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Same Sex Marriage: Australia says ‘yes’ | Neos Kosmos

The results of Australia’s first same sex marriage plebiscite have revealed 61 percent of over 7.8 million Australians voted yes, leaving the future legal status of gay marriage in the hands of parliament.

In a press conference this morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it is the government’s job now “to get on with it” to legalise same sex marriage and is confident that the matter will be resolved by the end of the year.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten shared his support for Australia’s decision, delivering an emphatic address to crowds in Melbourne today saying that this marriage equality survey shows that “unconditional love is always the last word”.

“Today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate,” he said.

Member of the Greek and Gay network, John, was in tears as the verdict was delivered Wednesday morning.

He said the last few months have been personally challenging for him, and his crying was also a sign of relief.

“It’s as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders all in a few seconds,” John told Neos Kosmos.

“It’s been a difficult time and I think the fact we’ve now got this, it will start changing views, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

John, who calls himself a late bloomer – having married first and had children – came out at 34. He says the coming out process has been ongoing for 20 years.

“[The postal vote] is not just about marriage. I think that it stretches beyond that, a large proportion of people accept that we have the same rights and that we are part of the community,” he said.

“We’re not an extreme part of the community. We are part of everyday life. And I think there’s that acknowledgement that’s come through today.”

While he has no desire to get married again, he thinks the yes vote is a very important step forward. It has been a very difficult road.

“We do have a lot of rights in Australia as gay and lesbian people, but this final hurdle just cements everything else.”

But same sex marriage has not always been supported by some members of the Greek community.

SBS reported that earlier this year an encyclical by the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, Archbishop Stylianos said that the postal vote “constitutes a sacred and inviolable obligation for all of us, excluding no one, to record ‘NO’ on the relative Postal Survey Form, and to express ‘with one mouth and one heart’ our absolute objection to such an unholy Legislation, which would put at risk the interests of the Family and Marriage for the whole society.”

However Adam Rorris, coordinator of the Australia-Greece solidarity campaign says it is unfortunate that those “right-wing forces” within this country were able to “hoodwink” many ordinary people from different communities into such a divisive position on an issue that concerns human rights.

“The only reason that it happened was because far-right political forces in this country needed an issue to build a political base, to identify people they are now going to pursue so they can pursue their other political objectives,” Mr Rorris said.

Mr Rorris said the results were unsurprising and are a welcome development and confirmation of what they knew was the general sentiment of the Australian population.

“Clearly the majority of Australians think it’s a good thing and a positive change and I would say even a long overdue change,” he said.

“I think this is a change which will affect many same sex people and it’s a positive … It will simply grant human rights, without discrimination, based on a person’s sexuality. That has got to be a good thing in any society.”

The Senate sits this week, and then both houses return on November 27 for a two-week sitting to end the year, in which time MPs will need to agree on how to legalise same sex marriage.

This article appeared in print and online at Neos Kosmos.

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Tired and desperate: Father of young drug addict pleads for forced rehab | Mojo

It was only a few months ago when 20-year-old Rhys Thomas was found by police lying face down, unconscious on a swimming pool cover.

He was in possession of ice and had overdosed. Police took him to hospital where he was put on a saline drip for about eight hours, briefly assessed by a psychologist, and soon after sent home.

But Rhys’s father, Simon Thomas, begged for the hospital to keep him.

“I was there by his bedside looking at him, holding his hands,”  Mr Thomas said.

“He’s 58kg, six feet tall and I was just watching, sobbing for eight hours thinking ‘that’s my son and he’s killing himself’.”

Tired and desperate, Mr Thomas is urging the government to consider an inquiry into involuntary rehabilitation for adults.

Rhys and Simon Thomas. Picture: Supplied.

Every day thousands of Australian parents face the reality of having sons and daughters battling drug addictions.

Figures from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey show 43 per cent of Australians aged over 14 had used an illicit drug.

However, drug addicts over the age of 18, in most cases, cannot be admitted to rehabilitation involuntarily.

Addicts must admit themselves, but this doesn’t always happen.

“When they’re on drugs, they don’t see they’ve got a problem,” Mr Thomas said.

