incestuous Catherine in the Lifetime adaptation of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic.”

9. Malala Yousafzai, 16
“In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban on the bus home from school in Pakistan. Malala was a target because of her vocal activism to better the education of girls under Taliban rule. After surviving the attack, the now-16-year-old didn’t hide in fear but strengthened her voice. “I speak for education of every child, in every corner of the world,” she said, and the world has been listening. This year she received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and a Clinton Global Citizen Award. She was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

10. Danta de Blasio, 16
“Bill de Blasio might be the Mayor-elect of New York, but his 16-year-old son Dante is the city’s latest fashion icon. Dante’s now-iconic afro has starred in a campaign ad, inspired a New York Times Style section piece, and even gained President Obama’s attention. “Dante has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” he said. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” A junior at Brooklyn Tech, Dante and his sister Chiara (known for her floral headbands) were front and center in their father’s campaign.”

11. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 18 & 16
“The younger sisters of the Kardashian clan are no strangers to the spotlight. They’re featured in Keeping Up With The Kardashians with their half-sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, but they’re making their own waves as well. Kendall, a swimsuit model, and her 16-year-old sister Kylie have raised eyebrows for their precocious behavior. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve shown an early talent for deal-making: the pair launched a clothing line with PacSun this year.”

12. Missy Franklin, 18
“The 18-year-old won six gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and in doing so not only claimed the title of winningest female swimmer ever at a world meet, but also became the fifth swimmer to capture six or more golds at Worlds or the Olympics. She won the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year award this year. And, she joined the Cal swim team, turning down millions of dollars of endorsements to get a college degree.”

13. Nick D’Aloisio, 18
“When Marissa Mayer decides to buy your app for $30 million, you know you’re doing pretty well. When you’re only 17 at the time, “doing pretty well” is an understatement. Programming whiz kid Nick D’Aloisio sold Summly, a news-reading and summarizing app, to Yahoo in March. Other investors include Wendi Murdoch, Yoko Ono, and Ashton Kutcher.”

14. Lydia Ko, 16
“A New Zealand golfer born in South Korea, 16-year-old Lydia Ko has multiple LPGA wins. She turned pro this year—the LPGA waived the age requirement for her to join—and she’s already fifth in women’s world rankings after just 23 tournaments. She’s the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event and the youngest person ever to win an LPGA tour event (and the only amateur to ever win two LPGA Tour events).”

15. Lorde, 17
“The just-turned 17-year-old New Zealander rocketed to international fame this year with the release of her first album, Pure Heroine. Proof: New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who won the election on a message railing against economic inequality, walked onto stage to Lorde’s defiant “Royals.” The child prodigy—she signed with a label at 13—is already competing with pop’s biggest stars, surpassing Miley Cyrus in September for the top spot on iTunes with “Royals.” The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is forging her own path, turning down an opportunity to join Katy Perry on tour because, as she said at the time, it ‘didn’t feel right.'”

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So, there’s a couple of huge names. Quite interesting to group significant figures such as Justin Bieber and Malala Youfaszai together, however, it is the most influential. I thought there were a couple of names missing from this remarkable list, so I have added my own incredible teenagers.

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Who do you think deserved or did not deserve to be on Time’s List? What teenagers are influential to you?

To read more of Time Magazine’s List, click here: http://time100.time.com/2013/11/12/the-16-most-influential-teens-of-2013/

To read more about the film, Girl Rising, click here: girlrising.com/

Urgh. Is This All Teenagers Are Interested By?

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BY ABBY MAC

When I started Growing Pains, it was intended for teenagers. I published this blog because I felt there was gap in the market for online sites providing real, educated and down-to-earth opinions on issues affecting teens and issues that teens are thinking about. It’s a blog written by young women who are actually experiencing being a teenager, not a professor with a bunch of letters next to their name who references studies when talking about what it is like to be a teen and pretends to have a clue. Growing Pains is real.

