Archive for February, 2019

The business benefits of being family-friendly

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Lynda McAlary-Smith knows the benefits of flexible working arrangements.With family the number one life priority for so many employees, providing a family-friendly workplace is an important way for employers to ensure they keep staff happy and motivated.

Providing flexible working options suited to employees with young children or caring responsibilities can help employers retain skilled and valued staff members, decrease absenteeism and reduce staff turnover and increase the number of people who return to work after parental leave.

By being flexible to the needs of employees, employers can also improve staff morale, engagement and productivity by demonstrating to staff that they are valued.

The best way for employers to understand how they can help their staff achieve a balance between their work and personal commitments is to speak directly to them about what their needs are.

Employers need to let staff know they are prepared to work with them to find a solution that suits the employee, as well as the needs of the business.Both sets of needs must be given consideration for the situation to work.

The development and implementation of carefully considered policies is also an important part of building a family-friendly culture in any workplace.These policies include organising meetings when most people can attend, allowing employees toaccess their annual leave in single or part-day periods, organising professional development or training during ordinary work hours and creating meaningful part-time work opportunities and job share arrangements.

These opportunities should be promoted to all staff and also highlighted in job advertisements. The fact that your workplace is open to flexible working arrangements should be celebrated – and it’s certainly a way to attract top quality staff.

Developing flexible working arrangements for staff is also a way to be recognised as an employer of choice. To gain these benefits – such as attracting quality staff and retaining them – employers should ensure that their employees and potential employees  are informed of the family-friendly policies that are in place at the recruitment and induction phases.

Communication is king. Documentation, such as writing down the policies and distributing them to staff, is also crucial because it ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and entitlements.

Employers striving to create a family-friendly workplace should take the following check-list into account:Is the concept of a work/life balance positively received and understood by managers and employees? Is it acknowledged in the workplace that employees have important roles and responsibilities outside the workplace? Are there consultative processes in place that enable staff to talk about their needs and the needs of the business? Are employees aware of what family-friendly entitlements exist in the workplace?Are the existing family-­friendly policies being reviewed regularity?

More information about how to create a family-friendly workplace can be found in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Work & Family Best Practice Guide, which is available for free download at

Lynda McAlary-Smith is an executive director with the Fair Work Ombudsman. Lynda’s role is to lead the agency in its education focus and reaching its goal of creating fairer Australian workplaces.

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Paul Chapman impatient with Geelong

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Paul Chapman, right, with amigos Andrew Mackie and Jared Rivers at Geelong’s Wacky Wednesday. Photo: Pat ScalaGeelong forward Paul Chapman is growing increasingly impatient with his uncertain future and has urged the Cats to make a decision ”as soon as possible”.

The 31-year-old is keen to stay at Geelong but will go elsewhere if an agreement cannot be reached with the Cats. He has not ruled out moving interstate should the right offer come along.

Chapman admits the idea of not being a one-club player ”really hurts” but says his desire to play on next year overrides any romantic notion of retiring as a Cats champion.

In limbo until Geelong completes it list review, Chapman said he and his pregnant partner wanted an answer from coach Chris Scott and the club so they could start planning the next stage of their lives.

”As I said to [Scotty], once you know, I need to know because whatever the future holds I need to start preparing as soon as possible,” he said. ”Hopefully it’s here, but who really knows? It’s all up in the air.”

Geelong has a number of key decisions to make on veteran players, including Chapman, defenders Corey Enright and Josh Hunt, midfielder Joel Corey and key forward James Podsiadly. Enright is considered likely to stay, but there is growing doubt over the other four.

Attempts to ascertain when the players would formally meet the club about their futures were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Asked when his meeting with Geelong would be, Chapman replied: ”I have no idea, it’s a good question. I would like to know – let’s get it over and done with [and] whatever happens, happens.”

Asked whether he was disappointed he might not be a Cat for life, Chapman said: ”It hurts, it really does. I suppose you take a little bit for granted – you think things will just happen and roll on and then all of a sudden things like this get thrown at you.

”To be a one-club player would be awesome, will be awesome, but to play for another club … I’m not saying that may not happen if things don’t work out here.”

Richmond and North Melbourne have emerged as potential perfect fits should the Cats say no to Chapman. However, the former Norm Smith medallist said he did not know whether his manager, Liam Pickering, had fielded any offers from rival clubs.

”Hopefully there are a few out there, though,” he added.

Chapman is confident he would have an impact for whoever signs him. ”Injury has hurt me this year. I do think I’ve got a lot to give but I don’t really need to sell myself too hard, either.

”I know what I can do and I’m confident of that, so hopefully Geelong or someone is as well.