The father of three said Rhys’s addiction began when he was 15. He is addicted to most drugs including cough mixture and pain killers, weed, ice, meth, heroin and crack cocaine.

But Mr Thomas said Rhys doesn’t recognise his problem – one that forced him out of school, saw him stealing money from his family for his next fix, and serve a four-month jail sentence.

“The four months that [he] actually spent in jail, that’s the time when I’ve slept the best,” Mr Thomas said.

“I haven’t put my phone on silent because he might be ringing in the middle of the night saying the drug dealers are after him for money and to come and bail him out.”

Mr Thomas has spoken to Nick Xenophon about the possibility of an inquiry on forced rehab, but is unsure how he could help given his recent departure from the Senate.

Experts question whether involuntary rehabilitation is the right thing to do, even in a case of severe addiction.

But Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association policy and media officer Dave Taylor said there would be “real complexities” if one adult could compel another into treatment.

He said there were human rights issues involved, as well as process and other bureaucratic problems.

“ ‘My kid’s got a very serious problem and he’s in need of quickly getting into treatment’ sounds very appealing on the face of it,” Mr Taylor said.

“But when one drills down to the complexities of trying to get that working, it’s a lot more complex.”

However, there are some services that do involve involuntary rehabilitation, including through the Victorian Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act 2010.

The Act states that a person with severe substance dependence may be subject to compulsory treatment for up to 14 days, in so far as they suffer from severe physical damage such as liver or kidney damage.

It has strict eligibility criteria, with a treatment order made by the Magistrates’ Court on the recommendation of a registered medical practitioner.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said evidence suggested involuntary treatment of addiction was less effective in promoting long-term improvements in drug use and in reducing recidivism.

But for Mr Thomas, trying to save his son far outweighs the research around involuntary rehabilitation.

“If I don’t do anything, there’s a chance, a very, very good chance, a high probability, that two things would happen: he’d either go to jail or he’d be dead,” Mr Thomas said.

“Rehab may not necessarily cure him – he may go straight back on the streets. But even if the success rate is 1 per cent, that means there’s one parent out there whose son or daughter is saved.”

First published online at Mojo.

Mental health emergency declared for asylum seekers on the Greek islands | Neos Kosmos

Harrowing reports reveal a “mental health emergency” faced by asylum seekers in camps on the Greek islands and call for the asylum seekers to be relocated to the mainland as refugee camps become severely overcrowded, and conditions continuing to worsen.

The recent report released by Medecins Sans Frontiers reveals that current asylum seekers have experienced violence in Greece, and 80 per cent of new mental health patients treated on Lesvos reported experiencing violence.

Just over a quarter reported experiencing torture, and 19 percent reported experiencing sexual violence, the report found.

Mental health is quickly deteriorating, with more patients needing to be referred to psychiatrists, with an average of six to seven people requiring urgent care linked to attempted suicide, self-harm, psychosis and other emergencies.

Grigoris Kavaranos, a psychologist working in the refugee camps at Lesvos, said the refugees in the camps, his patients, feel frustrated for having been “trapped” on the island for more than a year living in conditions that are “not humane”, exacerbated by the surge in inhabitants.

The camps are built to accommodate around 2,500 people but a recent influx sees the camp holding 5,500 people who live in cramped prison-like surroundings with razor wire, double fences, and security personnel.

Mr Kavaranos, who received his qualifications from Monash University in Melbourne, described the extent of the conditions forcing asylum seekers to line up for hours to collect breakfast, use the bathroom, or even access asylum facilities.

“Even if you don’t have a psychological problem you’re going to develop one just living under these conditions,” Mr Kavaranos said.

He said the psychologists are completely overwhelmed by the number of people needing psychological support just to deal with the conditions of the camps.

“When you force somebody to live in these inhumane conditions, and they have a background of having been tortured or [the threat of being] killed, every single person I see has a harrowing tale to tell,” Mr Kavaranos said.

“I’ve had patients who have been captured, incarcerated and held by ISIS and then after their release or escape they’ve then been incarcerated and tortured by members of the Syrian military as well.”