That’s why I talk about topics that seem broader than teenage issues, such as GoldieBlox toys, advocacy and domestic violence. There’s a misconception that teenagers only think about Instagram, themselves or the opposite sex and to be frank, that’s just rubbish. Sure, plenty of teens are addicted to themselves but there’s also a good lot of us that think deeply, critically and carefully. Often, these teens are lessened, ridiculed and silenced for wanting to learn and think, not just by teens but adults as well, such as the case of conservationist, Bindi Irwin who spoke out against over human population. At this age, teenagers are immediately associated with brains incapable of thinking and it is this thought that angers me and from there, Growing Pains is born.

growingpains

Apparently, this is all teenage girls do.


Once a week, I research ideas for posts and under the websites I investigate, there are many teenage-inspired ones. I am not typically blown away with content or ideas from these websites, in fact, I rarely get anything at all, but posts to be angry at, such as “The How-To Guide On Getting the Sexiest Boy at School”. You know, that sort of stuff. Most of the time, I sit in anger about these “How-To Guides” for 5 minutes, consider writing a post about it and then find a great, INTELLECTUAL idea on another website and write about that, instead. But today, I am not. Don’t worry, I have written all those intellectual ideas down, however, I finally need to let some steam off about these embarrassing, degrading, condescending, absurd and disgusting (EDCAD) posts that you find on those other teen websites.

To avoid legal matters, I won’t name these teenage sites but I have compiled a list of the Top 10 EDCAD posts from the most prominent teen websites (in no particular order).

1. 10 Sex and Hook-Up Tips From Our Fav Reindeer, Rudolph
2. Guess the Celebrity Legs
3. The 24 Most Important Selfies of 2013
4. If Male Celebs Wore Make-up
5. Meet Your Next Date At The Airport
6. Things to Never Tell A Directioner
7. 10 Secret Things You Do During Sex You Don’t Want to Admit
8. I Can’t [Get] This Guy Off My Mind, Will We Hook Back Up? (Ask a Dude)
9. 10 Ways To Tell That You’re A Bad Kisser
10. Jamie Dornan Will Go Full Frontal in 50 Shades of Grey

growingpains

This is all I ever dream about. Not.


Urgh. These are all teen websites which promote themselves as covering all the issues and problems relating to teenagers. Sure, occasionally tongue-in-cheek posts can be written, such as my one on Teenage Fashion Judgement, but do we really need thousands of websites telling young adults all the ways to be better kissers and score the person of their dreams? My answer to that is no.

It’s time to boycott these ridiculous sites which take advantage of this culture that teenagers are limited to only thinking about their hair. As adults, encourage teenagers to discuss and debate politics, human rights and society etc. and as teens, promote among your friends and family that you are more than the clothes on your body.

I’m sick of it. So, for heaven’s sake, I’m going to do my best at stopping it. Join me, whatever age you are and tell the world that teenagers are beyond reading “How to Find The One” even though we’re only 15.

What do you think? Are teenagers beyond those sorts of posts?

Education is Far Beyond Toys.

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BY ABBY MAC

You may have heard recently of the new girls’ toy, GoldieBlox, designed to encourage young girls into engineering and thinking beyond pretty pink Barbies and dolls.  As the GoldieBlox website words it, they desire to “Get Girls Building”.  The whole concept is quite original and has attracted support world-wide for providing girls with a broader range of toys than the typical “Pink Aisle” offers.  Now, before you stop reading because you think I am going to either criticize the toy or totally jump on board and go way over the top with what a cultural revolution this toy is, I’m not.  I have an immense amount of support for this addition to the girls’ toy aisle, it supplies options to those who aren’t interested in playing dolls or caring for babies, however, this is about something a little bit different.

When I was investigating for this post, I read quite a bit of research stating something along the lines, that continued lack of interest for science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects by girls, is due to culture, as in the toys they play with.  Other studies revealed that if you don’t expose your girl child to toys such as Goldieblox, which promote building and engineering, before the age of five, then they will be less likely to show interest in any STEM subjects or career options.

GoldieBlox

The GoldieBlox Toy.

Don’t call be pessimistic about the whole idea of GoldieBlox or showing young girls the importance and value of STEM subjects and careers in life because I’m not.  What I deeply worry about is that parents and significant adults in children’s lives will feel “complete” after letting their girl child play with a GoldieBlox toy and feel no obligation to nurture their learning more.  Adults might enter a stage of complacency thinking if they have let their girl play with GoldieBlox before five, then their world will be open to an infinite world of career options and abilities in the building field, and if they haven’t, well then, let’s go back to Barbies.

