We do care if our top footy players are gay

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Credit: Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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As a football fan, I thank Jason Ball (“AFL can lift burden off gay players”, 23/8) and ABC’s Four Corners for calling out the AFL’s failure to provide a workplace and sporting culture that allows male gay players to be themselves. Homophobia is an irrational fear, much like racism, that demonises those we don’t want to understand.

It is the AFL and clubs that must work to remove the “burden” of coming out by making it clear to all – administration, media, players and fans – that gay players will be proudly supported and embraced. Jason Akermanis might not care if you are gay or not, but most of us do. We care because you are essential and loved members of our football, our families and our community.
Guy Abrahams, Richmond

Silence makes sense
The AFL has a responsibility to support gay players’ rights to privacy about their sexual status. Louise Milligan’s point on Four Corners that a “silence” is being imposed on gay players by the AFL and Gillon McLachlan lacks a broad perspective.

The AFL has worked for many years for safe places on and off the field, for footballers who are heterosexual or gay. Education programs have been run to curb heavy drinking, gambling, drug-taking, dissipating big incomes, and involvement with underworld figures or “groupies”. The AFL has shown a clear concern for the mental health, and the future years, of young men living in a blaze of temporary glory.

If gay players want to maintain a silence about their personal lives, to avert, perhaps, being another target for those toxic males who revel in physical attacks on AFL players, football administrators should support them. They don’t have to be “out”.
Des Files, Brunswick

Difference is the point
Your correspondent, in discussing the recent furore about the score review system, asks why Aussie rules should be different from soccer, rugby, hockey or water polo (“Bring AFL into line with other codes”, 23/8). As a relative newcomer to Melbourne – having arrived in 1970 and still to pick a team – can I express my bewilderment?

I have been under the impression for all these years that the inventors of Aussie rules went to great pains to ensure all of its precepts were opposite to the others: no ground size or shape; no off-side; different-shaped ball; no throwing; etc etc. The rule causing the so-called Adelaide-Sydney debacle is perfectly consistent with this tradition.
Peter Price, Southbank

Fabric of the game
Couldn’t disagree more with your correspondents recommending an AFL rule change to allow a goal, irrespective of whether it’s been touched or not. If this rule is implemented, the very fabric of the game would change. Part of the excitement of the game is watching whether the ball has been kicked “cleanly” through the goalposts and often waiting for the umpire’s decision. Leave things the way they are.
Mandy Morgan, Malvern

Handy scoring method
Many correspondents have said that it should be a goal if the ball goes over the goal line even if it touches the goalpost, flag or a player. What if it’s punched by a player from, say, 15 or more metres? Or will it be a free kick rather than a goal if a player hits the ball with an open hand?
Tom Ward, Sorrento

Pay parity is pie in the sky
The AFL decision to give equal prizemoney to the men’s and women’s competitions is right and proper. However, the AFLW push to stretch this to pay parity (“‘Invest in us’: Cash boost for AFLW”, 22/8) is “pie in the sky”. Comparisons with the Matildas in the recent World Cup overlook the fact that the Matildas have been playing at World Cup level since 1978, and today many of them play professionally in the elite European competition.
Doug Knight, Clifton Springs


Celebrate reading
I love books. I read voraciously. I read to my children and grandchildren. I give books to children. However, I have come to despise Book Week in schools. If the aim is to encourage a love of books and reading, it has failed. It is now is all about the dressing up: one major retail chain is advertising ready-made costumes for Book Week. Who cares if the child has never read the relevant book – the costume is it.

At the same time we have horrifying statistics around child poverty. One in six children in Australia live in poverty, according to research by the Australian Council of Social Service and UNSW Sydney. That means that in a class of 24, four children live in poverty. How do these children and their parents feel about the dress up day? If parents are struggling to pay rent or pay for food, they cannot afford even $5 for a costume, let alone the $40 for a ready-made one.

Bring Book Week back to its origins – the celebration of books, not of dressing up.
Louise Kloot, Doncaster

Librarians foster literacy
The heyday of Children’s Book Week was 30 years ago when every state primary school had a teacher librarian. In my experience as a teacher librarian, all children dressed up and chose characters from books that they had read or learned about. The award finalists in each category were discussed and read to the children and much interest was generated in children’s literature.

