Reading helps toddlers start school: research by QUT and Charles Sturt

Study: Having lots of books is great for children’s school performance. Photo: SuppliedGrowing up in a home with lots of books and being read to as a toddler have a bigger impact on the performance of a child starting school than their temperament or socio-economic background, new research shows.
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To determine the best predictors of a child’s ability to be organised, pay attention and stay on task in class, Queensland University of Technology and Charles Sturt University researchers tracked nearly 3500 children from birth to age six. Overall girls did better than boys when they started school, as did children from higher socio-economic backgrounds, according to the data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

But the researchers found the quality of a child’s learning environment when they were toddlers was the most significant indicator of their ability to manage themselves at school.

“It was strongly predictive of academic, social and emotional outcomes later on,” said Sue Walker, an early childhood expert at QUT’s Faculty of Education.

Children who grew up in homes with lots of books and who enjoyed being read to for longer periods were most likely to perform well when they reached school. The research found a child’s learning environment at home was a better predictor of functioning than their temperament, ethnicity or the quality of their relationship with their parents.

“When they come to school they’re prepared to learn effectively,” said Associate Professor Walker, who will present her findings at an international behavioural development conference in Shanghai next month. “They can pay attention in class, stay focused on tasks, and keep belongings organised.”

Experts believe these executive functioning skills are more crucial for a child’s school readiness than their ability to read, write or count.

Professor Walker said that if a parent placed a high value on literacy, as shown by the number of books they had, they would read to their child regardless of their socio-economic status.

Being read to often increases a child’s vocabulary and enjoyment, and requires them to pay attention and remain engaged.

Professor Walker said any kind of engagement with a child when they were young would benefit their development, including involving them in music and playing games that focused on memory skills.

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Jane Goodall asks politicians: Do you really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren?

One of the most eminent conservationists in the world has condemned Australia for its lack of response to climate change and said the country ”needs a wake-up call”.
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Dame Jane Goodall, regarded as the first lady of conservation and a UN Messenger of Peace who has made a lifetime study of chimpanzees, accused politicians of having more concern for their immediate political careers than for future generations.

”I think my message to the politicians who have within their power the ability to make change is, ‘Do you really, really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren? Because if we let the world continue to be destroyed the way we are now, what’s the world going to be like for your great-grandchildren?’

”I am not deeply involved in Australian politics but I know there are prime ministers, governments around the world who are not acting responsibly in relation to climate change.”

She said there was a wisdom in the old days when decisions were based on how they would affect future generations.

”Now it is how will this affect me at the next election campaign or the next shareholders’ meeting.

”It’s when money becomes a god that we see this loss of wisdom.”

Dr Goodall spoke at Taronga Zoo to 300 young people on Friday and addressed a sell-out audience on Saturday night at Sydney Town Hall. She is on a lecture tour raising awareness of her Roots & Shoots program encouraging the world’s youth to take community action to help save the planet.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has downplayed the role of climate change in relation to droughts and bushfires.

But the Climate Commission, which the government abolished, reported in February that heatwaves were becoming more frequent and intense and lasting longer.

”Unfortunately, everything I read about Australia and its record in caring for the environment is not particularly good right now,” Dr Goodall said. ”I know that a lot of animal species are facing extinction particularly the mammals.”.

”I think Australians need a wake-up call because if action isn’t taken, and taken soon, then these creatures will be gone and they will be gone forever. Not enough people are aware of the number of animals that are endangered right now right across Australia.”

Roots & Shoots operates in 136 countries with 150,000 groups and encourages young people to get involved with projects that help people, animals and the environment.

At 80, Dr Goodall added: ”I can’t slow down while I know that the message I deliver around the world is having an impact and so I just have to go on because I do care about my great-great-grandchildren.”

Find out more about Roots & Shoots at

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Liaisons and Golden Apple brothel row fixed

Fight is over: Golden Apple Brothel in Kings Cross, left, and Liasons Brothel in Edgecliff. Photo: Steve LunamJailed nuerosurgeon Suresh Nair may be deported after release
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Threats and accusations are flying just days after a multimillion-dollar legal dispute over a Sydney brothel empire was settled.