As I have grown up, I watch parents stress about missing events in their child’s lives such as their first word, first steps or first day of pre-school, however, once they enter mid to late primary school, events in their child’s lives aren’t as important and missing every music recital or sports games don’t seem that bad, when it is quite the contrary.  This is when the child needs and wants the parent the most and a continued interest in their child’s life should be never-ending.  Hence, I am concerned that with all these new studies and statistics claiming that exposing your child to toys such as GoldieBlox before five will almost guarantee them an interest in engineering, that parents will just stop playing, teaching and quenching the child’s want to be always learning; right from cooking, to engineering, to swimming.

With the release of GoldieBlox, many generic girls’ toys have been criticized with their limiting features of pink, make-up, dolls, pink, pretty, pink or caring for babies dressed in pink clothes.  Parents, the media, experts and general commentators are appealing that having this depleted options of toys for girls are instating in their minds that all they are made for are being housewives.  And, I agree, however, just like thinking that the GoldieBlox toys will solve the answer to girls’ lack of interest in STEM, nor are pink toys the direct reason for some girls thinking they are limited to cleaning.

When I was small, I played shopkeepers and teaching and with my dolls but did I grow up thinking that all my skills encompassed caring and interacting with other people and in fact men were more capable?  No.  My dad use to tell me that he worked in the Poo Factory, as a joke, and for years that’s all I wanted to do was work in the Poo Factory.  Now, I want to work as a writer, author and in diplomacy but I don’t remember ever playing with a Barbie who internationally worked and wrote.

Children are influenced by their toys, but most of all by the people and places they are exposed to.  Growing up, I have been guided by people from all ranges of life that have taught me ambition, simplicity, health, your own personal influence, kindness, humor, knowledge, the power of questioning, success, equality and integrity.  My doll didn’t teach me that.  People did.

I am not trying to undermine the incredible advancement that the toy industry have made with developing something for girls beyond pink and dolls.  We have begun a step to empowering girls with more knowledge about building and creation but toys do not donate all factors to success or the likelihood of being an engineer.  As a society, we can actively enrich girl children to positive culture, people and places and in turn, enhance more positive movements to a girl’s personal self-belief and career diversity.  No doll, Barbie, GoldieBlox, My Little Pony or Lego block could ever do something as powerful as that.

The Time Is Now. Speak.

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BY ABBY MAC

 

Something exciting happened.  Something very exciting.  I was published on www.mamamia.com.au.  Some of you might not find that as exciting as you thought it was going to be, nonetheless, it was a big deal for me and if you want to read the article (WHICH YOU WILL.  THERE’S NO CHOICE) you can click on this link –

http://www.mamamia.com.au/mamamia-cares/woman-biggest-risk-factor-domestic-violence/

For those of you who haven’t read the post, yet, I will quickly summarise it.   In support of my Mum, I frequently work with her local Zonta Club (an international women’s organization dedicated to aiding women worldwide) for various events and causes.  One of the events was a united walk to advocate ending violence against women.   The event has been and gone, very successfully I might add, however, just because this is the case, it doesn’t mean that conversation should end on domestic violence or my article is no longer relevant.

No in different languages.

“No” means the same thing. Whatever language you speak.

My article, though intended to create awareness for the walk, was based upon providing voices to the women, men and children who are silenced due to domestic violence.  I questioned the value in just walking and how that could possibly stop domestic violence.  The truth is, it didn’t.  But, that wasn’t the reason behind walking.  We walked to show a support network of women and men who were calling on political, social and cultural change to the epidemic that domestic violence is.  We were the people that may not have had the abilities to change laws or authoritative practice, but we were and will continue to be the people who had a voice and decided to get up and use it.  Like we all should.

Using your voice shouldn’t just be limited to domestic violence.  Anything.  Use it for anything you’re passionate about and where horrible wrongs must be ended. I often hear people complaining that they don’t know how to make change.  They haven’t got the resources, public profile or time to try and be heard, they say.  That may be true.  But, what they do have is undeniably the biggest asset one could possess and that is right to their voice.  Unlike the victims of domestic violence, they aren’t being silenced.  The only thing stopping them, or you, is all the reasons which you concoct in your mind to not do something.

