Away from her

Directed by Sarah PolleyA subtle, poignant, and superbly acted drama about a long marriage that is tested externally by disease and internally by the chords of attachment.2007S&P AwardWinner

Film Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) have been married for 44 years and live in an isolated farm house in Ontario, Canada. They enjoy cross-country skiing and sex. But their life together in love is threatened by the looming clouds of Alzheimer’s disease. One evening Fiona puts the frying pan away in the refrigerator. At a dinner with friends, she reaches for a bottle but can’t remember the word wine. Later, she says: “I think I’m beginning to disappear.” Grant wants to believe that these memory lapses are a normal part of the aging process but after Fiona loses track of where she is while cross-country skiing by herself, she decides it is time for her to enter Meadowlake, a residence facility for Alzheimer patients.

Madeleine (Wendy Crewson) is the efficient and always cheerful administrator of this fairly new facility which houses patients in their own rooms on the first floor and treats patients who have “lost it” on the dreaded second floor. Grant is upset when he learns that he cannot visit Fiona for her first month at Meadowlake since she will need that period to adjust on her own to the place, the staff, and the other patients. During this transition time, she becomes very attached to Aubrey (Michael Murphy), a wheelchair-bound patient who doesn’t talk and welcomes the attention she lavishes upon him. When Grant is finally allowed to visit, he discovers that Fiona is not interested in spending any time with him; she may or may not remember who he is.

Kristy (Kristen Thomson), the head nurse at Meadowlake, senses Grant’s estrangement and feelings of jealousy. When he turns to her for counsel, she shares her assessment that men usually have rosier memories of their marriages than the women do. He knows she’s right. Just before entering the facility, Fiona reminded him of something she does want to forget — the pain she felt years ago when as a university professor of mythology he had affairs with younger women. Now he is the one who is angry and jealous as he waits for her to leave Aubrey long enough so he can talk to her. Of her new friend, she says, “He doesn’t confuse me at all.” It is a poignant moment in which Grant realizes that his only choice in the name of love is to let go and not be so attached to Fiona.

In one of the best films of 2007, writer and director Sarah Polley has creatively adapted for the screen Canadian author Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Julie Christie gives an Academy Award-caliber performance, and the rest of the cast is also superb. This subtle and poignant drama deals with the nature of love in a long-lasting marriage and the important role memory plays in our lives. It also explores the many ramifications of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form. Lewis Thomas has called it “the disease of the century . . . the worst of all diseases, not just for what it does to the patient, but for its devastating effects on family and friends.” Alzheimer’s sufferers unlearn even the simplest skills; eventually they become totally incapable of caring for themselves. With no known cure or preventive treatment, the disease is always fatal.

In the marriage ceremony, couples make a lifetime commitment to each other. Although most of them expect to honor that promise, almost half of them will split before 15 years are over. Away From Her is about the bonds that hold a couple together even when a couple faces challenges that test every ounce of their caring and commitment to each other. Marian (Olympia Dukakis), Aubrey’s wife, provides Grant with the key to dealing with Fiona. What happens is not something he expects or makes sense of afterwards. But it offers him a chance to repair his relationship with Fiona and verify his love for her.

Special DVD features include an audio commentary by Julie Christie and deleted scenes with an audio commentary by director Sarah Poley.

Victorian Ombudsman finds government’s COVID border exemption scheme was ‘unjust’ and ‘inhumane’

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Victorian Ombudsman finds government’s COVID border exemption scheme was ‘unjust’ and ‘inhumane’

Posted 18h ago18 hours ago, updated 14h ago14 hours ago

Police stand on a road
Victoria closed its border after New South Wales was declared an “extreme risk zone”.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Ashlee Aldridge)

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The Victorian Ombudsman has found the state’s COVID border exemption scheme resulted in “unjust outcomes”.

Key points:

  • The investigation revealed that of the 33,252 exemption applications, only 8 per cent were granted
  • The Ombudsman has recommended the state government improve policy and guidance for such schemes
  • That it consider ex gratia payments on application to help cover the financial cost of not being able to travel home

The investigation by Ombudsman Deborah Glass, tabled in parliament on Tuesday, into decisions made under the Victorian Border Crossing Permit Directions, recommends the government publicly acknowledge the distress caused to affected people.