Concerns deepen as winter approaches. Mr Kavaranos cites three people dying from exposure to the elements last year, on top of other deaths from gas explosions caused by the gas canisters used for cooking and heating: a mother and child were killed, and another child seriously injured.

“If the camp was prepared for the cold weather then there wouldn’t be a problem. Last year the majority of the camp were living in tents so when it started snowing, you can imagine what that meant. People were pitching their tents on top of wooden pellets, and they could see the water running under the tent – and they were the lucky ones,” Mr Kavaranos said.

The poor conditions of the camps exacerbate psychological problems, especially if they are left untreated, as they compound on the already present psychological distress stemming form experiences of torture, violence, and sexual assault in their home countries.

“At some point these refugees are going to be in the community with their problems, basically what we’re doing now is just putting a lid on something that later may develop into something worse. It’s imperative that they receive the treatment that they need,” Mr Kavaranos said.

Recently human rights groups wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister Tsipras urging him to “put an end to the ongoing containment policy of trapping asylum seekers on the islands.

The letter also criticised the EU-Turkey statement which the groups say has caused the refugee camps to be places of “indefinite confinement for asylum seekers” alleging that some asylum seekers who arrived on the islands around the start of the statement remained on the islands for 19 months.

However, a recent decision that deemed Turkey as an “unsafe third country” was found to contradict the September ruling by the highest administrative court in Greece, Council of State, which had found that refugees deported to Turkey were not under threat of inhumane treatment.

Concerns surround further overcrowding at processing centres as the decision will add further delays in deportations.

“… it is evident that the Greek authorities cannot meet the basic needs and protect the rights of asylum seekers while they remain on the islands,” they wrote.

“Greece has a responsibility to protect the human rights of women, men, and children arriving on the islands,” they said, adding that for this to be achieved asylum seekers “must be transferred to the mainland to be provided with the necessary services.”

A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the government must further strengthen the national services on the island and although it has “scaled up” its capacity, urgent action is needed to “ease overcrowding and substantially improve conditions.”

“As you walk through the site you can see pregnant women and refugees in wheelchairs with their families in camping tents. Conditions are made worse by gaps in essential services such as access to medical care,” the spokesperson said.

But as the Greek economy remains crippled with debt the public health system in Greece remains in shambles. The public hospital in Mytilini has one psychiatrist and two psychologists, and limited or no capacity to take on extra patients. A mental health emergency remains as does its indistinct resolution.

This article was published online and in print.

‘No stone left unturned’ for restoration of Evangelismos Church | Neos Kosmos

Restoration of Melbourne’s oldest Greek Church Evangelismos will continue into 2018 as work to clean up debris and restore the extensively damaged ceiling continues, according to members of the committee managing the project.

Speaking to Neos Kosmos, Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) president Bill Papastergiadis confirmed the contracts to start the restoration were recently signed, and the first stage of the project will be completed soon.

He said workers are currently on site with a superintendent, and that works are being run “professionally and appropriately”.

GOCM treasurer Marinis Pirpiris said there are some obstacles the team is facing, and stage two of the process is dependent on funding and heritage approvals but he remains optimistic.

“Churches take time to get built … there is lots of energy and passion to complete the restoration earlier,” he said.

A devastating fire in May 2016 rendered some original features unable to be fully restored. The Church of the Holy Annunciation was built by N Longstaff in 1901 to a design by noted architects Inskip and Butler. The design is drawn from French and German Medieval sources and presents a simple brick and terracotta design. It is heritage listed by the state of Victoria.

Mr Papastergiadis said while some features could be restored, others were “damaged beyond capacity to repair” adding that there is a special subcommittee appointed to locate and procure appropriate and equivalent types of antiquities.

“Or [we can] get the iconographers back to recreate [element] as best they can,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

Morea architects’ project leader Constantine Moschoyiannis has designed Greek Orthodox churches for over 30 years and said the church is significant for historical, cultural and heritage perspectives.

Mr Moschoyiannis said the building had not had an upgrade and was a testament to the original builders.

However, with the go ahead for stage one, stage two of the restoration could include a two-storey atrium with new facilities including toilets, a priest’s office and the altar, among other improvements.

Other changes proposed by Mr Moschoyiannis are pending approval.

