AURORA - Winter 2023

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beginnings New
RefugeeHub The CatholicCare RefugeeHub supports and empowers people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds to build a future in Australia. We’re here to help. You can help too. Learn more and consider a gift at 58 Church Street, Mayfield NSW 2304 Phone: (02) 4979 1120 Email:

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is located on traditional lands of Awabakal, Biripi Darkinjung, Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, and Worimi peoples. We honour the wisdom of and pay respect to, Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the spiritual culture of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. We have much to learn from this ancient culture.

Times of change can be unsettling. But, as our new Bishop writes on page 4, they can also bring us great joy.

Like so many of us, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has experienced many changes across the last quarter. But in a post-pandemic world, we hear that change is the only constant. –so the Aurora team has embraced the change and in fact, focused on the more encouraging side of it and chosen a theme of ‘new beginnings’.

Editor: Michelle Mcgranahan

Design: David Stedman, Emma Barnett

Regular Contributors: Elizabeth Baker, Tim Bowd, Alexander Foster, Gemma Hunter and Elizabeth Symington

Team Contact

Aurora editorial and advertising enquiries should be addressed to:

Michelle Mcgranahan P 02 4979 1200


PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300


Since our last edition not only have we welcomed Bishop Michael Kennedy to the Diocese but we have also been joined by a new Editor of Aurora

We thank Lizzie Watkin for her work on


the magazine over the last four years and welcome Michelle McGranahan. Across these pages you can read the stories Michelle has curated, sharing how people have navigated the unknown and embraced new opportunities through times of change to create their own new beginnings and experiences. This edition showcases fresh starts in employment, bringing joy to families through foster care, hope for our future as we care for the environment and making personal change by tackling addiction.

On page 21 you can learn more about artificial intelligence (AI) –a significant

Being involved in Family Law Disputes can be difficult. With Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers’ team of Family Law specialists, you can trust that your matter will be settled fairly and quickly, When it matters.

digital change that commentators say could be one of the largest societal shifts we’ve seen.

Aurora too is making change. Whilst we haven’t had AI bots write this edition, we are encouraging our readers to view more about the stories on these pages via digital technologies. Throughout you will see QR codes that will take you to videos and more online information for you to enjoy.

Like all of us, Aurora is evolving and embracing change where possible, and we look forward to what’s to come.

The Editorial Team

Embracing new beginnings
US FOR EXPERT ASSISTANCE Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. Level 5, 384 Hunter Street, Newcastle, New South Wales, 2300
My Word - Bishop Michael Kennedy 4 CEO Update 5 In Brief 6 How a kitchen door opened a future of possibility 8 A photo changed Dale and Robert’s life 10 Finding the right words about farting 11 Shellebrating sustainability 12 Alex’s courage changes his life 14 The real impact of going green and why we should care 16 Our journey towards reconciliation 17 The three pillars of Michael Leo Doran’s life 18 Why some ‘old folks’ avoid new music and why they’re missing out! 20 The AI revolution 21 Thriving against the odds 22
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On the cover: Jackson works in the kitchen at the CatholicCare social enterprise, Martha – a café and catering service supporting young people with trainee opportunities. Read Jackson’s story on page 8.

New beginnings

I’ve just had a ‘new beginning’, or rather am currently living through a new beginning. I began my new ministry as the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle on Friday, 17 March and so am still adapting. I’m getting used to: a new home, new people, new ministry, new ‘job’, new challenges, new systems, new environment, new culture – new everything! Well, almost everything. You see, it’s still the same me (although new beginnings do inevitably produce some degree of change in our very selves too) and it’s still the same God keeping an eye on me, guiding me, loving me. How reassuring to know that wherever we are, whatever we do, whatever else changes, our God remains the same.

There are many passages in the Bible that speak of God’s constancy. My favourite is, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And this God who never changes, what is he like? Well, in the Book of Exodus he describes himself like this, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands (of generations), and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7a).

This loving, compassionate, unchanging God is the God who has followed me to Newcastle. This is the God who walks before each of us, beside us, and behind us wherever we go in life and through every change and new beginning in life.

We recently celebrated the greatest ever of new beginnings on Easter Sunday – the resurrection of Jesus

Christ from the dead. But before this new beginning, there was despair. On the day Jesus was crucified and died, the day we now call Good Friday, his friends and disciples thought it was the end – the end of all their hopes and dreams; the end of a better world in which the love and kindness of God drew up close and got personal with them. But it was not the end. It was just the beginning! The Gospels tell us that Jesus rose from the dead at the very first sight of dawn on the first day of the week as if to say, “Today is not the end. It’s the beginning.” It’s the beginning of a new and better life in which good triumphs over evil, grace over sin and life over death.

We all have many new beginnings in life. Some of them are beginnings we long for and some of them are beginnings thrust upon us. Some of them are beginnings made possible for us by the goodness and kindness of another person; some of them made possible by the force of our own will and effort and some of them possible only by the sheer grace of God.

Each of us will have a few particularly significant new beginnings in life as well as the new beginnings we are granted with each sunrise and new day. Through it all, God is with us. “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” says Jesus (Revelation 22:13) and “I am with you always, even to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

New beginnings can be challenging. They can be joyful and they can be a mix of both, especially when we are aware of God with us.

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A warm welcome to Bishop Michael Kennedy

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, it is my honour to welcome our new bishop, Michael Kennedy, to the Diocese. It is an exciting time for our community as we embark on this new chapter together with Bishop Kennedy.

Bishop Kennedy brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to his new role. He served as the Bishop of Armidale from 2011 until his appointment here in the Hunter and prior to that, he was a priest in the Diocese of Wagga Wagga and Apostolic administrator of WilcanniaForbes Diocese amongst other roles. His dedication to the Catholic faith and his commitment to serving the Church is inspiring. No doubt his broad experience has prepared him for the diversity of the Maitland-Newcastle

Diocese and the highs and lows he will experience ministering in our part of the world.

After speaking with Bishop Kennedy, I am sure that one of his priorities will be to strengthen the faith of our communities. By building a stronger faith community, we can better serve those in need and make a greater impact on the world around us. He is clearly passionate about engaging with people and will be making his way around the Diocese getting to know the communities and the work the Church is doing in our parishes.