”The fire still burns and I still want to be more successful than what I’ve been.”

Chapman played only eight games this season because of an ongoing hamstring issue.

He has been buoyed by the comebacks of veterans such as Luke Hodge, Luke Ball and Lenny Hayes, who missed large chunks of recent seasons only to return the next year revitalised.

Chapman said he hoped his body was the only issue Geelong was grappling with.

”I suppose when I do play, I play well. So just me getting on the park, I would assume, would be the issue from their point of view. But who really knows?”

Playing for an interstate club is not out of the question but would present challenges.

”There are plenty of things to work out first and my partner has a lot to do with that, as well as her being pregnant obviously,” he said. ”We just need to get this meeting over and done with, with Scotty, and see where I stand in their eyes and then work from there.”

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Missing mother Belinda Peisley was most likely murdered, inquest told

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

DIsappeared: Belinda Peisley. Photo: NSW Police Media The home where Belinda Peisley lived before she disappeared in September 1998. Photo: Shane Desiatnik/Blue Mountains Gazzette

A young Blue Mountains mother who disappeared in suspicious circumstances 15 years ago most likely died as a result of homicide or violence, the Coroners Court has heard, but there is insufficient evidence to charge any of those suspected of involvement.

Belinda Peisley, 19, was last seen leaving Katoomba Hospital, west of Sydney, on September 26, 1998. Her remains have never been found.

For more than 13 years police attempted to uncover what had happened to the young woman, but found little solid evidence beyond the fact that, shortly before her disappearance, the mother-of-two had inherited a significant amount of money from her great uncle and had developed a heroin addiction.

But in late 2012, investigators uncovered new information suggesting the young woman may have been the victim of foul play within the group of young people she was spending time with, many of them drug users. An inquest into Ms Peisley’s death was initiated and police began searching a large swath of bush land near Blackheath.

The inquest heard that a few days after her death, Ms Peisley’s house was broken into by a number of her former friends and acquaintances, who later used her identification cards to sell items at a western Sydney pawn shop.

Two of the 19-year-old’s former friends – Jeremy Douglas and Saxon Holdforth – became “persons of interest” at the inquest, with the scrutiny on their activities intensifying.

The inquest received evidence from multiple witnesses suggesting that Ms Peisley had been killed and thrown off one of the Blue Mountains’ many cliff edges.

“Some of the things I have heard over the years is that Jeremy, Saxon and Olly [Peisley’s former boyfriend Oliver Tipping] took her in a car and bashed her and left her somewhere,”  Kerren Fittler said in a handwritten statement to police.

“After they’ve left her they’ve come back and got her body and done some things to her before or after she was dead and chucked her over the cliff.

“I heard she was killed over drugs or she wouldn’t give them what they wanted.”

Mr Holdforth and Mr Douglas have steadfastly maintained their innocence at the inquest.

On Wednesday, counsel assisting the inquest, Phillip Strickland, SC, said the evidence relating to the exact manner and cause of the young woman’s death was inconclusive, but that it did “point strongly to her death being the result of some sort of homicide or violence”.

“Much of the hearing has been directed towards whether these persons of interest had knowledge of or direct involvement in the circumstances surrounding Belinda Peisley’s death,” he said.

“The evidence regarding these persons is inconclusive and not capable of convincing a jury that a known person committed an indictable offence.”

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Peisley’s aunt, Sharon Versace said she was “very, very disappointed” that charges would not be laid.

“At the end of the day, someone hurt Belinda but they’re still out there living their life and they’ve taken hers,” she said.

“I’ll never give up, the detectives have come so far – I’m hoping that one day we’ll get some good news. It won’t bring Belinda back, but it will be a bit of justice for the family.”

Deputy State Coroner Paul McMahon will hand down his formal findings next month.

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New US ambassador John Berry touches down in Canberra

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Governor-General Quentin Bryce, new US ambassador John Berry and his spouse Curtis Yee. Photo: Andrew TaylorAustralia’s new United States ambassador John Berry has presented his credentials in a private ceremony at Government House on Wednesday.

Accompanied by his partner of 17 years, Curtis Yee, a lawyer and native of Hawaii, Mr Berry is the first openly gay ambassador of a G20 country and is the 25th US ambassador to Australia.

Mr Berry and Mr Yee arrived in Canberra late last week. The couple were married just last month in Washington DC and have started the posting at the same time the ACT is passing legislation to become the first Australian jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage.

Mr Berry, 54, joins the current US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, David Huebner, as an openly gay diplomat.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she was looking forward to meeting the ACT’s new high-profile residents, saying “Australia enjoys a strong positive relationship with the United States and Canberra has always welcomed the US diplomatic representatives with open arms to their home away from home here in the national capital.

