Yemen peace talks back on track

Yemen’s warring factions have agreed on an agenda for UN-backed peace negotiations, following heavy pressure from world powers.

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The talks to end fighting between the Iran-allied Houthis and supporters of Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi started last week but were suspended on Sunday amid bickering about flights over Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which the Houthis say is a violation of the April 10 truce.

Differences over the agenda had made it difficult for the two sides to start real negotiations to end the 13-month war that has killed more than 6200 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people.

The two sides agreed last week to a five-point agenda outlined by the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, but remained divided over whether to start with a unity government or focus on a Houthi withdrawal.

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the talks, waded into the dispute, helping to smooth differences over the truce and over the agenda, delegates said.

The return to talks followed strong pressure from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“The diplomats were quite tough and used harsh language, telling them that peace in Yemen was important for regional security and that no one would be allowed to leave Kuwait without an agreement,” one source told Reuters.

The stability of Yemen, where al-Qaeda and Islamic State are vying for influence, is of international concern as the country neighbours Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and is also near key shipping lanes.

Hadi supporters, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, have attacked the AQAP stronghold in southern Yemen over the past two days, driving them from the Hadramout provincial capital and from key Arabian Sea ports.

Pain of Port Arthur massacre remains

Fencing in a paddock of his 324-hectare cattle farm on the Tasman Peninsula, Neil Noye heard a siren travelling south at high speed.

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A couple of minutes later he saw an ambulance and a police car whiz past.

“I thought to myself: `I better find out what’s going on’.”

The news that would greet the then-Tasman Council mayor would change his life, and the lives of those in his small community.

It was April 28, 1996, and just a few kilometres away at the Port Arthur historic site, a gunman had gone on a bloody rampage.

At the time the incident was acknowledged as the world’s worst massacre, with 35 people killed, 23 injured and an untold number of others left emotionally scarred.

“The news that filtered through at first was that six or seven people had been shot,” Mr Noye, now aged 84 and retired, told AAP.

“By that afternoon we were talking to reporters who had got through the cordon, and we were getting the full story.”

A tourism hotspot about 90 minutes drive from Hobart, the picturesque historic site, nestled in a bay, is dotted with convict ruins on a sea of lush grass and well-kept gardens.

Usually the sound of native birds is interrupted only by chatty visitors and the odd maintenance vehicle.

But on this fateful Sunday the peace and quiet was broken by the stark and unfamiliar crack of gunfire.

That was back in the days when visitors could drive into the site and pull up quite close to the attractions, and that’s what Martin Bryant did, before arming himself with a rapid-fire weapon and entering the popular Broad Arrow Cafe.

It was lunch time.

The shooting was indiscriminate: men, women, children of all ages and nationalities.

Carolyn Loughton was shot in the back, her 15-year-old daughter Sarah was shot in the head and killed.

“It was just this immense explosion,” Ms Loughton told SBS of the moment the shooting started.

“I’m seeing bits of the walls coming away and then I saw him with this massive, massive gun up shooting people.”

Countless survivors have told how they played dead on the floor as the gunman stalked his victims.

There are unconfirmed reports Bryant had previously been thrown out of the cafe for trying to sell crayfish to patrons.

On his way to Port Arthur Bryant had stopped at a bed and breakfast property, Seascape, where he killed the owners, David and Sally Martin.

It later emerged the couple had refused Bryant’s request to buy their nearby farm.

Bryant has never offered an explanation for his actions, but there is speculation, including from investigators, that his murders were sparked out of retribution for grievances and others were collateral damage.

Local woman Nanette Mikac had been visiting the historic site that day with daughters Alannah, six, and Madeline, three.

As the shootings took place the young mother instinctively led her girls along a road leading away from the site.

Thinking she must have almost made it to safety, Bryant’s yellow Volvo had come along.

The gunman had stepped from his car before shooting dead Ms Mikac and then each of her daughters.

“The Mikac girls, I’d been playing with them on the Saturday night – there was a concert on and their father was in the concert and I was looking after the kids,” Mr Noye said, shaking his head.