It is also clear that Bishop Kennedy is deeply committed to continuing the important work of safeguarding and protecting vulnerable members of our community. He has been a strong advocate for child protection

measures and has made it a priority to ensure every person in our Diocese feels safe and valued.

As we welcome Bishop Kennedy to our Diocese, I must acknowledge Bishop Bill Wright’s dedicated service to our community during his 11 years as our pastor in chief. Bishop Wright was a calm and considered leader in our Diocese through some challenging times and his contributions will be greatly missed. I am sure we will remember those years fondly as we work with our new bishop to build on Bishop Wright’s legacy.

Looking ahead, I am excited by the great things we can achieve under Bishop Kennedy’s leadership. I am confident that together we can continue to grow our faith community and make a positive difference through

the parishes and diocesan agencies such as: Catholic Schools, St Nicholas Early Education, CatholicCare and the Catholic Community Fund.

Having met his large and loving family at the recent installation ceremony, I am sure they could see Bishop Kennedy would be well looked after as he comes to know his ‘new family’ in Maitland-Newcastle. We are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside this dedicated and committed leader and wish him all the best as he begins this new chapter on his journey. I extend a warm welcome to Bishop Kennedy personally, and on behalf of the diocesan community.

May God bless Bishop Kennedy and our entire community as we move forward together in faith.

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Engineering their way to the state finals

A group of 32 Year 9 and 10 students from All Saints’ College in Maitland has secured a place in the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC) State Final in August after taking out first place in the regional heats in March.

The SEC is a nationwide STEM* outreach program presented by the University of Newcastle. It aims to inspire more young people to make a difference in the world by choosing a career in Science and Engineering.

Through the SEC, students compete against other schools in fun and engaging hands-on activities such as designing an earthquake-proof tower, a buggy that can transport loads over undulating terrain, and the most efficient road system to connect towns and energy efficient homes.

The recently completed Learning Support Centre at St Brigid’s Primary School, Raymond Terrace was commended in the Learning Environments Australasia Design Awards. The category was NSW Small Projects under $2m and the Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle worked with Alleanza Architects on the project.

The judges said, “Not only do the design outcomes exceed the brief, they demonstrate a thoughtfulness around inclusiveness in relation

The activities are designed to encourage creativity, innovation, problem solving and teamwork –essential skills for STEM career pathways.

Co-coach and Science teacher, Danielle Brownlee said the students were clear winners, finishing 80 points ahead of the 40 schools competing in the region.

“It’s a fantastic achievement as only the two highest scoring schools in the region are invited to attend the State Finals,” Ms Brownlee said. We wish the Year 9 and 10 students at All Saints’ College the best of luck at the State Finals in August. *STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

St Nicholas Early Education welcomes Fletcher Early Learning Centre and Fletcher Montessori to its education network

to physical access and additional support spaces for students with special needs. Flexibility is inherent in the diversity of learning settings afforded by the variety of easily moved furniture, joinery niches, wall treatments and external spaces. An innovative design that exceeds the educational and facilities briefs, while achieving remarkable value-for-money outcomes.”

St Nicholas Early Education, an agency of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, has recently expanded its network of early education services with the addition of Fletcher Early Learning Centre (ELC) and Fletcher Montessori.

David Healy, the Executive Director of St Nicholas, said Fletcher Early Learning Centre aligns with the vision to provide high-quality education and care for children in the communities we serve.

“The centre has been recognised as a finalist for Outstanding Early Childhood Centre at the Hunter Local Business Awards for five consecutive years,

winning once, and has been a huge success with local families.”

Mr Healy said, “We are thrilled to welcome Fletcher Early Learning Centre and Fletcher Montessori into our network of centres and to collaborate with them to provide the best possible outcomes for the children in our care.” With the addition of Fletcher ELC and Fletcher Montessori, St Nicholas now operates a total of 12 centres, offering families in the Newcastle and Hunter region an expanded selection of education and care options for their children.

In May teams across Diocesan schools came together to take part in the Hunter Region da Vinci Decathlon event. The decathlon is an academic competition designed to challenge and stimulate students, where they compete in teams of eight across 10 disciplines: engineering, mathematics, code breaking, art and poetry, science, English,

ideation, creative producers, cartography and legacy.

The competition was a resounding success, with outstanding performances from the Maitland Newcastle CSO team and individual school teams. Competition was tough, with participants demonstrating excellent academic skills, creativity, and problemsolving abilities.

Students from Year 5 to Year 10 achieved fantastic results, with the Year 8 and Year 9 Maitland Newcastle CSO team taking out first place overall in the Hunter region. The CSO team came together from schools across the Diocese, made up of students from the Virtual Academy program. Event participation also extended to individual school teams,

including St Pius X Adamstown and St Mary’s Catholic College Gateshead that picked up individual honours across multiple disciplines.

The Year 8 and Year 9 Maitland Newcastle CSO Teams have now qualified for the State Championships scheduled for July at Knox Grammar School.

Success in Hunter regional da Vinci Decathlon
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Commendation for new Learning Support Centre at Raymond Terrace school

World Youth Day preparations

More than 3,000 Australian pilgrims will travel to Portugal for World Youth Day 2023, making it one of the largest Australian contingents to attend the gathering in its history.

A group of 25 World Youth Day pilgrimage coordinators, including from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, gathered in Sydney in May for the final preparation day before the August celebrations.

Bishops issue statement on Indigenous Voice to Parliament

As a vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament nears, Australia’s bishops have encouraged Catholics to read and discuss the Uluru Statement from the Heart – the document from which the Voice proposal emerged.

While the bishops will, later this year, issue their annual Social Justice Statement on the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australian society, they decided to issue a statement at this point in the referendum process.

The bishops argued that the fact First Nations Peoples have lived in Australia

Parliament comes to Waratah

Students, staff and visiting Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon MP recently engaged in a series of debates providing valuable experience of democracy in action at Corpus Christi Primary School, Waratah.

The school parliament provides an opportunity for students to participate in the running of the school and is a vehicle for the students to express their opinions and actively participate in decision making.

The visit of the Member for Newcastle was especially valuable as she passed on her own parliamentary experiences, helping give students an understanding and appreciation of Australia’s system of government, and the rewards and challenges of active participation in civic life. Ms Claydon said, “The parliament conducted itself in a deeply respectable manner”. She noted she learnt a lot of lessons observing the Corpus Christi parliament, some of which she may take to Canberra!