The teacher librarians and their training courses are no longer and the funds for their employment funnelled into computers that undoubtedly are needed but not by sacrificing children’s literature and library research skills.

Those from privileged homes will still get access to great literature but there are many others who won’t. Bring back teacher librarians as the valuable asset of the primary school curriculum that they once were.
Megan Peniston-Bird, Kew

Recognise success
Following the recent release of NAPLAN results, Jordana Hunter from the Grattan Institute suggested “the results reinforced the need for the Victorian government to follow NSW and introduce year 1 phonics screening checks” (“Quarter of Victorian students fail NAPLAN”, 23/8).
This is a somewhat curious recommendation given that Victorian students performed well in reading at years 3 and 5 and retained first place in the nation for year 3 reading and year 5, 7 and 9 writing. Why then should Victoria implement a practice used in a state it has outperformed for two years running?

DET Victoria has its own tools for tracking young readers’ phonic knowledge, as well as advice on explicit teaching. Indeed, Victorian teachers should be acknowledged for their professional expertise exhibited through a time of pandemic and remote learning rather than promoting a phonics test.
Carmel Sandiford, East Melbourne

Real-life connections
At the recent Sheepvention in Hamilton the award for education technology was won by Brad Pickford for his teaching simulator that helps students learn how to castrate lambs and calves. On the surface this seemed to be the kind of teaching folly that I as a science teacher would have no use for, but on reflection as a farmer’s son I could see its value given that a classroom demonstration could be upsetting for the students and certainly for the lamb.

What is needed is a curriculum that meets the individual students needs, reflects their culture and is useful for them, but that is a massive task so most teachers rely on a textbook. We need more real-life applications of science so that students can see its relevance and connect with it.
The NAPLAN results will be of a concern while there is a shortage of experienced teachers and students are not engaged by the content they are taught.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

Unfair system
When is Australia going to realise that the problem is its class-segregated education system? Pockets of advantage inevitably create pockets of disadvantage. Such a system has been known to be detrimental to outcomes for years.

While the beneficiaries will always defend the status quo, the victims have no choice but to accept the gross overfunding of “private” schools and underfunding of the public sector. The choice mantra has failed.
Todd Jorgensen, Healesville

A lesson in listening
The Age reported on August 21, 1860, on the “pioneers of civilisation” departing Royal Park (An Age Ago, 23/8). Seven of the expedition’s members died including Burke and Wills. The sole survivor, John King, lived with the Yandruwandha people until he was rescued by a following expedition. Had Burke and Wills sought advice and or guidance from the Aboriginal groups that lived in the areas travelled then the explorers might have survived. There was a voice and it wasn’t heard.
Geoff Gowers, Merricks North

Who knows best?
Burke and his party set off with the best boots for themselves and shoes for the camels, but they did not seek advice from the First Nations Peoples through whose lands they travelled. Thinking they knew much better than any they may have encountered, they met their end. That’s what happens when “you don’t know”.
Marguerite Heppell, East Hawthorn

Violence must stop
My heartfelt condolences to Bryan Beattie whose teenage son’s life was tragically cut short nearly 18 months ago (“Killed teen’s father pleads for end to knife crime”, 23/8). Hopefully, his pleas – for knife violence to end – will not be a forlorn hope.

Knives are not the only weapons used in unprovoked attacks. Approximately 15 years ago my son was set upon by four young people early on a Sunday morning as he and a friend quietly walked home in North Melbourne. The weapon of choice in my son’s case was a baseball bat. I can attest to the fact that seeing his blood-stained clothes, seeing his injuries and hearing my son describe the attack to detectives was one of the more sobering occasions in my life. A broken forearm, and an operation to insert a 10-pin plate was the end result of the attack. The perpetrators were never caught.