“Ambassador Berry and his spouse are no exception and I look forward to meeting with the new US ambassador this week to personally welcome him to the ACT on behalf of the Canberra community.”

Mr Berry was nominated for the top spot in June by President Barack Obama after former ambassador Jeffrey Bleich stepped down from the position after five years.

Mr Bleich described Mr Berry as “a smart, energetic and extremely likable man who is enthusiastic about the US-Australian relationship”.

“He is a talented and dedicated public servant with a wealth of experience in senior level positions.”

According to a statement put out by the US Embassy on Wednesday, Mr Berry “seeks to strengthen the US-Australia alliance, which has served as an anchor of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world for more than sixty years; to increase bilateral trade and investment; and to deepen cultural, scientific and environmental cooperation between the United States and Australia.”

In a video introduction to Australians posted on the embassy’s website earlier this month, a beaming Mr Berry admits to loving the outdoors and has asked Australians to suggest places he and Mr Yee should visit during their posting.

“My spouse Curtis Yee is a triathlete from Hawaii who loves anything involving salt water and waves,” Mr Berry says in the video.

“We both can’t wait to explore your beautiful country.”

In 2010, Mr Berry agreed to be part of the “It Gets Better” campaign to support gay and lesbian teenagers in the US and filmed a similar direct video in which he provided an emotional and revealing insight into his family’s reaction to his sexuality.

Mr Berry said he was lucky to have never been bullied, but that he “was afraid of who he was”.

He said his father had a hard time accepting his coming out.

“It wasn’t easy. My dad, a marine sergeant who went to mass every day, asked me when I came out to him not to bring my partner over to the house.”

“Ten years later, when my partner was dying from AIDS, my dad held him in his arms and told him, ‘I love you like my own son’. Things do get better.”

Mr Berry has had a distinguished public service career spanning more than thirty years. Prior to his nomination, he served as the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management – the federal government’s “chief people person” – from April 2009 to April 2013. Hiring of veterans and people with disabilities reached record highs under his leadership and this role made Mr Berry was the highest ranking openly gay government executive in US history.

From 2005 to 2009, Mr Berry served as Director of the National Zoo, after it was found to have shortcomings in management and maintenance. He created a strategic plan focused on its modernization – prioritising fire protection and renovations of animal houses. From 2000 to 2005, he worked to conserve wildlife habitats and protect endangered species through public-private partnerships as Director of the non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Between 1997 and 2000, Mr Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior – overseeing 66,000 employees.

Between 1995 and 1997, he served as director of government relations and senior policy advisor at the Smithsonian Institution and from 1994 to 1995 he served as deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for law enforcement in the US Treasury Department, where he was responsible for 40 per cent of US federal law enforcement officers, including the Secret Service.

A native of Maryland, Mr Berry holds degrees from the University of Maryland and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration.

Wednesday’s formal ceremony entailed Governor-General Quentin Bryce accepting Mr Berry’s credentials to be America’s formal representation in Australia. His diplomatic car drove through the gates without a flag, but following the ceremony, was adorned with America’s star-spangled banner.

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Making a noise about their sound investment

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

How much noise should we put up with in strata?How much noise should we put up with in strata? Noise is part of normal life, but how much should we be prepared to tolerate, StrataLearner asks on the Forum. And how do you know if it’s a building defect?

”I am living in a relatively new building and we are going through the defects process,” he says. ”What would be considered as normal noise in such a building?

”People are complaining of music coming through the double-brick walls into their apartment, people talking in the lobby outside, furniture being moved on the tiled terrace area, and other noises such as hammering, slamming of sliding doors, [and] children running and playing on the terrace area.

”Some of these would be expected, but others may be because of incomplete or shoddy workmanship.”

There are two aspects to noise in strata blocks: structural and behavioural. And even though the building standards for apartments can seem inadequate, they are usually sufficient if people remember they have neighbours above, below and to the side.

That means turning the bass down on the surround sound, leaving carpet on the floors (or using top-notch insulation under the timber), telling your kids to save their running for the park and not extending your dinner party into the lift lobby when you say goodbye.

Also, some people are much more sensitive to noise than others, so the right to ”peaceful enjoyment of your lot” is totally subjective.

However, there might be defective structural elements involved, and this can be determined only by an acoustic consultant. Even then you’ll have trouble arguing that inadequate sound insulation is a defect if the building is demonstrably compliant with building standards.

However, if it isn’t up to code, or if the promised level of sound insulation wasn’t delivered, you might have a case. There’s a lot more on this on the Forum.

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