The parliamentary session offered students an avenue to voice opinions, propose innovative ideas, and shape their own educational environment. Through debates, passionate speeches, and thoughtful decision-making, students develop essential skills like leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork. The parliament provides a unique opportunity to champion causes and for students to make a meaningful impact within the school community.

for many thousands of years but their custodianship of the land isn’t mentioned in the Constitution is, “an omission which needs to be rectified”.

“This is an important moment in the history of the nation, and it can help us to move towards a deep and just reconciliation. It also offers a mechanism to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” they wrote.

The bishops call for a meaningful debate on the issue, acknowledging that “people may, in good faith, have differing concerns and perspectives”.

Read the full statement at: BishopsVoice.

New report reveals makeup of Australian Catholic population

The latest National Centre for Pastoral Research report provides a snapshot of the millions of people who identified as Catholic in the 2021 Australia Census.

“Knowing the people who make up the Catholic population helps dioceses, parishes and other Catholic ministries better understand and serve their communities,” said Australian Catholic

Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.

The Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia can be found at

ACT Calvary Hospital concerns

There are calls for the ACT Government to reverse a decision to take the ownership and management of Calvary Hospital away from Calvary Health Care – a Catholic operator and give the ownership to the government-run, non-faith-based Canberra Health Services instead.

The Federal Opposition Leader has also weighed into the debate and called for a reversal of ACT Government’s decision to acquire the hospital and online petitions to garner community support are underway.

Supporters say this issue isn’t about Calvary Hospital alone and question whether the ACT Government can do similar to other Catholic agencies.

Read more here:

To read more Catholic news from across the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle and around the world visit or scan the QR code below. There, you will also find links to upcoming events, important dates for your diary and to live stream Sunday Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral.


How a kitchen door opened a future of possibility

A little over a year ago Jackson was, in his own words, “sitting around at home not doing much”.

Flash forward to today and he quickly packs away food in the freezer and cleans off chopping boards as he rushes through the end of his shift to talk to Aurora about his full-time employment in hospitality that has inspired him to study at TAFE, while he dreams of travelling in the future.

It’s not just these day-to-day practical components of his life that have changed. “My confidence and level of responsibility is very different,” he said.

“I’m pretty impressed with my cutting skills now, I have so many new recipes and have learnt so much in the kitchen but also things like my thinking skills too. When I first started my boss had to tell me everything, now I know what to do and like to just get on with it.”.

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It’s this initiative and growth that’s seen Jackson move from a trainee to an apprentice. In four years, after more on the job training and some study at TAFE he will be a qualified chef.

Why the turnaround in ambition and purpose for the 18-year-old? In one word – employment.

But not just any old job, a role in a supportive environment at the new social enterprise café and catering service in Newcastle West.

Martha is run by CatholicCare and seeks to create a positive impact offering employment pathways for vulnerable people in our community.

For many of us, obtaining employment is about more than just having a job. It’s an opportunity to gain experience, fulfil needs, develop financial independence and create a connection with community and other people.

It’s these connections that have served Jackson well these past 12 months. Living in Supported Independent Living, his case worker mentioned the new café was looking for staff.

“I was keen but I had never had a job and I was so nervous coming to the interview here. My boss, John was really nice and made me feel comfortable.”

It’s clear Head Chef, John Du’Bery has been key to the support and mentoring Jackson has found at Martha

“I remember Jackson’s interview well. He didn’t even want to make eye contact

but look at him now, it’s such a credit to him. It’s so cool to see the other guys look up to him and seek guidance as well,” John said.

“Jackson can run that kitchen now, he’s come that far. All the guys here have. I was sick the other week and Jackson just stepped up. He had everything running and it’s amazing to see the change when staff just light up.”

“The whole reason I’m here is to get our young trainees thinking differently, give them a step forward.”

John works at Martha to pass on the knowledge he has gained through 28 years’ experience in hospitality. He works alongside the young trainees instructing them.

“That’s the key, I’m one of the team too and it’s teaching by observing and me guiding them. Sometimes we need to break rules and re-learn things. That’s part of the journey,” he laughs.

The CatholicCare Social Enterprise Program commenced in 2021 and has three projects – a commercial cleaning service, Martha café and catering service and CatholicCare Housie which takes place on Thursday and Saturday nights at the Southern Cross Hall. All initiatives aim to deliver sustainable and professional services while employing individuals in our local community.

The Social Enterprise program does not receive any government funding and all profits go towards funding other social justice programs, such as CatholicCare Community Kitchens which currently serve 1,000 meals to vulnerable individuals and families each week.

Priscilla Scanlon is the Manager of the Social Enterprise Program and sees the impact the team makes in lives each day.

“Martha café and catering really enhances our capacity to support the community where they need it most. Any profits go back to helping others in the community so there are so many benefits to this model – we’re training people in hospitality and cleaning plus giving back to those in need,” she said.

“I have previously worked with young people and supported them in accommodation and have a history with this work so personally, when I see young people like Jackson grow and develop so much in this setting it’s just so meaningful. I honestly think we get as much out of this work as they do. It really is very inspiring to see them learn and, in many ways, change their own lives and futures. Jackson has taken control of his life and he can see that he has very real and exciting options for his future. It’s the perfect outcome.”

When Jackson is asked if he ever saw himself working in hospitality, he laughs.

“No way! I probably didn’t even know all this was a thing. It’s opened my eyes to a lot, being here. I hadn’t ever eaten carrot cake and I didn’t know arancini balls existed. I’ve learnt so much about food but then I also feel so responsible being here. I feel like John needs me and it’s a sense a responsibility and being part of this team that’s so great.”

“It gets hectic. At first it scared the crap out of me. I’d see order lines when we get busy at lunch and feel worried. Now I feel like my adrenaline gets going but I just need to think through and remember what to do - I’m more focused, I know I can do it,” he said.

“Working here has made me a lot busier but in a good way, I’m not at home as much and I have long days but that’s made me more active and I get out. One

of the main things I’ve learnt is just push myself and give things a go.”

Jackson has a message for other young people who may feel a little lost.

“I’d probably want others to know how great the people here are. The team has been so supportive.”

“The job has let me learn so much. I have actually learnt more in this last year than for so many years before,” he said.