Ms Glass launched an investigation in September into the Department of Health’s handling of border restrictions, following a raft of complaints.

Victoria closed its border with New South Wales on July 9, following Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton declaring all of New South Wales an “extreme risk zone”.

The closure left Victorians stranded across border lines, many of them denied exemptions despite being fully vaccinated and returning negative COVID tests.

They included Castlemaine resident Marianne Allan, who was repeatedly denied an exemption to return to Victoria, despite multiple letters from her doctors stating she required medical treatment for her advanced pancreatic cancer at home.Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from December 7 with a look back at our blog

The investigation revealed that of the 33,252 exemption applications the Department of Health received between July 9 and September 14, when the investigation started, only 8 per cent were granted.

People complained to the Ombudsman after being refused exemptions to travel to Victoria to farewell loved ones at funerals, attend vital medical appointments, care for sick family members, return home to care for animals, or to start jobs.

Some found themselves facing effective homelessness because they lived in Victoria and could not return.

Deborah Glass sitting in a chair in front of a window.
Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass says people felt caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Ms Glass said she did not criticise the decision to close the border, which was based on public health advice, but the narrow exercise of discretion.

“People’s anguish when they spoke to us was palpable,” she said.

“I recognise that the Department of Health’s intentions were to protect people in Victoria from a dangerous virus that had already seeded through cross-border incursion and that the department was under enormous pressure dealing with the exigencies of the public health emergency.

“While we did not review all decisions and I do not suggest that all were unfair, the overwhelming majority of applications did not get to a decision-maker at all, and the guidance did not change even as case numbers in Victoria grew and the risks evolved.”

She said the consequences of that were “vast and unfair” for many thousands of people stuck across the border.

“The result was some of the most questionable decisions I have seen in my over seven years as Ombudsman,” Ms Glass said.

“There is no doubt the government provided explicit warnings to Victorian residents interstate.

“But people still reasonably relied on a traffic light system which previously would have seen them come home under strict conditions.”

‘People felt caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare’

She said even in a global health emergency, some people needed to cross state borders, and too many found themselves bereft.

“The effect of a complex and constrained bureaucracy meant some outcomes were downright unjust, even inhumane,” Ms Glass said.

“People felt caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare.

“It appeared to me that the department put significant resources into keeping people out rather than helping them find safe ways to get home.”

The report also found major differences in the percentage of exemptions granted by Deputy Chief Health Officers and directors of the COVID-19 Response Division.

Of the cases determined by a Deputy CHO, 77 per cent were granted, while only 23 per cent of those assessed by a director were granted.

“Those with medical training were certainly more likely, plainly, to take into account public health risks in a potentially more proportionate way,” Ms Glass said.

Ms Glass previously asked the government to apologise for human rights breaches related to a decision in 2020 to lock down residential towers in July of that year.

She has again urged the government to apologise for its stringent approach to border exemptions.

“I think what is really important is that the government acknowledge that the narrow exercise of discretion caused enormous distress, real anguish to many people.”

The investigation found the team responsible for border exemptions was scaled up from 20 staff in early July to 285 by early September.

However, depending on workloads, staff had between 30 seconds and one minute and 20 seconds to categorise and prioritise applications.

The evidence required to be granted an exemption was extensive, ranging from statutory declarations, proof of residence or ownership of animals, letters from doctors, and statements of relationship to people who were dying.

The Ombudsman has also recommended the state government improve policy and guidance for such schemes and consider ex gratia payments on application to help cover the financial cost of not being able to travel home.

Meanwhile, the government said it would consider the recommendations in the report, but that some were already reflected in the new pandemic legislation.

“The extreme risk zone border restrictions addressed a significant public health risk posed to all Victorians by incursions from NSW of people with the highly infectious Delta variant,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.

“Now that more than 90 per cent of all Victorians [aged] 12 [years] and over are fully vaccinated, the border permit system has been revoked entirely and there are no domestic travel restrictions for travel into Victoria.”