Preventative measures to avoid future damage will be taken, in line with hertiage Victoria guidelines.

“No stone is being left unturned in terms of ensuring that it meets the high standards in terms of fire prevention,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

Mr Moschoyiannis said parishioners can expect to use the church by early next year.

This article appeared online and in print.

Photo by Neos Kosmos.

The rise of Hellenic doughnuts | Neos Kosmos

Purveyors of Oakleigh’s finest doughnuts, Yani and Nicholas Kabylakis talk to Neos Kosmos about doughnuts that ‘touch people’s hearts’

Working in the hospitality industry was never such a far-fetched idea for the Kabylakis brothers.

Born in Oakleigh to a Greek Australian mother and Greek father who migrated to Australia when he was 13, Yani and Nic Kabylakis had just the right amount of training, creativity and inspiration from their parents when they decided to launch one of Oakleigh’s newest dessert hotspots, the Oakleigh Doughnut Co.

Their parents were involved in the hospitality industry, serving speciality coffee in Melbourne’s CBD to a largely corporate clientele.

Day by day the brothers watched and learned from their parents – who were in the food game for over 30 years – and developed a finely tuned understanding of hospitality.

“My dad always said to me, and I’ll always remember, if you get up to the alarm clock every day and work hard, you will always do well in life,” Yani told Neos Kosmos.

The two brothers, “best friends, and business partners” say they have had a “good working relationship” for many years and coupled with a passion for their heritage, food and hospitality, they felt an idea brewing.

“We are always thinking of different concepts and we always sit down and have a chat over a coffee about different things,” Yani said.

“The idea was born sitting in Nic’s garage one day just having a chat and we thought why don’t we do this? There’s a bit of a doughnut boom at the moment.”

The Oakleigh Doughnut Co was born. But it wasn’t just about your standard doughnuts. They were Hellenic doughnuts, that are touching people’s hearts.

“Being Greek is such an amazing thing, and we’re very proud to be Greek and that’s why we wanted to produce really yummy doughnuts for the Greek community.”

The brothers behind The Oakleigh Doughnut Co, Nic and Yani Kabylakis.

Following from their coffee expertise, the brothers wanted to compliment their drink of choice and to offer something new to the suburb of Oakleigh.

“We wanted to get into the suburb of Oakleigh, we just didn’t know what we wanted to do and we thought we could come up with something really creative and do a little twist on some classic recipe flavours from your childhood and turn them into doughnuts,” he said.

They got down to business, came up with a taste of Greece through their Kabylakis twists, which include the ‘Galakdough’, ‘Bakladough’, and ‘Doloumba’ amongst the usual cacophony of Melburnian flavours ranging from strawberry cheesecake to Oreo.

“We wanted to start off by doing our heritage flavours and recipes and then we are going to branch out to different parts of the world,” Yani said.

Do they see their cultural background as a competitive advantage?

“Look you always need an edge,” he said.”I suppose doughnuts have been done. A lot of people are jumping on the doughnut bandwagon, trying to make a dollar. But we thought if we stick to our game plan and come up with a good concept – even if someone was to copy us – we’d sort of be the people that entered the market first with a concept like this.”

The brothers have been very hands-on from the get go, involved every step of the way.

“Every nail that’s hidden through the walls here, we were here for. We wanted to make sure we were part of everything. We had the vision. The challenge was to make sure everything was true to what we designed.”

But the question is, how did the Greek community take their cultural hybrid desserts? The Greek community has “definitely” accepted their doughnuts.

“We’ve had some elderly women sitting down having coffee, saying how beautiful the coffee is, and having a Galakdough and enjoying it,” said Yani.

“You can’t win absolutely everybody in business, and people may say that they will get the real thing, but the adventurous people and the people young at heart, they always love to try something new and that’s what we’re offering.

“We believe that’s the trend culture in Melbourne. There’s always something new for people to try.”

The Oakleigh Doughnut Co is located at 36 Portman St, Oakleigh, VIC. To see more of their delicious creations, follow them on Instagram@theoakleighdoughnutco

This article was published online on Neos Kosmos and in print.