“So sad. So very sad.”

As Bryant drove away from the three lifeless bodies the death count stood at 27.

A short time later he shot and killed the four occupants of a car arriving at the historic site, before stealing their BMW.

More people would die and a man was taken hostage as the gunman made his way back to Seascape, where he was holed up for 18 hours.

The police car Mr Noye saw pass his property was just arriving at Port Arthur, but the damage was done.

By the time Bryant emerged, on fire, from the burning Seascape cottage which he had set alight, news had spread around Australia and the world, of mass murder at sleepy Port Arthur.

In the days and weeks that followed the peninsula crawled with reporters.

“I’d get phone calls from BBC London interrupting their live soccer broadcast, to go directly to the `mayor of Tasmania’,” Mr Noye said.

“The more you tried to tell them you weren’t the mayor of Tasmania, the more confused they got.”

Grief counselling was offered to residents as the local economy hit the doldrums.

Then-prime minister John Howard used the massacre to gather support for tighter gun laws, which passed parliament.

Bryant was locked up in Hobart, and questioned by police.

Seven months later a judge ordered he serve 35 life sentences plus hundreds of additional years, without the chance of parole.

He will die in jail.

Many others are serving a life sentence as a result of his actions.

Mr Noye knew eight of the people Bryant killed at Port Arthur.

He will not be attending a commemorative service at the site to mark the 20th anniversary, but appreciates that others want to.

“There are people who have lost loved ones and they are still hurting and this is going to really liven it up again,” he said of the plans for April 28.

“Twenty years on, it is raw.”

Norfolk Island residents petition UN to stop Australian ‘recolonisation’

Norfolk Island’s 2210 residents – many of them descendants of mutineers from HMS Bounty – have presented a petition to the United Nations accusing Australia of trying to “re-colonise” their tiny South Pacific island.

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Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson flew to New York from London to deliver the petition on Monday in a last-ditch attempt to help Norfolk retain its status as an autonomous territory.

The Australian government signalled last year it would end the island’s local administration, and has already closed down its parliament, paving the way for rule from the Australian capital Canberra, nearly 2000 km away.

A regional council is planned and elections are scheduled for the middle of next year.

The volcanic island covers just over 34 square km in the Pacific Ocean, between New Caledonia and New Zealand.

It was mapped by the British navigator and explorer Captain James Cook in 1774, and was occupied just 40 days after he established a convict settlement in Sydney in 1788.

I can’t believe this is Australia-Gov’t taking the extraordinary step of banning criticism of Australia on #NorfolkIsland radio station. No!

— Helena Sindelar™ (@Helena_Sindelar) April 26, 2016

Robertson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from New York on Monday that Australia’s “heavy-handed attempt to re-colonise part of its domain” is internationally embarrassing as it coincides with its campaign to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“They’ve locked up the parliament and sent administrators from Canberra to run the place, even though it’s been running itself perfectly well for a long time,” he said.

“After 36 years of democracy, their self-governance has been abolished, their freedom of speech curtailed – any mention of opposition on a local radio station has been banned – and their membership of international sporting and political bodies like the Commonwealth has been cancelled.”

In Australia Paul Fletcher, minister for major projects, territories and local government, said Norfolk Island had been an integral part of the Commonwealth of Australia since 1914.

“The Australian Government is ultimately responsible for the governance of Norfolk Island – as it has been for more than a century – and for the welfare of all Australians including those that comprise the majority of the Norfolk Island community,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

“The Australian Government established what was effectively an experimental form of self-government on Norfolk Island in 1979. The result of this experiment is clear – it has not worked very well.”

Norfolk Islanders are themselves divided about the plan to abolish self-rule, with the descendants of Fletcher Christian’s mutineers leading the resistance campaign.

Wallace keen to mix it with Maroons titans

A whirlwind 12 months will come full-circle for Jarrod Wallace if he earns Maroons selection for next month’s State of Origin opener.