“Just getting a job changed me – even little things like I know public transport much better now and can get anywhere in Newcastle. You can do things differently, if you want to, and there are people who really care.”

And with such a meaningful 12 months behind him, Jackson’s hopes for the future are now quite different.

“Once I get my chef’s certificate I think I want to travel and then settle - I’m not really sure if I want to work in a real fancy restaurant or other cafes but I think I have options. John told me about how he travelled and worked as a chef and that’s just got me thinking about all my options too,” Jackson said.

Martha café hasn’t given Jackson these future options, he has found them within after being inspired by those around him. It is the employment and the opportunity for connection that provided a sense of purpose and opened a mind to new skills and hopes for a future full of possibility.

If you would like to donate to support our Social Enterprise, or sponsor a trainee like Jackson, visit: or scan the QR code at the top.

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Martha is located at 841 Hunter street Newcastle West - Opening hours
8:30am - 2:30pm Monday to Friday

A photo changed Dale and Robert’s life

A couple of years ago Aurora spoke with foster carers Dale and Robert who shared their journey with us. We thought it was time to check in with them again to see how things were going.

When Upper Hunter locals Dale and Robert met one-year-old Liam* in 2018 it marked the start of a journey that’s been full of love, hope, patience, and growth. At the time they had been struggling to have a child of their own, so they decided to open their hearts and home to a child who really needed it.

After making this decision they enquired with a few different agencies before connecting with CatholicCare Hunter-Manning.

Dale said they instantly “clicked” with the service and following the relevant checks, were introduced to Liam. Their first interaction with him was through a photo.

“When we saw his picture, we couldn’t say no – our hearts broke for him, he

looked so sad and lost and we knew then and there that he needed our help,” Dale said.

“We knew that we could make a difference in his life.

“To start with Liam was disconnected and shut off, just going through the motions but then within a month, he had come out of his shell like a pocket rocket.

“From day one our connection to him was immediate. We thank our lucky stars every day that he came into our lives when he needed us. Every day has been a blessing.” she said.

“Rob and I know with all that we are that we didn’t have our own biological children because God had other plans for us… this.”

Fast forward to 2023 and the duo cannot imagine their lives any other way.

“If we had the choice again, we wouldn’t change a thing,” Rob said.

“He is one of a kind.

Caring for any child who has been in ‘care’ will always involve good days and challenging days, but the emotional rewards can be enormous.

“It’s definitely been a ride, there’s been ups and downs with it all, but we will continue to learn more as he progresses. Our whole world revolves around him,” Rob said.

When we interviewed the duo back in 2021, we asked them if Liam remembered anything about the day they met.

Remarkably, even now that he is a little bit older, his answer remains the same – “love”.

“I expected him to not remember anything, so I was surprised by his answer,” Dale said.

“But it was so cute and moving.”

The duo encourages anyone who is interested in becoming a foster carer to take the next step and give CatholicCare a call.

“As long as you’ve got love in your heart, room in your house, somewhere safe and secure to have a child I think anybody can be a foster carer – no kid should be lonely and without love,” Dale said.

CatholicCare Director Gary Christensen added that there is demand for more carers like Dale and Rob.

“There is an overwhelming shortage of foster carers in our region,” Mr Christensen said.

“If you have space in your heart and home for a child or young person, please get in contact – you can help us change their lives.”

For more information about CatholicCare’s foster care program, please visit www.

To see more of Dale and Robert’s story, watch this video

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

We knew that we could make a difference in his life. ”
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Finding the right words about farting

Flatulence, or farting as it is commonly known, can be both excruciatingly embarrassing and immensely amusing. It’s not surprising that the Whoopee Cushion, which produces a loud noise resembling a fart, has been a popular practical joke device since it was invented in the 1930s!

For Belinda Bridgeman, a Year 1 teacher at St Joseph’s Wingham, this natural bodily function was becoming a problem during school lessons.

“A few years ago, I was teaching a Year 1 class and I couldn’t get the children to do any learning without talking about farting or the smells to do with farting,” Mrs Bridgeman said.

“So it got me thinking, maybe I should write a book that will engage them and meet their learning needs.”

Three years later, ‘The Bum Sneeze’ was published.

The Bum Sneeze, which is aimed at 3–8-year-olds, is about a boy who has a problem when he eats too many pears.

“It results in quite a smell and distraction for some time,” laughs Mrs Bridgeman.

Whilst a children’s book does not have a lot of words, Mrs Bridgeman discovered that finding the right words was the hardest challenge.

“This wouldn’t have happened without the support and encouragement from St Joseph’s along the way. I am very blessed,” she said.

The book also includes teacher’s notes at the end, linked to the English syllabus, so teachers can include them in their lesson plans.

Belinda shares her full experience with writing the book, including working with the illustrator to bring the story to life, in a short video. Simply scan the QR code below to watch it.

The Bum Sneeze is available at most bookstores and online via Shawline Publishing. Autographed copies can be obtained from contacting the author at

Would you like to win a copy of the Bum Sneeze?

We’re giving away 20 copies. For details about how to enter, watch the short video via the QR code or visit

I wanted the book to be a learning tool, so I used my Year 1 kids as a sounding board,” Mrs Bridgeman explained.
“I was reading a draft to the kids, and it inspired one to write their own story. That’s when I knew I’d hit the mark.

Shellebrating sustainability

The Myrtle Turtle Squad has our environment in safe hands.
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From Left to Right: Ned Hughes, Nathan James, Halle Lancaster, Millicent Fogarty - PHOTOS: PETER STOOP

With World Environment Day fresh in our minds, some of us might be motivated to plant native trees; swap our plastic bags for reusable ones; rethink a fast fashion purchase or finally use the compost bin we started nine months ago, all to do our part for the environment.

Established in 1972, World Environment Day has since become a global platform for promoting environmental awareness and action. The day provides an opportunity for individuals and communities to come together and take collective action towards a sustainable future.

For the students at St Brigid’s Primary School in Raymond Terrace, every day is World Environment Day. Especially for the members of the school’s environmental group, the ‘Myrtle Turtle Squad’, named after their school mascot, the local endangered Hunter River turtle. Since it began, the group has led the charge in many school-based projects such as, eliminating single-use lunch order bags and composting waste. These measures have reduced the school’s total contribution to landfill by approximately 75%.