The Sun-Herald can reveal Mark Gray and Hugh Bond finally reached a confidential out-of-court settlement last week in their bitter ownership war over two of Sydney’s most expensive commercial sex parlours, Liaisons in Edgecliff and the Golden Apple brothel in Darlinghurst.

But Bond has been left all but broke – and seething – after his business adviser distributed almost all of the settlement to pay off a series of debts he had accumulated while he was pursuing a 50-50 slice of the two brothels.

While it remains unclear what the final settlement was, The Sun-Herald understands the majority was used to pay off a lump sum of almost $400,000 Bond owed to his former law firm, Gadens. A total of about $500,000 is also understood to have been dispersed among friends and associates who kept him afloat with loans while he was pursuing his claim.

When Bond had anticipated settling the outstanding bills is unclear, but in a threatening email delivered on Wednesday, an irate Bond wrote to his adviser: ”pls CALL me urgent. Your not stealing my last money. Because hell will rain down and God will make you suffer really bad.”

According to a source close to the case, Bond not only agreed to waive any entitlement to Gray’s brothels, he signed documents giving his adviser ”full permission” to settle debts, without realising the extent of his liabilities.

”It doesn’t look like he’s going to see any of the money he fought so hard to broker, and he’s bloody ropeable,” the source said.

When Bond and Gray gambled their savings on a Melbourne sex parlour named the Candy Club 20 years ago, nobody could have foreseen the twists and turns which, on paper, reached a conclusion last week.

The two men were best friends until 2010, when Bond requested written acknowledgment of a long-standing partnership in case he ever wished to cash in his chips in the business. It is alleged by Bond that when the Candy Club was sold, he took on a silent partner role as Mr Gray took their combined $130,000 to gamble on numerous other establishments, leading to the purchases of the Golden Apple and Liaisons.

Gray claims Bond never contributed a $65,000 share for the Candy Club, and alleges a crumpled note carrying their signatures was signed under duress.

When Gray brought the police into the dispute over alleged threats in May 2011, Bond fired back with the Supreme Court action, which seemed certain to end in a court case – until last week, when the two sides suddenly brokered a deal.

Aside from the email in which he threatened his long-time adviser, Bond is also alleged to have issued threats to his lawyer, Greg Artup of Hilton Lawyers.

A bad week for Bond became even worse on Wednesday, when he was convicted of assault in Sydney’s Downing Centre after a violent domestic episode involving his former long-term girlfriend Elizabeth Bell, who took out an apprehended violence order against him.

The short-term forecast is not looking any brighter for Bond, either – he is due to appear before Liverpool Local Court on Wednesday, when he will face two further charges, one of speeding and another relating to driving under the influence of drugs.

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Jailed surgeon Suresh Nair may be deported after release

A timeline of Suresh Nair’s life in Australia. Photo: Fairfax A copy of negligent neurosurgeon Suresh Nair’s entry from his Sydney University year book. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Suresh Nair

Threats still flying after legal dispute over Sydney brothel empire was settled

A Sydney neurosurgeon, jailed over the cocaine-related deaths of two sex workers, is facing deportation from Australia.

The Sun-Herald can reveal that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has instigated moves aimed at sending Suresh Nair back to his native Malaysia the moment he is freed on parole, possibly next month.

The extraordinary twist is possible because Nair – an Australian resident of more than 30 years – never became an official citizen. In the lead up to his conviction, the disgraced doctor did lodge an application for citizenship – but the paperwork was not processed.

”The minister has called for a submission in relation to his powers under the act for cancellation of the individual’s visa,” an Immigration Department spokeswoman confirmed.

Asked about Nair’s impending parole date, one of the senior NSW Police detectives who brought Nair to justice said: ”Can’t wait to see the back of him.

”We interviewed dozens of women during the course of our investigation, some recounting stories just as bad, if not worse, than those aired in court. I don’t ever want to hear that this has happened again.”

Nair was jailed in 2011 after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Suellen Domingues Zaupa, 22, who died of a cocaine overdose in his luxury Elizabeth Bay flat in November 2009.