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Last February Wallace was one of eight players deemed ineligible to play for Queensland after breaking curfew during an Emerging Origin camp.

Now playing for the Titans, Wallace realises that kick in the guts might have been the spark he needed to get into another gear.

“I’ve always wanted to play for Queensland. It definitely hurt last year when I wasn’t allowed to,” Wallace said.

“If I get the opportunity to play for Queensland this year I’ll definitely take it.

Wallace returned home to the Gold Coast after spending six years with Brisbane and his homecoming has been impressive.

His return to the holiday strip was due to lack of playing time at the Broncos and the desire to lock down a starting spot. So far he has delivered, playing in all eight games and averaging 63 minutes a match for the Titans.

Wallace quickly realised he was in for a tough slug becoming a starting prop.

“After round one I actually had to roll out of bed, I couldn’t even sit up out of bed I was pretty sore,” Wallace said.

His form hasn’t dropped since then and he has managed 30 tackles or more in every game bar one (he registered 29) and ran for a career-best 264m against his former club in round seven.

Wallace’s transition and form this year earned praise from his schoolboy hero Petero Civoniceva, who backed him for Origin duty.

“He certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an Origin jumper, that’s for sure,” Civoniceva told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“He’s proven himself over the last couple of weeks that he’s definitely got the qualities to go to that next level and he’s playing great footy which is fantastic to see.”

Pendlebury welcomes short AFL turnaround

Far from worrying about Collingwood’s short AFL break, captain Scott Pendlebury says it is just what the Magpies need.

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The Magpies have only five days between Tuesday’s Anzac Day loss to Essendon and their next match against unbeaten Geelong at the MCG.

Losing to the Bombers has left Collingwood in a 1-4 hole and intensified speculation about the future of coach Nathan Buckley but Pendlebury, fuming about his own poor game against Essendon, said the short break can work to the Magpies’ advantage.

“Playing on a five-day break after a loss is the best thing that can happen,” he said in a club podcast.

“You get a chance to go back out there so quickly, you don’t have to wait.

“Last week, just waiting nine days to play Anzac Day after the St Kilda game, you want to get back out there as quick as you can, to address the issues.”

Pendlebury only had 20 disposals against Essendon and said it was his worst game in a decade.

The 29-year-old said he was ill before the previous week’s loss to St Kilda. He offered no excuses for his poor Anzac Day performance amid speculation he is carrying an injury, saying he had done the most running against Essendon out of his five matches so far this season, but simply played poorly.

“Yesterday was my worst game that I’ve played in 10 years,” he said.

“I just wasn’t impactful.

“It certainly wasn’t through a lack of effort or running or work rate.”

Pendlebury is usually among the Pies’ best on Anzac Day but said this year’s effort was one to forget.

“I was very disappointed … I was very filthy I didn’t play my part,” he said.

“It doesn’t sit well, knowing you let the side down.

While Collingwood are struggling, Pendlebury said they had identified their problems and are working hard to fix them.

“It’s going to take more than one week to fix, but hopefully it doesn’t take six or seven,” he said.

Former PMs weigh in ahead of Trump meeting

Australia should be disposed to committing more troops to the fight against Islamic State, former prime minister Tony Abbott says, as Malcolm Turnbull looks to his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump.

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The leaders’ agenda in New York next week is expected to include the battle against extremists in Iraq and Syria, as well as how to respond to North Korea’s development of missiles.

Asked how Mr Turnbull should respond to a possible request from the US for more Australian forces in the Middle East, Mr Abbott told 2GB Radio: “If the Americans want additional Australian assistance, I think we should certainly be prepared to consider it. We should be disposed to do it.”

Australia is already one of the largest contributors to the fight against IS, with about 1000 personnel in Iraq and RAAF aircraft carrying out at least 2000 missions against the jihadist group’s strongholds.

Meanwhile, other former PMs have also offered their advice.

Paul Keating said it was important Mr Turnbull underline the need for a stronger relationship between China and the US.