Ho Ho Oh? Archaeologists find tomb of St Nicholas in Turkey | Neos Kosmos

A recent archaeological discovery underneath a Turkish church could shed light on the mysterious whereabouts of St Nicholas

A recent discovery of a tomb in the Church of St Nicholas in Demre, Antalya is believed to be that of St Nicholas – the man, the mystery and the legend that created Santa Claus.

While conducting “geo-radar surveys” of the 11th Century church as part of a restoration process, archaeologists came across an in-tact temple below the church.

Cemil Karabyram, head of Antalya’s Monument Authority told the International Business Times the team believes the “shrine has not been damaged at all” but due to the intricate mosaic pattern on the floor it will be “quite difficult to get to it”.

But the archaeologists will continue to find their way to the temple without damaging the Church.

The whereabouts of St Nicholas has always been a mystery, as historical records have suggested that he was buried in Myra but his bones were stolen and taken to the portside town of Bari, the capital of Puglia, where St Nicholas was the patron saint.

But Mr Karabyram has told the ABC in the US that those bones may have actually been the remains of another priest.

Like the mystic nature of Mr Claus himself, St Nicholas seems to have achieved the seemingly un-achievable.

St Nicholas was born in Patara, at the time located within Greece. St Nicholas became a Bishop early in his life and was renowned for his generosity, sharing his inherited wealth with the needy, love of children, sailors and ships.

The myth of Santa Claus may have just become that little bit more real. And just in time for Christmas.

First published online on Neos Kosmos. ,

Featured image: The church of St. Nicholas at Myra. Demre, Antalya. Türkiye, Abdullah kıyga, wikicommons.

Fair fares: Pressure builds to secure concession cards for postgrads | Mojo

Fares Fair PTV, a coalition of Victorian university student associations, is working to secure student public transport concessions for full-time postgraduate students.

The group claims the concession, which is available to postgraduates in all other states, would be beneficial as postgrads have the same limited earning capacity as undergraduate students.

Graduate Student Association (GSA) president Georgia Daly, who studies at Melbourne University, said there was a common misconception about postgrad students that put the issue on the backburner.

“There’s this perception that the average postgrad student is a 40-year-old coming back from work to get a promotion or to indulge in their intelligence,” Ms Daly said.

“But really, it’s me. I’m 24, I went straight through from an undergrad, I’m very poor, I’ve got no savings.”

The average annual income for full-time domestic postgraduates and higher degree students is $25,330 and $35,634 respectively, a report by the Centre for the Study for Higher Education shows.

Average hours that students work during the semester have also risen from 17 to 20 hours per week for postgraduate students, and 8 to 10 hours for higher degree students.

Victorian postgrads are the only graduate students in Australia without access to public transport concessions. Picture: Fares Fair PTV Facebook

Ms Daly said a public transport concession would mean not “having to do math” every time a student bought lunch during the week.

The group said they had been in touch with Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, and she told them the concession would not be extended to postgraduate students.

A spokesperson for the Minister said the department was helping those who needed it most, offering low-income postgraduate students access to concessions if they held a Health Care Card issued by Centrelink.

However, only a handful of postgraduate degrees are supported by Centrelink. These are Masters by Coursework and access is dependent on approval by Centrelink and the Social Services Minister after a university submitted a degree for consideration.

Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations vice-president Vibol Hy said not offering postgrads concessions was “extremely exploitative” as their earning capacity was “severely hampered” by course loads.

“We just need help during those years where we’re just struggling students,” Mr Hy said.

Sarah, a Juris Doctor student at Melbourne University, said it could be difficult because a many postgraduate students in law went straight from undergraduate to postgraduate study and were not able to work full-time.

“We’re not able to work as much, it’s a big difference and it would be nice to have a concession [as] it would definitely alleviate some stress financially,” she said.

Public Transport Users Association member Ben Lever said he supported extending transport concessions to full-time postgrad students in line with concessions for full-time undergraduates.

“There is no real reason to make a distinction between the two,” Mr Lever said.

He said an increasing number of students did postgraduate study to get jobs in their chosen fields and faced similar barriers to their undergraduate peers.

“[Postgrads] have highly variable work hours and incomes which make it harder to qualify for a Health Care Card concession even when their overall income is quite low,” Mr Lever said.

