Seeking skateboard success – and bridge-building

She’s currently observing Ramadan and, despite making her training much harder, she’s committed to breaking down the barriers recent extremist attacks have created to a wider acceptance of her religion.


The 18 year-old is in the first year of her scholarship for skateboarding at Sydney University, the first of its kind in Australia.

She’s only been skateboarding for four years and Hadid says doing something she loves is the key.

“Ever since I started skateboarding I felt a connection with it and I felt that it was something that I really loved and something that I wanted to pursue. And when you do something you love, you do it well.”

Hadid has been observing Ramadan since she was six years old, even though she wasn’t required to do so until puberty.

And she remains committed to doing so, despite it making her training and university studies more difficult.

“I just make sure that I eat and consume the right amount of food, and the right types of food, so that sustains my energy levels longer throughout the day.”

Hadid admits she’s got a long way to go before being a chance of earning selection for the Australia Olympic Skateboard team.

“Women’s skateboarding is progressing every day. The bar is raising every single day. Its going to be a lot of work and that’s no doubt about it just like for any sport. A lot of work, a lot of dedication.”

Recent extremist attacks in Australia and around the world have saddened her that moderate Muslims may be being misrepresented.

She’s hoping that through her music, sport and studies she’ll be able to have a positive impact on the world.

“I skateboard because I love it of course, and I rap because I love it. But I do it for other people as well. I think anything is possible. But for myself, concentrate for the next three years on skateboarding. And competing in the 2020 OIympics. And hopefully after that I want to study medicine.”

Hadid has already competed at international events and scored podium finishes.

Her skateboarding career looks set for success but, if it doesn’t happen in Tokyo, with her dedication towards all aspects of her life, success in some endeavour looks assured.


Federal and state governments bicker over parole after Brighton attack

The Federal Government is still struggling to understand how he was granted parole despite having terrorism links.


The Prime Minister is playing down suggestions from Victoria that Australia’s spy agency should have the power to intervene in future parole decisions.

Twenty-nine year-old Australian citizen and former Somali refugee Yacqub Khayre was killed by police after he murdered a man, took a hostage and shot three police officers on Monday.

Police said he had made claims that night he was doing it for al-Qaeda.

He had been acquitted of involvement in a planned terrorist attack on a Sydney Army barracks in 2009, but had a lengthy criminal history.

Despite that, the Victorian legal system granted him parole in December.

The head of Victoria’s Adult Parole Board, Judge Peter Couzens told Melbourne radio station 3AW:

“The board received absolutely no information from either corrections or external services which would cause us to have any concerns about risks to the public. We had been told nothing about him that would indicate any suggestion of risk. Had we been told, we would’ve acted.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says the parole board should’ve looked at his entire legal history.

“The Victorian Parole Board apparently only looked at the charge under which he’d been imprisoned and didn’t look back beyond that to the fact he had terrorist antecedents. Had they done so, it’s inconceivable he would’ve been released on parole so readily.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW he agreed.

“Everybody knew, it was a matter of public knowledge, that he had been involved in extremist activities. Yes, he had been acquitted but there was no doubt he had associations and engagement, involvement with violent extremist elements.”

Judge Peter Couzens said counter-terrorism police did contact them about Khayre, but only to ask for a current phone number so they could return some property to him.

“You would’ve thought, Neil, that if the federal authorities were concerned about this person as a risk, they would’ve been more concerned about that then returning property to him.”

Facing intense scrutiny about how this happened, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told Channel Seven criminals with known terrorist links should only be released from prison with Commonwealth approval.

“ASIO and the Australian Federal Police are after all the primary experts in this matter. This is a national issue and we need to work together and all be involved in this.”

The Prime Minister is unimpressed by the proposal.

“Of course it can seek advice and information from other agencies but I think many Victorians would be shaking their heads at the prospect of the Victorian Premier wants to abdicate his responsibility as leader of the government of Victoria.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says every state needs to take a stronger stance on parole for those with terrorist links.

“I think the public are entitled to expect that for people who present that level of danger to the public and who have a terrorism backgound, there should be a presumption against bail or parole except in a very clear case.”


An emotional farewell for child sex abuse victims’ advocate

Anthony Foster has been farewelled as a passionate campaigner who helped survivors of sexual abuse deal with their grief, and a dedicated father who loved his children and grandchildren dearly.


His efforts contributed materially to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Mr Foster began campaigning against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church after learning two of his daughters were sexually abused by their priest.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offered the family a state funeral, saying Anthony and Chrissie Foster helped transform victims and give them a voice.

“The Fosters were fighting for every childhood that had been taken and for every family that had been broken. While perpetrators and their protectors continued to deny and hide, the Fosters defied that culture of silence. Anthony and Chrissy shone a powerful light on one of our darkest chapters.”

Ann Barker, former MP for Oakleigh, also spoke at the memorial.

Ms Barker took the Fosters’ book “Hell on the way to Heaven” to the state parliament, and called for an inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“Anthony and Chrissie fought hard and long for their daughters and their family and they continued to fight for full justice. They saw systems that failed in so many ways, that put up barriers at every opportunity, and covered up crimes against children. They didn’t step back from those many victims and survivors, they stepped forward.”