“It doesn’t suit the United States or Australia for (China) to be de-legitimised because of US strategic interests,” Mr Keating told a Lowy Institute event on Wednesday.

“The most important thing for Australia is that there is peace in the Pacific between the two major powers.”

One thing Australia must not do with the Americans is keep bowing down.

“This is just bad behaviour. Bad, bad, bad behaviour,” Mr Keating said.

Kevin Rudd said Mr Turnbull should seek support for global diplomatic talks over North Korea, suggesting Kazakhstan could host a meeting.

“The possibility of massive destruction in Seoul itself should focus the mind when it comes to any contemplation in the United States about the wisdom of unilateral military action,” he told ABC radio.

“I’d begin to talk about what the South Koreans should and could do, and also bilaterally with the North.”

Mr Turnbull said in a statement in response to the invitation to meet with Mr Trump that it would be an opportunity to reaffirm the US-Australia alliance and America’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific.

Bulldogs star Johannisen eyes new AFL deal

Western Bulldogs speedster Jason Johannisen has renewed contract talks with the reigning premiers after a scintillating start to the AFL season.

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The Norm Smith medallist opted to put negotiations on hold earlier in the year as the AFL and the players’ union continue to thrash out a new agreement which could substantially increase player salaries.

But Johannisen has confirmed his management is back in discussions with the Bulldogs in the hope a new deal can be sealed soon.

A product of East Fremantle, Johannisen had been expected to draw plenty of interest from across the competition – especially the West Australian clubs – but the 24-year-old says he’s relishing the opportunity to be part of the Bulldogs’ premiership defence.

“I’ve never been a part of a football team that’s so close – it’s pretty special,” he told AAP.

“What we achieved last year has sort of gone behind us. The new challenges that have brought us here today and the new journey that we’re going to go across this year has kept the group pretty excited, and we just can’t wait.”

After an exemplary finals campaign, Johannisen has continued to deliver for the Bulldogs, averaging 26 disposals per game and providing important run-and carry off half-back.

With coach Luke Beveridge preaching the need for versatility, Johannisen has looked to spend more time on the wing and up forward after spending most of last year in the back line.

“You’re always looking at ways to improve, so you can’t be too happy with yourself, but I’m in a great place at the minute,” Johannisen said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in my ability and I’m just looking to use my strengths.”

The Bulldogs have shown glimpses of brilliance and an unrivalled ability to close out games on their way to a 4-1 record but are yet to replicate the ferocity of last year’s inspired finals campaign.

They will face a major test on Friday night when they travel to Canberra to face Greater Western Sydney – a side they narrowly edged in a fierce and gripping preliminary final last year.

“All the hype of a prelim – obviously it’s going to be extra pressure because you know what’s going to be at stake,” Johannisen said.

“It was a very high-pressure game and it was probably exciting to watch. They’ve got great talent and it’s going to take our best to win.”

Kiwi flair gives Meninga chills down spine

Now this is what a real ‘big four’ looks like.

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The Kangaroos will barely have time to fit in a visit to Questacon, but coach Mal Meninga insists his men will be learning all about New Zealand’s much-vaunted spine next week.

The likely return of former Kiwis captain Kieran Foran and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has the undefeated Australia coach on high alert ahead of Friday week’s Test in Canberra.

Together with Warriors clubmates Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson, the quartet will finally reunite in black for the first time since the corresponding fixture two years ago.

And in an ominous sign for the world’s No.1-ranked nation, Foran has lost just one of his past 11 Tests for the Kiwis dating back to the mid-year Test four years ago.

He has won three of his past four clashes against the Kangaroos, and will again be a key figure in what is expected to be a much-improved side that lost the Four Nations final last October.

Meninga predicted the Warriors’ foursome would be the first four names picked by counterpart David Kidwell when the Kiwis team is announced on Sunday.

“From a cohesion combination, short preparation point of view, that makes them extremely dangerous,” Meninga said of what is widely-regarded as the best spine in the NRL.

“We all know what a great player Kieran is, taking pressure off Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson … Roger’s back too obviously.