He also pleaded guilty to supplying the cocaine that nine months previously killed another escort, Victoria McIntyre, 23, in the same unit.

While the deaths themselves were shocking, it was the doctor’s behaviour on the nights in question that sparked public outrage during his trial.

NSW Police forensic scientist William Allender described Ms McIntyre’s blood-cocaine reading as ”startling” and one of the highest he had ever witnessed. In Ms Zaupa’s case, Nair left her dead in his bed for almost two days as he moved the cocaine party to a nearby hotel and hired more escorts.

A Sun-Herald investigation last week revealed how, in the lead up to the first death, a chilling warning was distributed among all ”commercial sex establishments” identifying Nair as a violent client who had almost killed a worker.

Weeks later, HM Escorts delivered Ms McIntyre to Nair.

The investigation also revealed that in the months separating both tragedies, Nair was allowed to spend $145,000 on sex and drug binges inside Sydney brothel Liaisons, including one 25-hour orgy where he spent $56,405 – less than half of which was listed as sexual services.

The brothel’s own internal room records, viewed by The Sun-Herald, show $17,320 was listed as ”cash out”, $20,330 was referred to as ”advance” with the rest recorded as regular sex and a $450 tip. According to a legal statement signed by a Liaisons insider, ”tip”, ”cash out” and ”fantasy” were allegedly code names used to disguise the doctor’s cocaine purchases inside the premises.

Nair, who had initially been charged with murder, is now on the brink of freedom after his minimum five years and four months sentence was cut on appeal last year.

However, if police and the Immigration Minister have their way, he will be resuming life in Malaysia – a country in which he last resided as a small child.

Under section 201 and 501 of the Migration Act, a deportation order can be served on any Australian permanent resident who has committed serious crime. According to the laws, consideration is given to both the nature and circumstances surrounding the crime as well as the ”safety of the Australian community”. After migrating to Australia in 1980 at the age of 11, Nair went on to graduate from the University of Sydney, where his nickname was ”sex rash”.

Little did fellow students realise how accurate their yearbook jibes would turn out to be.

Referring to Nair as a ”sex maniac” with a ”chronic sociopathic disposition”, they added he ”may send shivers down patients’ spines at the knowledge he will soon be a doctor”.

He later secured work at Nepean Public and Private hospitals, where as far back as 2004, the NSW Medical Board knew of his ”severe” cocaine addiction.

But at the height of his wild rampages, the drug-addicted neurosurgeon was still allowed to perform surgery on patients at Nepean right up until the time of his arrest – despite twice being suspended.

A trail of botched operations and shattered lives has since emerged, although the exact number of medical victims is unknown because health authorities have never conducted an audit of his work.

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Stepping out allows time to free the mind

Social: John Brown (centre) and the Northside Running Group. Photo: Janie BarrettDavid Brown has stopped ”banging on” about running to his friends and family.
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Three years after the 51-year-old first got into the sport, he no longer describes with the passion of a zealot how running gives him more energy, creativity and clarity.

”I just do my thing,” says the Balgowlah resident and runner in The Sun-Herald City2Surf, presented by Westpac.

”The sense of freedom you get from running is amazing. Your phone doesn’t come with you, your responsibilities stay behind.”

Brown, who operates his own medical recruitment business, started off walking on Manly Beach, trying to get his head out of work. ”I was not a runner, definitely not.”

But after being invited to join the Northside Running Group, which has about 400 members, he found himself training for ultramarathons and now runs four times a week.

Asked how he makes the time, Brown gives a three-word response: ”Don’t watch TV.”

Running, he says, also leads to a better sense of perspective. Sports and exercise psychologist Jeffrey Bond says running provides mental benefits in at least three ways.

”There’s a lot of research that shows moderate exercise releases endorphins,” he says.

”The second reason is that running is a relatively automated activity, which means you can run and think at the same time. A lot of people use it to clear their head.”

Fourteen kilometres is far from an ultramarathon, but for Brown, the sense of freedom will still be there.

Start preparing now: training programs at www.city2surf南京夜网.au/training-plans.

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