Victorian Nationals Leader Peter Walsh — whose electorate covers border communities — said the ” draconian” permit scheme had divided families. 

“I’ve heard thousands of harrowing stories in the past 18 months,” he said.

“Elderly residents banned from returning home for months, of school buses stopped at the border with children ordered to show travel documents, of businesses that have had their trade ruined by these haphazard rules imposed by a Labor Government making decisions from Melbourne.”

The Tipping Point | Veena Sahajwalla

Australian Story: Jennifer Feller

Introduced by War on Waste host Craig Reucassel

Scientist Veena Sahajwalla is a recycling superstar with some bold new ideas about how to save waste from landfill. 

As Australia’s collective garbage guilt builds alongside the tonnes of plastic piling up in recycling depots, her innovative inventions may offer some exciting new solutions.

Inspired walking the streets of her Mumbai neighbourhood as a child, Veena observed almost everything was reused and “nothing was wasted”. 

This can-do attitude shaped her engineering career and sowed the seeds for some ground-breaking ideas, including making steel from car tyres.

Now she’s unveiling her latest invention, a “micro factory” that creates building materials and tiles from dumped clothes and glass. 

It’s a revolutionary concept. But will it work outside the lab?

Report | CSIRO: A circular economy roadmap for plastics, tyres, glass and paper in Australia

Watch this episode on Youtube

Stream this episode on iview

Your beer bottles and old clothes could become home furnishings in ‘recycling revolution’

When some people see trash, Veena Sahajwalla sees opportunity. The engineer and her team of innovative thinkers are opening new doors to manufacturing where one day your home could be tiled using those old beer bottles and clothes you’re throwing out.

Research scientist Veena Sahajwalla adjudged NSW Australian of the Year 2022

by NRI AFFAIRS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTNovember 19, 2021inNews Reading Time: 3 mins read

Professor Sahajwalla’s interest in material science was set in motion during her growing up years in Mumbai, where she saw the capacity of people to reuse objects instead of throwing them away as junk. In a documentary, aired by ABC News earlier this year, she talks about her observations as a child.

“The sense of repurposing and reusing, and sharing was driven by economic necessity, of course, but people were more than happy to have hand-me-downs, whether it was clothes or furniture items,” Sahajwalla says. “We would rarely throw away things that were in decent working order.”

She went on to study engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur and earned her master’s degree at University of British Columbia. It was while completing her PhD at the University of Michigan, that she was offered a job at the Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

She launched the world’s first e-waste micro-factory in 2018 and harbours plans to export the model throughout Australia and the world. These factories extract valuable metal alloys from discarded smartphones, laptops, circuit boards, and turning them into plastic filaments for 3D printing. At present her micro-factories are converting waste materials, such as plastic, glass and textiles into industrial-grade ceramics to be used in the building industry. The junk which usually end up in landfill are now being harnessed to produce valuable objects that can be utilised in a variety of ways. 


This time we know the Covid risks. We have simply decided to manage them

Zoe Williams

Why did the nation let its guard down this autumn, get back on the tube and into football grounds? Because we felt it was worth it

A crowded Heaven nightclub in July 2021
‘Now that most of us are double-jabbed and often boostered, many of us have decided that going to the pub or party is something we are willing to risk.’ Photograph: Everynight Images/Alamy

Wed 1 Dec 2021 00.21 AEDT

Silent Assassin: the alarming stats about diabetes in Australia

Here’s a snapshot of diabetes in Australia.

Sources: Diabetes Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

This story The alarming stats about diabetes in Australia first appeared on The Canberra Times

Omicron Covid variant: Greg Hunt backflips as Australia shuts border to southern Africa

Australian politics

Australians attempting to return home from southern Africa will be allowed into the country, but ordered into mandatory hotel quarantine

Greg Hunt and Paul Kelly
Health minister Greg Hunt and chief medical officer Paul Kelly. Hunt said there were no known cases of the Omicron Covid variant in Australia when announcing the closure of the border to non-citizens who had been in southern Africa. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Ben Smee@BenSmeeSat 27 Nov 2021 15.58 AEDT

Australia has suspended flights from nine southern African countries and closed its borders to any foreign nationals who have been to the region, amid concern about the emerging Covid-19 variant of concern, Omicron.