“That combination’s something we have to prepare really well for given the short preparation.”

Meninga on Wednesday made minimal changes to the side that gave him his sixth win from as many games as Kangaroos coach at Anfield.

Will Chambers and Aaron Woods came in for injured duo Greg Inglis and Matt Scott, while the only unforced change is the return of Josh Papalii for Canberra clubmate Shannon Boyd.

Meninga is adamant Papalii deserved his recall after missing the final due to injury himself.

“He played in Newcastle last year and played in the Four Nations as well but unfortunately got injured,” he said.

“But his form, you can’t deny him a spot in this team.”

Reef ‘needs billions’ to stave off threats

It will take several billion dollars to save the Great Barrier Reef from water quality threats, a conservation group says.

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WWF Australia has grave doubts the federal government will meet its current funding commitments to the reef, and even if it does the money won’t come close to what’s needed to save it from agricultural run-off and sediment build up.

WWF scientist and spokesman Sean Hoobin says a reef rescue plan, on the scale of the one forged for the Murray-Darling basin, is needed.

He expects a key scientific taskforce looking at reef health to recommend a multi-billion dollar investment when it reports back to government next month.

In the meantime, Mr Hoobin says federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt must keep his promise to provide $300 million by 2020 for critical reef health initiatives.

“When you look at the year-to-year budget allocations there is a $100 million shortfall,” he told AAP on Tuesday.

“Next week’s budget needs to address that. But our understanding is that it’s going to be less than that.”

Mr Hunt went to Cairns on Tuesday to announce $50 million in “new projects” to boost water quality, including efforts to keep fertilisers and pesticides off the reef.

In a morning interview on ABC radio he was asked if the money was, in fact, new but the minister didn’t give a direct answer, instead describing it as “money which hasn’t been assigned”.

He also promised more funding for the reef in next week’s budget but did not say how much, and said his government would “meet and beat” its existing commitments.

Mr Hoobin said a commitment on the scale of the Murray-Darling rescue plan was necessary if Australia was to meet its commitments to UNESCO, which will determine if the reef is listed as a World Heritage site in danger.

“And it’s a much tougher budget circumstance than it was when the Murray-Darling plan was announced,” he said.

Mr Hoobin said the taskforce due to report back next month included representatives from the federal government, and the scale of the investment its likely to recommend shouldn’t shock anyone.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters accused the government of re-announcing existing funding, amid the reef’s worst coral bleaching event on record.

She said the government recently approved Adani’s $22 billion mega mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin in the full knowledge that the coal it produces will contribute to global warming and drive such bleaching events.

“We have viable renewable alternatives that don’t sacrifice the 67,000 jobs the reef provides and that will generate thousands of new jobs,” she said in a statement.

Tiny Vic town is Australia’s most generous

Residents of the tiny central Victorian town of Castlemaine are Australia’s most generous, a survey shows.

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The 9,984 residents donated 0.36 per cent of their taxable income to charity in the year February, according to National Australia Bank’s Charitable Giving Index released on Tuesday.

People living in the swankier Melbourne suburb of Middle Park and the Sydney’s Mosman may have given more in dollar terms but Castlemaine residents gave a higher proportion of their income to charity.

The NAB survey shows overall charitable donations rose by 6.5 per cent nationwide last year with the average donor giving $348 to charity, a $12 rise on the previous year.

NAB chief economist Alan Oster said it was heartening to see that residents of all states gave more to charity despite the challenges facing some as the economy rebalances away from mining.

“The economic environment looks to have provided some solid support for the charity sector, with recent GDP growth figures providing reassurance that the Australian economy has remained resilient against an uncertain global backdrop and weak commodity prices,” Mr Oster said.

He said another factor contributing to the growth of giving could be the fall in consumer anxiety in recent quarters.

“With overall anxiety levels easing, consumers appear to have responded positively in their charitable spending behaviours with fewer consumers cutting back on their charitable spending this past year,” Mr Oster said.