Ms Daly said the GSA had spoken to a number of politicians including the Parliamentary Secretary for Public Transport Ros Spence, who had been “really supportive”, as well as Melbourne City councillors and members of the Greens and Liberals.

“There’s quite a broad base of support for this. It’s just getting through to the right people that have the power to change it.”

Originally published on Mojo.

The Long Road Home | On Dit

The following interview was with David in 2009.

 

“When I was in primary school, and they asked you to put your hand up, asking what you wanted to be to be in life, I didn’t stick up my hand saying that I wanted to be a drunk on the street…” he laughs.

“I had a family, I had a house, I never thought that within six months that I’d be wondering the streets just looking for somewhere to sleep.”

David is homeless but he works as a vendor for the Big Issue.

David had completed a TAFE course, had a job, a home and was a sole parent with a 15-year-old daughter. However, after injuring his back at work one day, things took a turn for the worst. “Because I couldn’t do the work, I ended up as a host employ- ee, but I couldn’t do my job anymore and then my daughter decided to leave, so then I just decided to pack up and come to Adelaide for an adventure.”

“I ended up on the streets and because I didn’t have any referees I couldn’t get a unit or anything so I just started to self-medicate with alcohol.”

Defeated and what he described as a ‘snail drinker’, David then lived and drank in his car and would drink from when he woke until he went to sleep.

“I literally didn’t care about anything. My daily routine involved going to the ‘Salvation Detox’ in the morning for breakfast because they wouldn’t let me sleep there due to my sleep apnoea – they didn’t want me to wake the other clients, so from there I’d just go to Victoria Square,” he said.

He drank. He watched the trams. He watched everybody go to work and wondered about their lives.

“Then I’d go into the parklands and drink and dry off my clothes from the night before. When it came to evening I’d start looking around for somewhere to eat and find where I was going to sleep for the night.”

This was, for four years, David’s day-to-day routine. Helpless and homeless, he continued to live on the streets.

He was down to nothing; all that he had was a bag, the clothes on his back and some papers.

He reveals that it was hard, not just financially, but emotionally as well.

“You’re by yourself, you know, you get isolated and that brings on things like anxiety or social phobia. You sit there and you feel like you’re disconnected with society because you’re not doing the norm and you feel outcast. I didn’t feel a part of society.”

Homeless people do actually realise the position that they’re in; they can sense what others are probably thinking. And so, I ask David if it bothered him what other people thought of him.

“Well, there I was a total stranger, they didn’t know what was wrong with me, as far as they know I could’ve just gotten out of the psych ward,” he laughs.

And now from drinking in Victoria Square and living in his car, David has been housed for four years straight.

He has rebuilt his life.

Strangely, he tells me that he was ‘lucky’ he got caught drinking and living in his car. David was facing two years in jail, but the judge felt that the David of that time was not really himself, and left him with six months to prove to the court that he could do better.

From there he went into detox and began the gruelling process of going to various stabilising units. Eventually, he landed in a learning program and become a vendor for The Big Issue magazine.

“They filled that void, as in the loneliness, they gave me something to do during the day, it’s like you’re connected to something, you got a family, you know… I’d tasted what it was like to have a real life, and I wanted that back, so the rest was up to me.” David helped himself.

 

Now a grandfather with two grandkids, David has also reconciled with his daughter. “I had her phone number but my counsellor suggested that instead of talking about the old stuff and that, just to contact her on special occasions, like birthdays. So I did that, and she eventually contacted me.”

From thinking about other peoples lives, David thinks of his own, “I’m getting up, I’m with people, and knowing I’m going to be with friendly people, knowing that I’m not going to be alone anymore, is a good feeling.”

David lost the security blanket that can so eas- ily be taken for granted – his home. Nevertheless, through all his mishaps and misadventures he de- cided to turn things around, coming across some of the good Samaritans of Adelaide at The Big Issue. David found out that there is there no place like home, but there is nothing like having one.

Marriage equality campaigners vow to keep fighting after ‘disappointing’ ruling | The Age

Supporters of marriage equality have vowed to continue campaigning after the High Court gave a green light to the same-sex marriage postal vote.