The group’s next mission is to establish a series of bee and butterfly gardens that form a ‘corridor’ through Raymond Terrace, designed to promote the growth and sustainability of local native species.

Millicent Fogarty, a Year 6 student at St Brigid’s Primary School, is one of four students from the Myrtle Turtle Squad who are spearheading the

project. The initiative will begin with the construction of the first bee and butterfly garden onsite at the school.

“We’ve researched our native bees and butterflies and the types of plants they need so that we can place them in our garden,”Millicent said.

and so they wanted to look at how we can make our school even more environmentally friendly for local threatened species.”

Mrs Jones said the project also developed important skills the students would need in life beyond school.

“It’s important to protect the bees and butterflies in our area because they are beautiful and they are a part of our ecosystem, and our native plants and animals need them to survive. Bees and butterflies spread pollen to make new plants so that flowers and fruits can bloom,” Millicent said.

“We need the bees because they’re native. They’re very important to Australia because they have adapted to live here, and they already know what plants to move and what plants not to move.”

Kristen Jones is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education teacher at St Brigid’s and works with the students in the Myrtle Turtle Squad to help bring their projects to life. She said each project was driven entirely by the interests and ideas of the students.

“We have a real caring for country and a Stewards of Creation philosophy at our school, being a Catholic School on Worimi Country,” Mrs Jones said.

“Our students are just so passionate and they have so many ideas on how we can look after our environment. We have beautiful school grounds,

“It teaches them valuable skills, like working with others, how to engage people and articulating and presenting their thoughts. It also teaches them how to be a good human being and that there are bigger things to focus on and strive for, even if sometimes they are unsuccessful with their projects,” Mrs Jones said.

“I think there’s so much educational value in everything we do. It’s not just about the curriculum, it’s teaching them skills for life.”

The final stages of the project will see Millicent and her team pitch their idea to Action for Agriculture’s Young Environmental Champions program for qualified feedback and to connect with other local schools to take part in their endeavour.

“Naturally we fall in a straight line with the other local schools in town. So, our students liked the idea of expanding the project to include other schools and lobbying the principals to create a bee and butterfly corridor through our town to promote further growth,” Mrs Jones said.

Millicent is confident other schools will jump on board with this opportunity and said that even a small contribution to help the environment could really make a difference.

“Something as insignificant as a bee or a butterfly can really help the ecosystem and if we take that out, the whole thing can collapse,” Millicent said.

“If we take care of the environment and if all schools take care of the environment and if everyone puts a little effort in, we might be able to repair some of the damage.”

Perhaps if we follow Millicent and the Myrtle Turtle Squad’s lead this World Environment Day, we can be confident the future of our planet is in safe hands.

Stop the Press St Brigid’s Primary School, Raymond Terrace was named Primary Reserve Champions in Action for Agriculture’s Young Environmental Awards for their bee and butterfly garden pitch. Congratulations to the Myrtle Turtle Squad!

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I never gambled because it was a positive thing, I think I was trying to distract myself from the stuff going on in my head – if I blew my money on the poker machines, there was a reason for me to feel bad.

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Alex’s courage changes his life

Four years ago, Newcastle local Alex* realised he needed help. For decades he had struggled with gambling and it reached a point where he could no longer afford to pay his rent, bills or buy food.

He knew something needed to change so he reached out for help – a step that took a lot of courage.

“Gambling has impacted my life quite severely at different times,” Alex explains.

“I never gambled because it was a positive thing, I think I was trying to distract myself from the stuff going on in my head – if I blew my money on the poker machines, there was a reason for me to feel bad”.

Since he was a teenager, Alex has “suffered quite severely with [his] mental health” and gambling was a way to connect something to the pain he felt.

“But it got to a point where I realised that I didn’t have any control over it,” he said.

“I was running in this cycle of getting paid and having money for a couple of days and then having nothing until I got paid again.”

So, Alex sought out the support of GambleAware, with the hope the

service could help him take control of his addiction.

One of the first steps he had to take was finding the courage to tell his friends and family.

He said learning this skill had helped him in other aspects of his life too, he was no longer afraid to tell the truth.

The next step was finding a way to control his temptation to gamble; living very close to pubs meant Alex was a five-minute walk away from a poker machine.

One of Alex’s goals was to be able to visit those places and remain in control. Through counselling he was able to understand why he gambled and how he could stop himself from giving in to the attraction.

“I can’t say a bad word about the service,” Alex, 43, said.

“I feel safe and supported by my caseworker and that doesn’t always happen.”

Even though his journey has included relapses, Alex is confident to ask for help and acknowledge the problem.

“It’s made a really big difference in my life,” he said.

“I’m not worrying about my bills and I’m not going without my medication or

food, but I know it’s not always going to be an easy road.”

“It’s definitely something that I will have to work on for the rest of my life. But I am motivated to because my life is a whole lot better now than what it was when I was gambling.”

Taking control has given Alex so much of his life back, he now has time and money to focus on the things he loves, such as music, art and skateboarding.

When asked what he would say to his caseworker, Alex got a bit emotional.

“I just want to say, ‘thank you’, I don’t think there are enough words,” he explains.

“She has seen the good and bad parts of me and has never given up – there are not enough nice words in the dictionary, I will forever be grateful to her.”

He hopes that sharing his story will encourage others who need it to ask for help.

“There’s nothing shameful in asking for help when you have a problem,” Alex said.

“If anything, it’s empowering, it means that you’re stronger than you think.”

“When you put your hand up and ask for help, the possibilities are endless.”

Alex is just one of the hundreds of people GambleAware Hunter New England has supported.

Delivered by CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, in partnership with Centacare New England, the service provides support to people who are affected by gambling. Team Leader Stephen Dooker said anyone is welcome to access their programs.

“Most people gamble at one time or another. It may be on poker machines, at the TAB, online betting, or on lotteries,” he said.

“For many people, gambling is fun, entertaining, and causes no harm. However, for some people, gambling can become a problem.

“If you are struggling, just talk to us, making a phone call or sending us an email is all you need to do for us to help you,” he said.

“There is no judgment – everyone faces challenges in their lives and we are here to listen and support you through every step.”

For more information, go to

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

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The real impact of going green and why we should care

Sustainable living, going green, solar powered, eco-friendly, energy efficient – different environmentally sustainable initiatives and terms seem to pop up regularly. It’s a challenge to keep up with the vocabulary, let alone understand the detail and jargon as well as the real benefit that can be provided.