The report said the 20 postcodes where donors gave the most had an average taxable income of $120,000, more than double the national average of $58,700.

However, the 20 postcodes where people donated the highest proportion of their incomes had an average taxable income of just under $60,000.

Humanitarian charities were the largest beneficiaries of Australian generosity, receiving 35 per cent of all donations.

Budget to tackle three key tasks

Treasurer Scott Morrison has pinned down his first budget to three important tasks.

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It will support growth and jobs, make sustainable changes to the tax system and ensure the government lives within its means.

But he won’t say whether next week’s budget will deal with bracket creep – where 300,000 middle income earners are forced into a higher tax bracket just through wage inflation.

“What I’ve been talking about is ensuring that we don’t penalise Australians for doing better in this economy,” Mr Morrison told reporters outside Treasury headquarters in Canberra on Tuesday.

There are suggestions he will lift the second highest tax bracket threshold from $80,000 to help counter the immediate effects of bracket creep.

Doing so will also benefit high-income earners, on top of relief from the two per cent deficit levy ending in mid-2017.

The Australian Council of Social Services says the government should be looking at helping those on lower tax brackets to make sure people aren’t losing money for working.

Chief executive Cassandra Goldie is also disappointed by the government’s decision not to touch tax breaks for property investors through negative gearing and capital gains tax.

Mr Morrison dismissed new Grattan Institute research showing wealthy Australians benefit most from negative gearing, while offering proposals that would halve its $11 billion cost to the budget.

“It is not a concession. It is just part of our tax system and they’ve been relying on it to provide for their future and to get ahead,” Mr Morrison said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen took aim at the government’s opposition to Labor’s plan limiting negative gearing to newly-constructed homes.

“They are squibbing it and engaging in cheap, dirty, Tony Abbott-style scare campaigns at the expense of good policy,” he said.

Mr Morrison also gave short shrift to a new poll conducted by the Australian National University that found more of us favour higher spending on social services over tax cuts.

“For those who want to pay more taxes then we can allow for them to go down to the tax office and they can register for themselves to pay more taxes,” he said.

Separately, Deloitte Access Economics warned the budget could be $21 billion worse-off by 2020 as China’s slowdown hits company profits.

Slow wage growth and Canberra throwing money at the states and others in an election year are also contributing to a deeper deficit.

Mr Morrison conceded there has been a “range of things” in the past six months that would have an impact on the budget, including the impact of lower forecast global growth, but insisted the government would not be spending more than it saves.

Kids’ screen time limits are dated: expert

More than half of Australian children are glued to digital screens longer than national guidelines recommend, but experts warn the time limits are out of date and need to be changed.

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Two hours is the maximum daily limit set out in the Department of Health’s screen time guidelines for five- to 17-year-olds.

However, an online poll of 18,000 children by ABC children’s program Behind the News found that 56 per cent of respondents exceed that two-hour daily limit.

The results are not surprising, according to Sydney child technology expert Dr Joanne Orlando who says the limits, based on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ settings, are out of date in the digital age.

“The problem is, the guidelines were developed in the 1990s so they’re pretty old, and they were developed in response to kids watching TV, in particular violent stuff,” she told AAP.

“But the ways kids interact with screens now is very different … it’s much more interactive and creative and there are many more things they can do.”

The advent of tablets, smartphones and other devices had left many parents in the dark, she said.

“It makes us all feel bad because the guidelines aren’t up to date and the kids are spending all this time on technology and the parents and educators are just not sure what to think or what to do.”

The American group announced in 2015 it would review its guidelines on technology use for children.

Dr Orlando expects those screen-time limits to be lengthened.

“It’s very unrealistic for children up to 18 years to only spend two hours per day on screens, particularly when school work obliges them to do that or more,” she said.

However, parents should still keep an eye out for addiction, with about 15 per cent of the respondents in the Behind the News survey reporting they couldn’t go without technology for even one day.

“If they’re spending most of the time at home using their screen, that’s too much, it’s the main activity,” Dr Orlando said.