A couple of nights ago, I watched a documentary named Girl Rising (http://www.girlrising.com/), which I must say is the most moving and emotional films I have watched.  It shows stories of nine girls who have been empowered or want to be empowered with education.  One of the most startling and incredible facts I learnt is that providing a girl with an education is one of the most rewarding (economically, physically, socially) investments that an individual, government or country can make.  I think that’s quite amazing.

Girl Rising.

Girl Rising.

Listening to both the horrific and heart-warming stories of these girls aged from seven to 15, what I learnt is that these girls were born into countries where they have been subject to evil acts and silenced whether it be due to culture, religion, threats of violence, rape or death, lack of or no education or seemingly no resources to be heard and yet, these girls and many more of them, are speaking out and being listened to.  I sit in Australia, a country rich in resources, where free speech is encouraged, you can be heard in so many mediums from social media to a democratic political stage and yet too many of us sit in silence, or we limit our opinions or desire for change to the dining room table.  Well, to put in bluntly, how very weak, cowardly and just wrong is that of us.  We have education.  We have knowledge.  And we have a voice.

So, get up and use it.

What are you passionate about?  How are you promoting or making change?

The Day I Listened to the Great Bindi Irwin.

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BY ABBY MAC

A week or so ago I went along to something called the National Young Leader’s Day.  I would like to tell you it was only a very select group of people who were invited to attend, however, there were around 1600 kids, just from one city, aging between 6 and 17.  So, it was basically a free for all. In essence, it was a day where around six speakers came and spoke to 1600 kids about the ways to be a good leader and what they can do in society to keep being a leader.  I met some really nice people and the speakers were pretty good, so all in all, it seemed as though it was a successful day.  Apart from one thing.  Apart from the treatment and reaction of Bindi Irwin, one of the six speakers.

For all of those who don’t know Bindi Irwin, she is a 15 girl, born into a family passionate about wildlife and conservation.  I don’t like to think of Bindi in just this way, but she is the daughter of the Late Steve Irwin, and he has definitely helped create and nurture her love of wildlife.  And endless list of awards are also included in her incredible achievements, however, I think what is more important, is Bindi’s ability and dedication to thinking about topics which people typically believe are beyond someone of this age.  In particular, Bindi is thinking and working through, over-human population.

Bindi

Miss Bindi Irwin.

I know.  I’d briefly thought of over-human population before, but, I’d never considered the causes, impacts or solutions to such a serious level and how vast and seemingly uncontrollable this issue is –  which is also seriously hurting our world.  When Bindi spoke at this conference, she was passionate and knew her facts.  Her knowledge was endless and unlike many people these days – particularly youths – she was dedicated to a cause greater than herself or something to help herself.

Bindi spoke of an essay that she was asked to write for Hillary Clinton’s e-journal about her views on conservation and she primarily linked conservation to over-human population.  An aspect which I remember is the analogy she made between over-human population and too many guests at a party.

She asked you to imagine if you had invited 15 friends to your house for a party and you had prepared 15 party bags, food and drink for 15 and only had enough space in your room for 15 people and then 70 people arrived.  How are you meant to cater for this extra 55 people when you don’t have the resources to support them?

A lady that Bindi knew lived for 104 years and during that time she had seem the world grow in population by 5.5 billion.  5.5 billion.  So, Bindi states that if the world only started or was intended to hold a certain amount of people, just like her hypothetical party, how is it still catering – equally – for these people today?  And, as Bindi puts it, this crisis is what Mother Earth is having to deal with, presently.

It’s a good question.  It’s a really good question.  I have thought about it and though it’s not my own greatest passion, I really believe that something must be done to conserve our planet and all its incredible attributes – flora, fauna, food, water and its people.  And, I am thankful that we have someone like Bindi Irwin, at only 15, who is caring about something as important and urgent as over-human population.

But, the leaders at the National Young Leader’s Day did not see this.  They saw a 15 year old girl trying, really trying, to talk about something delicate and crucial – and it just didn’t seem right to them.  I don’t know whether Bindi has been coached to speak publically or it was just her immense amount of passion, but she did seem over-enthusiastic.  To some, it seemed a little bit fake.  To me, it was passion.  When people asked her a question, she always answered “that’s a really good question.”  Some saw that as condescension.  I saw it as politeness.  She then made the fatal mistake of calling someone “love” to which this arena has erupted in disgusting sniggers.   Our future leaders.  Bindi handled it perfectly by commenting – “oh! Sorry!  I do sound like an 86 year-old woman, sometimes!”  And then that comment also received those little judgemental high school laughs and eye-balling.