We know it’s the right thing to do but how is it making a real difference?

Mark Mazzitello, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Manager Strategic Assets is over-seeing its sustainability plan, which has been endorsed by leaders across the organisation .

“There are a huge variety of environmental initiatives these days and even when you narrow it down to something specific like energy there are still many contract types and different accreditations. In fact, people can be quite sceptical,” Mr Mazzitello said.

“Like with many things in environmental sustainability you don’t necessarily see all the benefits today - it’s about planning for the future and that’s just as important,” he said.

Pope Francis’ second encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ encouraged Catholics to think about this future and care for our common home. Pope Francis laments environmental degradation and global warming and calls all people of the world to take swift and unified global action.

The Diocese has acted and set targets around energy and greenhouse gas

emissions reduction, water, waste and recycling, transport, biodiversity, sustainable design and more.

The plan set a target to deliver 100% renewable electricity across the organisation’s large sites.

Ray Bowen, Head of Property for the Diocese said, “We will achieve 100% GreenPower across all our agency sites from 1 July 2023. Many organisations are working towards this goal but we understand we’re the first Diocese in the country to be registered as having 100% Greenpower for our CatholicCare, St Nicholas, schools and Diocesan commercial properties.”

Operating 59 schools, 12 St Nicholas Early Education centres and many other community services and support offices, including some under construction - to have achieved 100% GreenPower is making a real difference.

Run by the NSW Office of Energy and Climate Change the GreenPower program independently audits electricity providers to make sure the right amount of renewable energy is fed into the grid on the customers’ behalf.

Mr Bowen said, “We chose GreenPower because we wanted a truly renewable resource. The purchase of GreenPower guarantees the electricity is coming from renewable energy sources that meet strict environmental criteria. We can be sure that the grid electricity our business is using has net-zero emissions.”

Another of the Diocese’s targets was set to reduce electricity consumption across schools. New LED lighting is progressively being installed in schools and at one primary school alone, there has been a 26% reduction in electricity. But it’s not all reduced statistics and accreditations. Why should we really care, what’s the impact?

“At its core, sustainability is about being more efficient with our resources,” Mr Mazzitello said.

“We’ve been inspired by Laudato Si’ to make change and real impact.”

“With nearly 60 schools the impact of our lighting project alone is quite significant. Combined with the installation of PV solar across all schools, further efficiencies will be gained. This means each school has the potential to see reduced operating costs and those savings can be channelled to additional education programs.”

“The real intent means we’re supporting our students and reducing our demand on the grid by up to 25% in many Diocesan communities. This is good for the environment but really helps people too, particularly in rural areas. As resources become reduced there’s no doubt we’re doing our bit to contribute to the stability on the future grid.”

Read more in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland Newcastle’s Sustainability Plan on our website:

Achieved 100% GreenPower across sites from 1 July 2023.

Installed 1.5MWs or over 3,500 solar panels, of PV solar across our schools’ portfolio to produce up to 25% of our own electricity.

Transitioned two Diocesan pool vehicles to hybrid electric vehicles and plans for the entire fleet to be transitioned to either 100% electric or hybrid by 2025.

The installation of PV solar and LED lighting in our schools is expected to reduce demand from the grid through approximately 3,000,000 kWh per year.

That’s enough to power 530 average homes for a full year in NSW!

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The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has:

Our journey towards reconciliation

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle spans a footprint encompassing the lands of the Awabakal, Biripi Darkinjung, Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, and Worimi people.

In August 2022, following years of work from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry Council, the Diocese was proud to launch its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a commitment to reconciliation and truthtelling across our Diocese, its agencies, schools, and parishes.

Reconciliation Australia reminds us that, “Reconciliation takes action. Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

In the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle there are a range of initiatives outlined in our RAP and underway but also, much work to be done.

A RAP Reference Group has been established that includes internal and external Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous representatives. The group is responsible for delivering the Diocese’s RAP and driving its outcomes.

Member of the RAP Reference Group, Jason Smith said, “Reconciliation for our Diocese is all inclusive. It’s working in synods, in collaboration with all members of the community. “

“I have been proud to witness the willingness of people to participate in many of our RAP activities across the Diocese.”

RAP Reference Group member and Project Coordinator for Pastoral Ministries, Alyson Segrott acknowledged the importance and cultural benefit of a RAP.

“It allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for nonIndigenous people, to join together to make a difference in bringing about a better relationship with each other. A RAP provides a framework to

build on relationships based on trust, understanding and mutual respect.”

“As a result of our RAP, our staff and community have a greater understanding of what reconciliation means. It has allowed us to learn from the cultures and spirituality of country and permits the start of healing wounds,” Ms Segrott said.

Each year, Australians have the opportunity to embrace, honour, appreciate and respect our country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through National Reconciliation Week (NRW), held from 27 May to 3 June.

The week originally began as a Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993 supported by Australia’s major religious groups. In 1996, it progressed to become National Reconciliation Week under the support of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (now Reconciliation Australia).

Fittingly, this Aurora edition is published on 3 June – Mabo Day, which signals the end of NRW.

Mabo Day is the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s historical judgement delivered on 3 June 1992, accepting the claim that Eddie Mabo and the other claimants, that their people (the Meriam people) had occupied the islands of Mer for hundreds of years before British arrival.

The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (a land belonging to no one) at the time of the British colonisation.

There is still much we can do – as a Diocese and as a nation – to embrace and honour our history, and to acknowledge our culture; the oldest living culture on earth.

The Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle is currently developing its Innovate RAP, which pending approval from Reconciliation Australia, will be launched later this year. Our Reflect RAP is available on our website:

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ARTWORK: Ponte-Boone-Biame Biame – Spirit of Sun, Moon, Creator. Created by Saretta Fielding

The three pillars of Michael Leo Doran’s life


If you were to describe your life in three words, what would it be?

For centenarian Michael Leo Doran, family, faith and construction immediately come to mind. It may seem like an odd mix of words, but somehow they sum up his life.

With 100 years of stories to tell, it’s difficult to pinpoint where to start to describe his colourful life. But let’s begin with Leo’s unwavering faith – something that “means everything” to him.

“Sadly, I can’t go to Mass anymore, but I have Holy Communion brought to me,” Leo said.