Campaigning for the “yes” vote started almost immediately after the decision was handed down on Thursday afternoon, with supporters handing out pamphlets outside the High Court and neighbouring Flagstaff railway station.

But the verdict has stirred up real concerns among members of the LGBTI community who feared the debate had given rise to intolerance they had not seen in decades.

Wil Strack, 52, was among the campaigners outside court and said she was “very disappointed with the decision”.

“If it has to happen then now we need to go full swing into the campaign,” the Footscray woman said.

“It impacts on me, I’d like to marry my partner. We had a ceremony last year with our family and friends because we got tired of waiting.

“Now that we know the decision, we just really need to get on and campaign.

“We’d like it to be legal, the kids would like it to be legal. We’re expecting another grandchild next year and we’re sure our grandkids would like it to be legal as well.”

Preston woman Lee Gibbens said the decision was “like a death to the LGBTQI community” and said the debate had enabled a degree of homophobia.

While waiting at a bus stop last Friday, Ms Gibbens said a group of men in a car abused her and called out “f—ing dyke’ while stopped at a level crossing.

“I didn’t realise how I felt about it until later,” Ms Gibbens said.

“I was emotional and my housemate hugged me and I said, ‘I haven’t had that since I came out in the 80s’.

“I can handle it, I’m a mature-aged woman, but I worry about the kids and the parents that are in same-sex marriages, whether that be two men or two women, that have kids.”

Ms Gibbens said she wanted to be able to get married one day and described the High Court’s two-day hearing as “nasty” at times.

“I’m doing this for myself and my community and for the next generation. This is wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.”

“Malcolm Turnbull should be ashamed of himself.”

‘Yes’ campaigner Nicole Fedyszen is straight but was busy distributing pamphlets on the grey Thursday afternoon.

“It’s a sad day for equality, all we can do now, despite having to do this survey, we’re going to do it right,” she said.

“And every inch of free time I have is going to be spent pushing the ‘yes’ vote, reminding people to vote.

“It affects all of us personally. We want to live in a society where we all have equal rights, that’s the Australia I want to live in.”

This article appeared online at The Age and in print September 8.

Max and his three dads celebrate difference on Father’s Day | Sydney Morning Herald

This Father’s Day, seven-year-old Max will buy three presents for his three dads.

Kids at school often ask Max: “Where’s your mum?”

Max says he doesn’t have one. Instead he has a “special lady” who helped his dads have him.

“He knows there was an egg donor and there was a surrogate. We’ve explained the process so that a seven-year-old can understand it,” says one of his fathers, Jason Schutze-Stafford.

“He’s very proud of the fact that he’s got three dads in his life. It’s never been an issue for him. He’s very upfront about it.”

Jason, Wayne and Brendan – Jason’s former partner who still plays a role in Max’s life – are gay dads.

They brought a three-week-old Max home after what Jason described as a relatively smooth two-year overseas surrogacy process that calls for a DNA testing to ensure that Max would be an Australian citizen, and preparing passports and exit visas.

“We had moments of stress but also had moments of joy, feeling really blessed that we were able to have Max in our lives,” Jason says.

The men are honest with their son, having regular conversations with him about their modern family. “Every family is different; some have two mums, some two dads, the combinations may be different, but every family is perfect in their own way,” Jason says.

“We don’t judge anyone because they’re different, or because their family is different to yours or anything like that.”

There’s no doubt the family model in Australia is changing. There were 47,000 same-sex couples counted in the 2016 census, up from 33,000 relationships in 2011.

While one-quarter of female same-sex couples have children; for men it is just 4.5 per cent.

Jason has shared books on diversity with Max’s school to encourage conversations around families, difference and acceptance.

“There’s a large proportion of kids who do have mums so we’ve just reinforced the message around diversity and not to assume that every family is the same,” Jason says.

“On a day-to-day basis, our family is very similar to a lot of others in terms of the challenges that we face with the whole parenting and working balance.

“The real thing that I always encourage is to have the conversations with your kids about diversity – different is OK. There’s nothing to fear about difference and not to judge anyone because of that difference.”

This article originally appeared online at The Sydney Morning Herald and in print September 3.