I am Somebody

I am Somebody. The Banner for National Young Leader’s Day.

People walked out after her (amazing) speech, mimicking her, gossiping about her and didn’t even bring up the fact that she had STUMBLED UPON A REALLY IMPORTANT GLOBAL ISSUE THAT WOULD IMPACT THEM BUT SHE WAS TRYING TO FIX IT, FOR THEM. No.  They didn’t notice that, did they?  They didn’t thank her for taking the time out to talk to them, to try to inspire them. In fact, these leaders walked out as judgemental teenagers who claimed to dislike her because she was condescending but honestly, it was because someone possibly years younger than them was thinking about something more complex than the Snapchat which they didn’t get enough time to look at.  They were jealous because she was confident in herself and was making a difference in the world.

And, this annoyed me.  It annoyed me on the day, and if you can’t tell now, it’s still annoying me now.  Okay, so Bindi may have been over-excited but that is not something that she should change.  What needs to be changed is this culture that teens breed into themselves that for someone to be over-excited, passionate or thinking about something beyond mundane life, that it is laughable.  It’s not.  It’s great.  And, it’s time the whole world appreciated that.

Do you know someone or are you like Bindi?  How did you or others react?  What topics are you passionate about?

It’s Grade Four Long Jump. Not The Answer To Stop World Hunger.

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BY ABBY MAC

I stand on the sideline of the long jump pit measuring the scores of each grade four girl, at the school athletics carnival.  I smile and tell them well done and try to dismiss the obsessive parent in the background who insists in telling each girl their exact measurement, how far behind or in front they are from the previous girl and the exercises they need to do to be a better long jumper.  Then, the teacher makes a crucial mistake.  She asks for volunteers.  That parent I was trying to ignore is now in my face, her necklace jangling and earrings swinging side to side.  She’s bouncing up and down to be selected.  She’s the only one volunteering.

Now she has a job at the long jump.  All she has to do is measure how long each girl jumps.  Round it off to the closest centimetre and if you really want, millimetre.  The first girl jumps, she starts measuring and for the next five minutes debates whether she jumped 1.02 metres or 1.03.  Her two year old son, Miller (???) who is a great “helper”, jumps out in front of the girls each time they’re jumping.  Miller, seems to have trouble to know what the word “no” means, but I am reiterated to that he is a great “helper”.  The mother starts talking to me again, trepidation and excitement mixed in her voice.   Her daughter is about to jump.  Will she meet her PB?  Oh, how nerve-racking?  Her daughter jumps, and just like her brother Miller, doesn’t seem to understand me when I speak.

“You fouled.  I’m sorry.”

This is where you're meant to jump from.

This is where you’re meant to jump from.

 

“I did not foul,” yelled the little girl!

“I don’t think my Lily* fouled,” yelled the mother/volunteer.

“I’m sorry but the rules are you have to jump before the white line.  Lily jumped whilst she was in the sand.  That is way over the line,” I informed them.

 

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This debate continued for another five minutes, arguing that we could just grant her with the benefit of the doubt.  Eventually, the little girl stormed out of the pit (she actually walked to where she was meant to jump from, which I could technically measure her from there because that was the last footstep in the pit, but I didn’t because it wasn’t the OLYMPICS) and her mother ran over to the tantrum-ing little girl  and reassured her that she was still the best – she would do better on the next jump.  Once their little pep talk was over, the mother raced back over to me where the following conversation took place.

“My Lily, she just gets really sad when she fouls so I just have to make sure she is okay.”

“Right.”

“Yes.  Yesterday, she was doing discus and she threw a really good shot but it was a foul, as well.  The sports teacher there, Mr Clohe*, said that was the best shot he had ever seen and if it wasn’t a foul then it would have been the best discus throw ever.

Because Grade Four discus would compare to something like the Olympics.

“I can imagine.”

“Grace was just great!”