She recommends parents determine their children’s screen time limits based on the quality of the activity and the level of stimulation their children are getting.

The survey found children are using tablets more than computers and phones, and boys are more screen dependant than girls.

When they’re plugged in, children are playing games, watching movies and online videos, going on social media and doing homework.

HOW MANY HOURS EACH DAY

* 8yrs: 4.2 hours

* 9yrs: 3.4

* 10yrs:3.4

* 11 yrs: 3.6

* 12 yrs: 3.9

* 13 yrs: 4.7

* 14 yrs: 5.4

* 15 yrs: 6

* 16 yrs or more: 7.4

MOST POPULAR DEVICES

* Tablet: 30pct

* Computer: 22pct

* TV: 20pct

* Phone: 16pct

* Gaming console: 13pct

(Source: Behind the News, ABC TV)

Nepal earthquake devastation still felt one year on

Photo credit: Julien Brebion

The government of Nepal’s overall relief and reconstruction response in reaction to the April 2015 quake – or lack thereof – has been widely criticised.

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Multiple speakers at a disaster management conference held in Kathmandu recently lamented the lack of attention to women’s issues in particular.

In a patriarchal society with one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, many men who were killed left behind families without a household head.

This leaves them vulnerable to economic disadvantage, physical insecurity and limits life opportunities.

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Sudip Pokharel of Democracy Resource Centre Nepal worked on a project assessing social and political impacts of the disaster, and aid delivery and effectiveness.

He found the chaotic initial response didn’t incorporate women’s needs.

While the major parties dominated aid delivery, women and children’s participation was “very low”.

Women lacked access to decision-makers and women’s issues were not addressed “at any level”, Mr Pokharel said.

The Centre for the Study of Labour and Migration found single women and people with disabilities were the worst impacted by the earthquake.

Single women, which includes widows and the many whose husbands are forced to seek work overseas, had trouble accessing relief materials.

The world of financial management and non-domestic affairs is unknown to many women, who make up 67 per cent of Nepal’s illiterate adult population.

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The safety needs of women in particular were largely ignored, while children faced an increased risk of trafficking, in addition to the 12,000 trafficked into India and beyond each year.

Nepali journalist Rojita Adhikari met Nani Maiya Prajapati, a woman who lost her husband and five other family members, as well as her home, in the earthquake.

In Nepal’s patriarchal society, female participation in the workforce is low.

“She was so helpless,” Ms Adhikari says.

“Basically, in Nepal women just do household things. I thought, ‘how is she going to rebuild, how is she going to earn? How many women are there like this in Nepal?’”

The answer was about 2000, including 33-year-old mother of two small children Sunita Chitrakar.

“She has more responsibility, she has to manage her children’s education,” Ms Adhikari says.

“It’s very hard for a woman to live alone, society will not allow her to work or make a friend. She can remarry, but society will shun her.”

When Nepali women marry they leave their families and move in with their in-laws.

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Adhikari said widows might receive some initial support from their husbands’ families, but it wouldn’t continue, and she would be unable to return to her birth family.

“So what is going to happen to her? She has nothing, how can she survive?” Ms Adhikari asks.

In families left without a breadwinner or source of income, the children of widows may be prevented from attending school if children have to go to work.

Immediately after the earthquake, nearly one million children were unable to attend school, as 32,000 classrooms were destroyed and 15,000 damaged.

UNICEF warns the longer children are out of school, the less likely they are to return.

Many children have either not resumed their studies or are learning in makeshift shelters.

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Thousands of senior students sitting their exams this month have spent the past year studying in trying circumstances.

Meanwhile, children continue to suffer from the trauma of the terrifying 7.8 earthquake, without access to psycho-social support.

Ms Adhikari says in addition to these problems, more than 1100 children lost either their mother or father and 106 were orphaned.

Without adequate social support programs for children and women already experiencing marginalisation, Ms Adhikari fears they face ongoing struggles.

“I think their future is dark.” 

Fiona Broom is a freelance journalist based in Kathmandu.