“I have trouble walking but I sit up and watch Mass every Sunday on TV and one of my mates brings me Holy Communion and any church notices.”

“It’s just so important to me, God has been part of my life for as long as I can remember,”he said.

“When I was in Kindergarten, there was a nun, Sister Bernadine and she gave me a little holy picture that I carried in my wallet for all my life and it’s only lately that I’ve lost it.”

His devotion to the church extends further than daily prayer and attending mass. As part of his family’s construction company, Leo built churches and chapels to help share the good word of God.

With such a faith-filled life, imagine his surprise when he was recognised by Pope Francis with a letter on his 100th birthday.

“I was amazed when I received the letter because I didn’t know I was going to get it,” Leo said.

“It was arranged by my daughter; Donna and I was pretty chuffed.”

Pope Francis wasn’t the only leader to acknowledge his life, Leo also received a letter from King Charles III. They’re two items he has proudly displayed among photos of his family around his house.

As they say, a picture speaks 1,000 words and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to Leo’s home. His house is full of stories from his life.

With 11 siblings, six children, 12 grandchildren, and more than two dozen great-grandchildren, Leo’s life

will continue to amaze and inspire long after he is gone.

Winner of the 2022 Season of Creation film competition and the National Young Voices Award by Australian Catholics, and more importantly Leo’s great granddaughter Makayla Lawrence, said her great grandfather has had a profound impact on her life and has influenced her faith and outlook on the world.

“Pop is such an important person in my life, I think it is really great to see someone who is so strong,” she said.

“Pop has been very successful and has some amazing stories to tell, I love to hear them.”

“I really like it when we are driving through Newcastle and Mum might say: ‘oh, Pop built this building’. It just makes me think of all the things he has built and had an impact on,” she said.

Makayla isn’t the only family member who looks up to ‘Pop’, it’s evident from all their stories that each one holds him in the highest regard.

It’s important to note that Leo’s impact will reach far beyond his family though –

his tales will remain a part of this region in a way most of us won’t realise.

When you drive through the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, it’s likely that you’ll pass a building that Leo and his family built.

It might be the glass buildings on Wharf Road in Newcastle, the Great Hall at the University of Newcastle, the Library and Art Gallery, Lake Macquarie Fair, the Chapel in Lochinvar, St Joseph’s in Merewether or a hospital in Taree.

He’s also built shopping centres and McDonald’s restaurants right across the country, two hospitals in Liverpool and North Epping and many more.

When Leo is asked about his time as part of the family company Doran Brothers, a smile lights up across his face.

Alongside his Dad and brothers, he saw the business grow into something they never expected.

It all started when he finished school, Leo went to work for his Dad, but soon after his father realised that Leo had a bit of growing up to do.

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“I was cheeky as mustard,” Leo said. “And my Dad told me that I wasn’t going to work for him anymore. He had arranged for me to work at a Timber Mill in Carrington. The war had just started, and I worked there until it finished.”

“Then Dad said to me, you know all about joinery now, I want you to start a joinery works business for the company.”

So that is exactly what Leo did and as it turns out, he wasn’t the only brother who was tasked with learning a skill they could bring back to the corporation.

Across the seven brothers – Terry, Bede, Jack, Vincey, Peter, Paul and Leo – they had skills in plumbing, brickwork, joinery, accounting, and more.

According to Leo, it made them a force to be reckoned with in Newcastle.

When you ask him to list the projects they worked on, it’s almost endless.

“In Maitland, we were building Woolworths on one side of the road and Coles on the other, and they both wanted to open first,” he said.

“We were just a group of young guys, who had more work than we could poke a stick at, so we were hiring guys left, right, and centre. It was such a busy but fun time.”

It’s only recently that Leo has slowed down but as he has done for every change in his life, Leo has adapted and is finding a new way to write the next chapter in his story.

We can be certain of one thing – this next chapter will include his three pillars – faith, family and construction.

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Why some ‘old folks’ avoid new music and why they’re missing out!


A young teenager listens to music in his bedroom – perhaps it’s the cutting-edge pop of the day, or maybe something loud, obscene or rebellious. From the loungeroom, his grouchy ‘old man’ yells out, “Turn off that racket!”

This scene might seem clichéd or contrived, but research suggests it could be quite common. Multiple studies support the theory that people tend to become less open to new – or unfamiliarmusic as they age, their tolerance declining from the late-20s onwards.

“What large-scale studies tell us is that as people get older, their engagement with music decreases,” said Professor Timothy McKenry, a music researcher, composer and educator at Australian Catholic University.

“It also tells us that their impatience and negative feelings towards new music tends to increase at the same time.”

So, why do so many of us stop exploring new music as we age?

Among the most popular theories relating to our preparedness to explore new music is the concept of “open-earedness”.

“What we find is that really young kids up to about the age of nine are more than happy to engage with anything that is played to them; they don’t come to music with any preconceptions.”

The early teens signal an intensification

of engagement and interest in music, with adolescents typically spending 20% of their waking hours listening to their favourite tunes.

Interestingly, this increased musical engagement is accompanied by a simultaneous narrowing in openearedness, as people form strong musical preferences. Research shows that, in most people, musical tastes begin to crystallise in early adolescence.

The insights provided by neuroscience are particularly useful in explaining not only why our musical preferences develop in early adolescence, but also the attachment adults have with old favourites from their teenage years.

“Put simply, the idea is that the strong feelings that accompany puberty and adolescence are very good at forming strong memories,” said Professor McKenry, citing the book This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, the neuroscientist driving the idea that musical taste boils down to memory and familiarity.

It is important to note, however, that some scholars question the idea of a straightforward link between age and deteriorating musical tolerance. They contend that people engage with music in different ways depending on their situation.

Young teenagers, for example, are much freer to explore their musical interests

than time-poor adults with pressures and responsibilities.

Other researchers point to a lowering tolerance for loud and high-frequency sounds as another possible cause for a reduced interest in new music at a certain age.

Whatever the cause might be, Professor McKenry believes we should all be conscious of the possibility that one day – just like the grouchy dad – we might find ourselves being less tolerant to new music than we’d like to be.

“It’s easy to say, ‘That will never happen to me’, but I think it’s worth consciously making the decision to form good habits and listen to unfamiliar music regularly as part of your life,” he said.