This mother continued with her fascination of being the coolest, most knowledgeable and completely over-rated mum there.  She compared kids in my grade with each other (how does she even know their names?  Her own child is in grade four???) and went on to measure every jump to 1.03792 exactly.  And she annoyed me.  A lot.

I stood at that athletics carnival and had a look at the parents who were there.  I listened to their conversations such as, “I cannot believe the technique they are teaching for shotput!” (Grade Three) and “I was so angry that my child did not get a PB in high jump, yesterday!” (Grade Three, again).  I looked in utter disbelief and thought:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WORLD?  WHEN DID ANYBODY CARE IF A SEVEN YEAR OLD DIDN’T MAKE A PB?  THEY’RE SEVEN?  WHEN DID THEY EVEN GET A PB?

Initially, I was just struck in absolute shock and then I became quite angry.  These parents, these obsessed and pressuring parents, are become so fanatical with their child and minor achievements such as the extra 0.000001 they added to their long jump PB that one day, that child will just give up.  That child will feel so much anxiety and pressure to win or get a PB that their fuse will just burn out and in turn, so will they.

This constant obsession that our society seems for our children to be able to play Grade Five piano when they’re five, winning nationals for swimming, cross country and netball, academically receiving A++ in every subject and being socially perfect is just rubbish.  I cannot understand why a parent would choose to inflict such pressure onto their child – such pain for a child to endlessly desire to live up to their parents’ growing, changing and heightening expectations and let their child run until the ends of the Earth just to please, but, nonetheless, it happens.  I see it every day.  I see what the parents want and what the child wants.  I see the polar opposites trying to meet and then one day, everything that child has ever done and the person they have become is stripped.  They get to a point where they can no longer cope with any pressure at all so they let everything go.

 

Let your child grow up.  Let your child lead their own life and nurture their talents, gifts and weaknesses.  Your child should be the most beautiful thing in the world to you, no matter their PB in Grade Four long jump, and if you can’t appreciate them just as they are, then you’re not being a true parent.

 

Did you know any parents who pressure their children?  Do you do it?  Why?  Do your parents pressure you? 

When Did Society Start Opposing Others’ Achievements?

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BY ABBY MAC

A few weeks ago, my school attended a sustainable business conference, initiated for high school students to see alternative methods of doing business to achieve ultimate sustainability.  One of the aspects to the program was each school being lectured on an individual topic and ours was Coal Seam Gas.  At the end of the presentation, we were again split into groups of four to answer questions about Coal Seam Gas.  The answers we submitted would be provided to a panel of judges who would select a winner from all the schools.  Surprisingly, the group I was in were announced as winners of the business conference.

We were the youngest  students to attend the conference and have only just begun studying Business in school, compared to Grade 12s from other schools who have been studying for two to three years.  Definitely a shock winning the conference, though, a very happy one.  We donned our small prizes, caps and water bottles, and proudly walked back to school with our trophy.  For the five minutes that we were oblivious to the world, being overtaken from immediate euphoria, we didn’t notice our fellow classmates snidely looking down on us.  After being told “to get over ourselves”, we woke up and came back to Earth to see a sea of class members scowling at us and refusing to respond to our questions if anything was wrong.  One girl turned around and gave us the finger.  How endearing?

We were quickly “put in our place” and shown that our “achievement” wasn’t even “that big”, according to them.  Now, after years of bullying and many mistakes, I have learnt to quietly accomplish and not live off the accolades of others to feel successful, thus, when we were awarded the prized, I didn’t jump up and down and bombard people with my feelings of absolute accomplishment and joy.  No, I smiled and congratulated the other group members for their prize and hard work.  Yet, I was still told to “shut up” and “get real”.

So, my question is, when did everyone reject the achievements of others?  Has this always been the case or is our society forming into one of feeling cheated if another person wins or does better than you do?  When did people just not accept that sometimes there will be a winner and a loser, or to not hurt their feelings anymore, almost winners?

Sometimes there will be times when you feel like you deserved something more than other person, but life is not about winning all the time.  Life is not about the end result but how you recover from it or enhance it.  I still can’t believe how our classmates reacted to our achievement.  We weren’t from an opposing school, we were on their team.  We were meant to be their friends.