My son came through the episode much better than me. During his convalescence with me, we watched a couple on a news program tearfully plead for violence to stop. They had just had to turn off their son’s life support. As a parent, I can’t imagine their pain, as I can’t imagine Mr Beattie’s.
Caroline Heard, Glen Huntly

Space for laughter
I have mixed feelings about no comics (“Editor’s note”, 23/8). Yes, it’s good to spend on Australian journalists; it’s good to have more room inside the Sudoku; the Wizard was last century; and Zits and Non Sequitur often demanded a deep understanding of American culture and politics. However, Zits often gave us a chuckle at many of our own intergenerational foibles and misunderstandings, and Non Sequitur was often delightfully universal in its wry comment on human nature, politics and society.

Could we not have one Australian comic that touches on these positive, and occasionally darker, aspects, makes us laugh – and occasionally cry? Then we, and others, could still share with our children and grandchildren, who, at a young age started at the comics, then the puzzles, and as they matured, would look at sport, then the other “serious” stories in The Age.
Phil Johnson, Box Hill

Time to grow up
Your editor gives the reasons why The Age has abandoned the comic strips. It’s the right decision to make and, to speak personally, I thought the perennial teenager Jeremy in Zits should have grown up years ago.
David Fry, Moonee Ponds

Worthy inheritance
Ross Gittins (“Housing plan will help – a bit”, 23/8) continues to point out the growing gap between those who have capital (in the form of houses, in this case) and those who have not. He points out that the house ownership gap (and consequently wealth accumulation) is “intergenerational”.
By increasingly marginalising families in our society and promoting wealth accumulation for other families we are sowing seeds of discontent that risk the divisions that the USA currently deals with between the so-called “elites” and the “MAGAs”.

Those of us who have plenty would do well to stop resistance to paying more tax and, among other changes, call for inclusion of a significant and watertight tax on estates where property is owned by the deceased. I prefer my children and grandchildren to inherit a healthy society.
Michael Langford, Ivanhoe

Water bombing
How can Daniel Andrews even think about cutting back our water bombing capacity for fighting fires this summer? Hasn’t he read about the devastation happening in Canada and other northern hemisphere countries from massive bushfires?
Katriona Fahey, Alphington

Political ambitions
Your correspondent (“The housing dream”, 22/8) describes Victoria’s government as “supposedly socialist left”. The distinction between left and right is derived from French revolutionary days and has survived courtesy of Russia but now means next to nothing.

In this state, Labor politics is all about groups of political wannabes grappling for power. There is nothing “left” or “right” about any of them. Same federally. One group wants to represent the workers, the other to represent hard-working Australians. Those that are left find bits and pieces to haggle over. Albanese is left, Shorten is right? Just the faces of groups stalking power.
John Whelen, Box Hill South


Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding

Aussie Rules
Ah another apology from the extended VFL to my beloved Crows. That’ll make it right I’m sure.
Ross Hosking, Blackwood, SA

Many think soccer is the only true football. Australian Rules allow goals to be scored only by foot. Soccer rules allow goals to be scored using the head, chest and opponents (called own goals).
Ian Dale, Rosebud

Thankyou Age Editor Patrick Elligett for his intelligent explanation of the cessation of comic strips in print. I value investigative and informative local journalism, way ahead of syndicated stuff.
Neil Tolliday, Werribee

The Age’s investigative work is greatly valued and admired but it’s hardly joyous. Please bring back the strips of levity to lighten the load.
Dale Crisp, Brighton

No comics but bigger puzzles. Seeing clearly is making me smile!
Glenda Johnston, Queenscliff

Disappointed by justifiable decision to remove cartoons, but at least Bob will no longer be ridiculed in Non Sequitur.
Bob Phillips, Templestowe

Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham deserve each other. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Gerard Burke, Essendon

What a great article on Jack Adams and his efforts to help his local park with public recycling bins. It’s wonderful to see the younger generation help lead the way on the environment.
Jane Matthews-Bede, Blackburn

Supermarkets have kicked an own goal when it comes to their belated concern about a rise in shoplifting following the increased prevalence of self-serve checkout counters.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh

Farewell and thanks to Stan Grant and Ita Buttrose. The ABC has been well served by both and their depths of experience and sensitivity will be hard to replace.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

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