Old Grafton Correctional Centre

Being sentenced to jail time means the loss of freedom for a prescribed period but the punishment can extend much longer, particularly when it comes to health and wellbeing. When prisoners are released their ongoing health needs are all too often not met.

Many will become homeless, with no choice but to sleep rough.  The stats are showing this. Less conspicuous is the need for even more former detainees to bunk down with relatives or friends in often crowded households.

Such behaviours present a major public health problem, including the spreading of blood borne viruses such as hepatitis C, not to mention the more ‘novel’ risk of the COVID-19 virus.  Jails in Australia and (markedly) the USA are acknowledged as being high risk for spreading the coronavirus, largely because of overcrowded prisons - the two words are inevitably linked - and the resulting close physical distancing amongst inmates.

Joanne Hourigan and Peter Gooley from local Akubra stockists George Gooley Menswear. Photo by Robin Osborne

Whether due to our increased sun awareness or a notable rise in “fashionalism” – which sees MPs from country and city alike sporting R M Williams boots – the Akubra hat is now covering more heads than ever before. In fact they’re so popular that anything apart from a standard style and colour will entail a three-months order wait, not that off-the-shelf options are lacking in choice.

The leading local Akubra stockist is George Gooley Menswear with shops in Lismore, Ballina and Casino. The business is headed by Peter Gooley who says sales of the iconic headwear have risen dramatically in recent times.

No newcomer to the Akubra game, Peter has been selling the brand for the past fifty years: “The most popular style remains the Cattleman,” he told GP Speak, “followed by the Roughrider. But if that suggests most Akubra buyers are farmers, think again. The hats have become increasingly popular with younger people, male and female, and the various styles and colour combinations are almost infinite.”

If you’re prepared, to wait that is.

Food Standards given three months to develop more “common sense” labelling

Were the consequences not so serious the decision to go back to the drawing board on warning labels about the risks of consuming alcohol in pregnancy would be laughable.

Now, after the recent meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation it is the alcohol lobby that is doing the laughing, announcing in a triumphal media release that, “Common sense has prevailed over the bureaucratic frolic that had been Food Standards Australia and New Zealand's (FSANZ's) draft recommendations on pregnancy warning labels on all alcohol products.”

The reference was to the Forum’s rejection of a clear bottle label warning of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

Similar words were used in a media release by an Australian representative on the group, Nationals MP and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, who said, “We need to implement this in a common sense way that understands the realities of branding and label manufacturing.”

Ice Commission

Following inquiries from GP Speak and sustained pressure from various quarters, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Ted Noffs Foundation, as well as a threat by the NSW Greens to have parliament force the document’s release, the Berejiklian government has made public the special Commissioner’s report into the drug ‘Ice’ (crystal methamphetamine) and other illicit substances.

The four-volume report follows the Commission’s exhaustive hearings in Sydney and various regional settings, including Lismore, where drug experts, including ex-users, spoke of an epidemic of ‘ice’, the widespread misuse of other illicit drugs (and, notably, alcohol), and highlighted the lack of treatment and other support services in both the legal and health systems.

Dr David Guest

I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now
- Queen, 1989

Civilisation has come a long way in 5,000 years. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the natural state of man as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. He argued that this could be addressed by ceding one’s liberty to the Crown in exchange for an enjoyment of the benefits that society brings. An individual’s basic needs for food, shelter and clothing would thus be met.

Times have changed. More recently economists have argued that sanitation, education, healthcare and the internet be added to the list. That’s progress, but on the North Coast many of us will have patients living below the new poverty line.