I ask everyone to acknowledge that life’s not always fair but it is critical that we don’t reject our fellow mates, acquaintances, countrymen or whoever you are.  Follow the well-known saying – “treat others how you want to be treated”, ensuring that when you are the one deserving praises for success, one isn’t “congratulated” with the back of another’s finger.

Are you happy for other people’s achievements? Have you encountered negative response to accomplishment? 

The Parent-Child Trust. And, How It Can Be Broken.

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BY ABBY MAC

This is my friend, Rosa*’s story:

When I was 10, I told my mum a secret. I asked her not to tell anybody. Then, a week or so later we went to a dinner party. We were all sitting at the table when my mum started telling everyone this secret I had told her. She didn’t omit my name or anyone else’s for that matter, and still continued to inform everyone at the table of this sweet, little secret I had told her. Everyone at the table thought my secret, which was no longer so secretive, to be quite amusing and they all chuckled to themselves. I did not find it amusing. Later on, I approached my mum and asked, “Why would you tell them my secret?” She didn’t think she had done anything wrong. I became angry and questioned why she would think it okay to blurt out my secret? She replied by saying that I was only 10 and all the adults found it quite cute. All those people there didn’t really care much for it and to stop fussing. It’s only a secret and you’re only 10.

A little ten year old with a little ten year old secret is no big deal, many might conclude. True, it was only a small secret to be told, nonetheless, it was a secret told to a mother from a little girl, secretly.

Girl Telling Mum Secret

This is what happened.

I have heard many friends of mine repeat stories similar to the one above, and all have affected them and their relationship with their mother/father in various ways. Though, the reason why I chose to share this story is, the failure by my friend’s mother to keep her daughter’s secret is still impacting their relationship today. Rosa feels as though she can’t trust her mother with most things, at the vulnerable age of 15. The mistake that her mother made five years earlier, is still affecting her today.

Quite a few people may view this as an overreaction, taking the same stance as Rosa’s mum that it was only a little secret. Rosa is making a big deal out of something that is relatively small and an event that you should just get over – if there was anything really to get over. Move on.

I feel very differently. Yes, a small secret. I know. But it was how her mother reacted which actually broke the trust between the two. I take the perspective that one cannot judge another for a mistake but how they recuperate or respond to it, is the true test of character. Think of a game of hockey, netball or whatever you play, if you lose the ball, it’s how you respond to your error which really matters. You can either, keep going and do your absolute best to get it back or, give up and have a sulk for the rest of the game. It’s not the event which breaks friendship or trust; it is how the person handles it after.

As my friend has admitted, she would have been prepared to move on with things if her mum had apologised and seen fault in her actions, however, she didn’t. She relayed the blame back to Rosa and made her feel bad for accusing her mum of breaking the trust. She refused to admit that she did something wrong.

Mum and daughter fighting

This is what it caused.

This is what has travelled with Rose for the past five years. This event isn’t the definitive reason why Rosa and her mum share a rocky relationship, but it was certainly the catalyst to the problems they have today. It was the beginning of their troubles. And I think this is incredibly sad. It is so sad that this mother and daughter can’t enjoy a special relationship because of something that occurred many years earlier – a mother just couldn’t admit to her faults and do better.

The relationship between this mother and daughter is not rare, but many teenagers have experienced something similar with their parents and can be the reason for their distant relationships.

It’s important to any relationship that when there are issues, fault on both sides can be identified instead of transferring it from one person to another. Rosa, apart from when she first asked her mum why she would tell her secret, has not admitted to her mother why she can’t trust her. I could only hope that if she did, her mum would take Rosa more seriously.

Today, Rosa’s mum believes that it is Rosa being a teenager and all the hormones going through their body which is the reason why they don’t speak often. Again, she’s blaming something/someone else apart from her.

Just because Rosa was 10 when it happened and the secret was only small, it cannot be underestimated the impacts that it had. Maybe it’s time as a parent to admit some fault in problems you have with your children and being prepared to listen to them. The parent-child trust is a very special aspect to the relationship you have with your child and it is something that should be cared and nurtured. When you have it, you may not know it, but when it’s gone, it’s impossible not to miss.

For teens: have your parents betrayed your trust? Is it affecting you and/or your relationship today? Have you told them why?

For parents: do you and your child have a good/bad relationship? Why?

*Names have been changed in consideration of privacy.