Although Mr Foster became a high-profile advocate for victims of sexual abuse, he was remembered at the service as a devoted family man.

His brother, Brian Foster, told those attending how proud he was of his brother.

“Anthony’s greatest achievement, outside his family, became his campaign to expose child sex abuse and cover-ups, initially in the catholic church and later in wider areas of the community. To this he dedicated the final 21 years of his life. This is his legacy. In pursuing justice, the personal costs to Anthony and Chrissie have been enormous. Dear brother, we are immensely proud of you, rest in peace.”

Anthony Foster’s mission for justice started when he found out two of his daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused by Father Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took her life in 2008 and Katie was hit by a car in 1999, leaving her with brain damage and in need of 24-hour care.

Katie spoke at the memorial and thanked her dad.

“Hey dad, thanks for always making me feel special. You were so smart, wise and giving, and a generous man. Love always, Katie.”

Mr Foster’s other daughter, Amy, also spoke.

“Throughout unthinkable loss and grief, his spirit never ceased to blossom, how can one man be so strong. Despite all, he kept on keeping on, he never turned to vices designed to numb, nor to rage or blame, instead he took his pain and turned it inside out and clutched tightly to empathy and justice. Regardless, his untimely death points to all that he endured. I am so fortunate to have been this rare man’s daughter, what a privileged life I have lived. You can rest in peace now dear dad, we will be okay because you have showed us the way.”


Ramadan just the first challenge for Aussie boxer

Elmir is currently observing Ramadan – just the first of many challenges she will face this year.


It’s common for Bianca Elmir to abstain from eating and drinking before a training session.

But the physical demands of boxing means she isn’t be able to fast every day.

“Sometimes it can get very overwhelming with the training schedule that I’ve got on and leading up to a fight it’s very difficult because everything is assessed you know like how much you’re drinking, how much you’re eating, because I have to be perfectly a certain weight, to the gram.”

When she does fast, it’s done with a purpose.

“I’ll dedicate it towards something, so you know the other day I dedicated it to just recognising my environment and I was just really mindful of my environment all day because I made the intention of fasting for – obviously, first for God – but then secondly to be mindful of my environment, care and respect it. I was trying to pick up rubbish around me and just being really grateful for everything around me, just being mindful of trees and all these really beautiful things.”

Elmir has been a Muslim since she was a child.

The 34 year-old admits being open about her faith still presents its challenges.

“As soon as I say I’m Muslim I have to automatically defend myself, I’m in a defensive position, and that’s a really negative experience.”

In November, she will attempt to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Her trainer, former Olympian Jamie Pittman, says Elmir is destined for success.

“If she can continue to grow and improve and stay obsessed with boxing the way she has the last six weeks she will be going to the Commonwealth Games and winning a gold medal, I’ve got no doubt in hell that she will be the best 51kg in the Commonwealth.”

Elmir hopes achieving that goal will inspire other young Muslim women in Australia.

“For other Islamic women I would hope that I can lead by example, in showing that ‘be comfortable in your own skin, things will get tough sometimes, it’s tough for everyone just being a human being in this world and if you just try hard and do as much as you can to be the person that you can be, then anything is possible.’ I honestly believe that.”


No kisses but Harry’s fans get Sydney hugs

It was a case of deja vu for Daphne Dunne and Victoria McRae when the pair came face to face with Prince Harry for a second time on the shores of Sydney Harbour.


In the pouring rain on Wednesday, the elderly woman who embraced Harry in 2015 and the young female fan who famously stole a kiss from the prince during that trip were willing to get wet to do it all again.

The two fans were part of a 200-strong crowd who waited in the rain to catch a glimpse of Harry as he walked around Circular Quay after watching a sailing demonstration as part of the 2018 Invictus Games preparations.

The 97-year-old was at it again on Wednesday, but this time she was armed with a blanket and umbrella.

“He’s marvellous, I’ve met him before and he’s an absolute gem,” Ms Dunne told AAP.

“I’ve been waiting a couple of hours, but it’s worth it, even with this heavy rain.”

And Ms Dunne was rewarded for her patience.

Not only did the British royal remember her but the 32-year-old appeared visibly excited as he gave the 97-year-old a hug and had a brief chat.

In a moment that melted the hearts of onlookers, Prince Harry even tucked Ms Dunne’s blanket in and fixed up her umbrella before he continued on his walk.

While there were no kisses during this visit the prince did receive some phone numbers and photographs – including one from Ms McRae capturing the moment the then-21-year-old stole a kiss two years ago.

Ms McRae confessed to having a copy of the picture on her bedroom wall and she’s hoping Harry might put his copy up at home in London too.

“I don’t think it’s likely but it’s good to pass it on,” she told AAP on Wednesday.

Ms McRae, who was wearing a plastic crown and holding a Union Jack flag, wasn’t disappointed she didn’t get a kiss this time but claimed she was “happy with what I got”.

“We shook hands and we talked about our last rendezvous – it was great,” she said.

Many fans screaming as Prince Harry made his way through the crowd with one heard yelling out: “Isn’t this amazing that someone can bring this many people so much joy!”