The announcement, made by the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, on Saturday afternoon, followed travel restrictions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union.

The new measures were discussed in a series of meetings, including between the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, early on Saturday morning. The previous day, Hunt had said Australia had no intention of closing its border to South Africa and surrounding nations.Omicron: everything you need to know about new Covid variantRead more

The restrictions apply to nine African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

Australians attempting to return home from that region will be allowed into the country, but ordered into mandatory hotel quarantine.Advertisement

Anyone who is already in Australia, who has visited one of the listed nations in the past 14 days, is ordered to quarantine and get tested immediately.

Authorities say fewer than 100 recent arrivals to Australia would be subject to such orders. There are 20 people from South Africa, who have arrived during the past week, quarantining at the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory. One of those cases is positive, though the variant is not yet known.

Hunt said there were no known cases of Omicron in Australia, but that precautionary measures were needed given emerging concern about the variant.

Hunt said the government had taken “strong, swift, decisive and immediate actions”.

“They’re taken on the best medical advice,” he said.

“We’ve taken [precautionary] action in the past. We’ve taken early action in the past. We are doing that again.

“The difference is that we now have strong vaccines, we have one of the highest levels of coverage in the world, we have one of the most recently vaccinated populations in the world, and we have strong public health and social measures, and we also have, most significantly, a well-prepared hospital system.”

Hunt said the measures could be quickly altered – scaled up or wound back – as the world learned more about Omicron.

“If the medical evidence shows that further actions are required, we will not hesitate to take them,” he said.

Dutch COVID-19 patients transferred to Germany as hospitals struggle


2 minute read

Medics treat a patient infected with COVID-19, in the intensive care unit at Maastricht UMC+ Hospital in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Medics treat a patient infected with COVID-19, in the intensive care unit at Maastricht UMC+ Hospital in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

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AMSTERDAM, Nov 23 (Reuters) – The Netherlands started transporting COVID-19 patients across the border to Germany on Tuesday to ease pressure on Dutch hospitals, which are scaling back regular care to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases.

A patient was transferred by ambulance from Rotterdam to a hospital in Bochum, some 240 km (150 miles) east, on Tuesday morning, and another would follow later in the day, health authorities said.Sponsored by Coca-Cola South PacificCoca-Cola Australia x National Recycling WeekWe’re proud to support Planet Ark Environmental Foundation’s National Recycling Week, as we work toward our global #WorldWithoutWaste goals to close the loop on plastic waste. Find out more moreReport ad

The number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals has swelled to its highest level since May in recent weeks and is expected to increase further as infections jump to record levels.

On Tuesday the country registered some 23,000 new infections in 24 hours. Weekly numbers from the national health institute showed 153,957 new cases were registered in seven days, a 39 percent rise compared to the week before.Sponsored by Coca-Cola South PacificCoca-Cola Australia x National Recycling WeekWe’re proud to support Planet Ark Environmental Foundation’s National Recycling Week, as we work toward our global #WorldWithoutWaste goals to close the loop on plastic waste. Find out more moreReport ad

On Tuesday 488 of a total 1,050 intensive care beds in the Netherlands were being used for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals were already scaling back other procedures including cancer treatments and heart operations, to make room. read more

The Dutch health authority (NZA) on Tuesday said almost a third of all operating theatres in the Netherlands had been closed to limit the use of intensive care beds.Report ad

Deadlines for critical operations can’t be met in about a fifth of all Dutch hospitals, the NZA said.

German hospitals in total have offered 20 beds for patients from the Netherlands, after treating dozens during previous waves of the pandemic.

Plans by the Dutch government to impose further curbs to contain the virus prompted three nights of rioting starting on Friday and more than 170 arrests in cities cross the country. read more

Plans include limiting access to many public places to people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19. It remains unclear whether the government will find a majority to enact the rules into law.

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RegisterReporting by Bart Meijer and Stephanie van den Berg ; Editing by Nick Macfie, Peter Graff and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.