Tuesday, March 8, 2011

These descriptions, of two sweet beaches to visit in Queensland, Australia, seem like lovely places to visit.

Broken River, Queensland

The locals reckon Broken River in Eungella National Park is the best place ''on the planet'' to see platypus in the wild. Pronounced yun-gulla and meaning Land of the Clouds, it's a 90-kilometre drive west of Mackay and its perennially mist-shrouded and forest-clad mountains contain Australia's longest and oldest stretch of subtropical rainforest. But the main reason most people come to Eungella is to see the platypus at Broken River.

Several viewing platforms are strung along the river near the picnic area, or you can, as we did, simply find a comfortable rock and perch for as long as you like. In 30 minutes we chalked up an amazing 16 sightings of the elusive monotreme and while some may have been making a repeat appearance, I wasn't about to quibble. It really is one of the best places in Australia to go if you want to see wild platypus.

Where to stay: Broken River Mountain Resort, Eungella Dam Road, Eungella, (07) 4958 4000, brokenrivermr.com.au.

Chillagoe Caves, Queensland

The glitzy show caves of the southern states may get all the publicity and draw the crowds but there are more than 600 limestone caves in the Chillagoe area, three hours' drive west of Cairns. There are five caves open for viewing, each one unique. The Royal Arch is the biggest, a series of 13 chambers spread along a 1.5-kilometre passage, with roots from trees and patches of light reaching into the caves and lots of bending and squeezing through tight passages. The smaller Donna Cave, accessed by a long steep stairway, is the prettiest, with dozens of magnificent limestone formations.

Trezkinn Cave is short - basically a steel catwalk encircling a central mass of limestone - but it also has lots of decorations, including the massive ''chandelier'', a spectacular formation that looks like a mountain of melted wax. There are also two self-guided caves; bring your own torch.

Where to stay: Chillagoe Observatory and Eco Lodge, (07) 4094 7155, www.coel.com.au

Monday, March 7, 2011

To have an obstretic fistula is like living a nightmare in many cases. Hiow wonderful that there are people out there looking to eradicate this difficult situation.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day we asked readers to nominate the Australian woman who inspires them the most.

When Catherine Hamlin saw Ethiopian women living as outcasts because of a medical condition largely eradicated in the developed world, she knew she had to act.

The Sydney-born obstetrician and her husband, Reginald, opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974. Since then, it has treated more than 35,000 women for obstetric fistula, a shocking childbirth injury caused by a long, obstructed labour that can leave a woman incontinent and shunned by her husband, family and community.

Dr Hamlin's dedication to restoring the women's dignity and health has inspired many around the world - including our readers. She is one of more than 100 achievers you nominated as Australia's most inspiring women in a tribute we launched last week to mark the centenary of International Women's Day, which is being celebrated today.
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Dr Catherine Hamlin with an Ethiopian woman at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

Dr Catherine Hamlin with an Ethiopian woman at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Achievements great and small were acknowledged by the nominations, from Edith Cowan, the first woman elected to an Australian parliament (Western Australia in 1921), to Hazel Hawke, the wife of a former prime minister, to Aboriginal elder Aunty Lorraine Peeters. And, of course, many readers paid tribute to their mothers for their very hands-on role in shaping lives.

Dr Hamlin, 87, says she is thankful to have influenced others as it means her work will carry on.

"Medicine has made such strides, but still mothers in childbirth are being neglected in huge areas of the world, with tragic results," she says.

"We hope those inspired to address and banish this affront to humanity will succeed in their lifetime, ensuring that every mother is assured of a safe delivery and live baby."

A reader paid this tribute to Dr Hamlin in her nomination: "She has shown me that an individual can make a real difference to people's lives."

Inspiring women to aim for the top

While no single woman received an overwhelming majority of reader nominations, those whose names appeared with some frequency included Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and feminist and author of The Female Eunuch Germaine Greer.

Bryce became Australia's first female head of state in 2008 after a distinguished career as a lawyer, academic and human rights advocate. She is no stranger to the demands and challenges of being a working mother, having raised five children with her husband Michael Bryce.

Of the Governor-General, one reader wrote: "I once her heard speak about the difficulties coping with five small children, and working as a lawyer; then I looked at my two small children and my job as a lawyer, and what she has gone on to achieve, and thought 'If she can so it, so can I.' Thanks Quentin, you are an inspiration and my Australian hero."

Gold medal winning Olympian Cathy Freeman, Dr Hamlin, gay and lesbian rights campaigner Shelley Argent, Nobel prize winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood also received a number of nominations.

Shelley Argent has been campaigning for gay and lesbian rights since 1998, after her son told her he was gay. Determined he should have the same rights as her other son, she has worked with bodies such as the Queensland AIDS Council and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to promote acceptance and understanding.

When told she was seen as an inspiration for others, she was stunned.

"What drives me is the love of my son," she says.

Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis says it is wonderful to see the diversity of women shaping Australia, as reflected in these nominations.

"It is because of strong and courageous women like them that young women across [the country] can aspire to hold the highest of offices and achieve the greatest of feats," she says.

International Women's Day events are being held throughout Australia this week. For details, see: internationalwomensday.org.au.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"I don't think the mission there has been very well articulated. And I think it would help to kind of reframe the way we're thinking about being there and why we're there."
-Matt Damon, on the war in Afghanistan.
‘‘When these disasters occur, they affect our friends, family, people we know, people we don’t know,’’
-David Pocock, Australian
on Cyclone Yasi in Queensland
to Fairfax media