After all, by opening your ears to new

music, you’re also opening your mind to new pleasurable experiences. And who wouldn’t want that?

If you need help with opening your ears, try these tips from Professor McKenry published in The Conversation:

• Be curious about what you’re listening to. You can help your brain form new patterns by knowing something of the story behind the music.

• Be patient and persistent. Don’t assume because you don’t immediately like an unfamiliar piece that it’s not worth listening to. The more you listen, the better your brain will be at triggering a pleasure response.

• Find a friend to give you recommendations. There’s a good chance you’ll listen to music suggested to you by someone you like and admire.

• Be willing to revisit long-held beliefs, particularly if you describe your musical t ste in the negative (such as “I hate jazz”); it’s likely these attitudes will stifle your joy.

• Don’t feel you have to keep up with new music trends. We’ve 1,000 years of music to explore.

Read the full story at www.impact.acu.

“So our brains essentially act as pleasure machines in the sense that we will search out the patterns and experiences we find rewarding and pleasurable.”
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“When we stop actively listening to new or unfamiliar music, the link between the musical pattern and pleasure is severed.”

The AI Revolution

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a topic that has been making headlines for years now, especially following the recent popularity of Chat GPT, a language model that has been trained to generate human-like responses to a wide range of questions and prompts.

Experts say AI models like Chat GPT are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the development of AI technologies. AI has the potential to revolutionise the way we live and work, from creating new opportunities for businesses and individuals to transforming entire industries.

Put simply, AI is a form of technology that can learn from data and make decisions based on that learning. This makes it possible for the technology to perform tasks that were previously the domain of human intelligence, such as language processing, image recognition and even complex decision-making.

One of the most exciting aspects of AI is its ability to revolutionise the way we do things at an industry level. In the medical field, AI is being used to develop new treatments and diagnose diseases more accurately and efficiently. AI systems can analyse vast amounts of data from medical records and imaging

tests to identify patterns and predict outcomes, allowing doctors and other medical professionals to make more informed decisions about patient care.

Another way in which AI is facilitating change is through automation. By automating tedious and repetitive tasks, AI is freeing up time for individuals and businesses to focus on more creative and innovative pursuits.

However, as with many breakthroughs in technology, there are also challenges and concerns with AI that need to be addressed. One of the most pressing issues is its capacity to exacerbate existing inequalities and biases. For instance, if AI systems are trained on biased data, they have the potential to perpetuate and even amplify existing social and economic disparities.

This is a particularly significant issue when it comes to hiring and recruitment. AI systems are increasingly being used to sift

through job applications and select candidates for interviews, however if these systems are trained on biased data, they may discriminate against certain groups of people. For instance, if an AI system utilises historical data that shows that men are more likely to be hired for a particular job, it may perpetuate this bias by selecting more male candidates for interviews, even if they are not the most qualified.

As AI continues to grow in complexity and sophistication, there are concerns about its ability to make decisions that are truly ethical and moral - who should be held responsible when something goes wrong? For example, if an autonomous vehicle causes an accident, who is responsible for the damages? Is it the manufacturer of the vehicle or the owner or the AI system itself? These are questions that will need to be addressed as we continue to develop and implement AI systems in the real world.

So hungry, must eat, Something tasty, come to me, Lunchtime, it’s so sweet.

In many ways, the AI revolution is reminiscent of the industrial revolution. Both have been major technological shifts that have had a significant impact on the world, causing a disruption of traditional industries, leading to an increase in productivity and job displacement. However, whether the AI revolution has the same impact on industry and society remains to be seen.

Despite its challenges, there is no doubt that AI is poised to usher in a new era of innovation and opportunity. By leveraging its power, we can create new solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, from climate change to healthcare.

Nonetheless, as we embrace this new beginning, it is important that we remain mindful of the challenges and risks that come with it. By addressing these issues early, we can ensure that AI continues to be a force for good in our world.

One of the following haikus about lunch was written by AI – can you tell which one? Midday meal delight, Nourishing, tasty and light, Lunch, oh what a sight.
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In many ways, the AI revolution is reminiscent of the industrial revolution. Both have been major technological shifts that have had a significant impact on the world...

Thriving against the odds: how one Cambodian village is overcoming challenges


Salin lives in rural Cambodia, where nearly a third of the population lacks access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

As a school principal and farmer, Salin also struggled to access clean drinking water, with the nearest water well over 1.5 kilometres from her village.

“My life is just like the people in my village,” said Salin. “I work as a school principal, earning only one salary, and doing a little farming so we can eat.”

The lack of clean water and poor toilet facilities has had a significant impact on children at Salin’s school. Many students at the school miss classes due to illness or because they had to work in the fields.

“There was a lack of hygiene awareness and food in our village. Most children were malnourished and the people often got sick because of the lack of toilets,” Salin said.

With the encouragement of the other school teachers and the villagers, Salin joined the Upholding Community Dignity Together program, run by local partner HURREDO and supported by Caritas Australia. In the program, Salin participated in: water management, chicken raising, business management and hygiene awareness training.

A 10,000L water distribution station was constructed in the village and Salin was elected as the chairperson of the water station committee. She used the skills she learnt from the program to help supply clean water to people in her village, teach community members how to clean toilets, promote hygiene to school children, and manage the water distribution station to ensure villagers can access safe water.

“I am proud that I can help the community have access to safe water,” Salin said. “I did not expect that I could

do that. By dedicating time, resources, and energy to the community, I can understand community issues and priorities and help my community.”

The program helped construct community water ponds in Salin’s village and distributed hygiene materials in schools. It also provided small business training to help farmers maximise their profits.

Salin and her family no longer have to pay for transported water, instead they have access to clean water and are able to raise chickens to supplement their income. There are toilets for students to use and facilities for them to wash their hands. The children at her school attend classes more regularly now as they are less likely to get sick and no longer have to walk long distances to collect water.

“Life is brighter than before. Because of my work for the community, many villagers and other people know me.

Most importantly, my family is healthy,” Salin said.

Salin remains committed to devoting her time and skills to helping others, particularly children. Her dream is for all children in her village to be healthy and to attend school regularly.

“On behalf of the people in village I want to thank the people of Australia for helping my community.”

This program is also supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Donate today to make a lasting impact and help transform the life of somebody like Salin.

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