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I have finally become ‘cool’ in the eyes of my children. My secret? Telling my boys that Mister Maker was going to be calling me. ‘That’s so cool Mum! You are so cool! Can you ask him how to make a rattle snake? Can you ask him to come to our house?’

It was at that moment I felt a bit nervous about the interview – and what I would tell my kids about Mister Maker afterwards. After all, I had to remember I wasn’t going to be speaking to Mister Maker, but the man behind the spotty vest and spiky hair, Phil Gallagher. It is always interesting when you interview someone who you see on television every day – there is a feeling that you know them already – so sometimes it can be a shock when they are not as you imagined them to be.

However, when my phone rings at 10.03am (only three minutes after our interview was scheduled), Phil apologies for keeping me waiting. I tell him it is fine because of my new ‘Cool Mum’ status and he laughs, asks all about the kids and tells me to say hi to them from him, and that he would love to see them at the show. He is lovely (cue Mum Crush) – and it is clear, from the onset, Phil loves being Mister Maker.

“Getting this job was the best day of my life and every day is even better,” he reflects. “It was always my dream to be a kids’ television presenter and the live shows have taken on a life of its own. It is beyond my wildest dreams.”

“I’m so excited to be coming back to Australia. This year we are bringing the biggest show we have ever done.”

I do not think Phil could ever have imagined how big ‘Mister Maker’ (and other series’ including Mister Maker Comes to Town, Mister Maker Around the World and the new Mister Maker Arty Party) would become since first airing on our screens in 2007. It now plays in over 100 countries and live shows are touring around the globe (he tells me that as well as touring around Australia and New Zealand, he will also be taking the latest live show to Hong Kong and across the UK later in the year).

Perhaps the popularity of the show comes from the fact that the show inspires parents to set up arts and crafts for children who are crying ‘I’m bored’, without fuss or expensive materials (and we know from Mister Maker’s ‘minute makes’ that you don’t necessarily have to put aside a whole afternoon to create something).

ARTY TIP: “Recycle and collect materials to use – something that is ordinary that you can turn into the extraordinary. Plan ahead and start your own ‘doodle drawer’.”

When I ask Phil what he believes is the main benefit of doing arts and crafts for children, he says the key thing is confidence. “When I was growing up I loved making things. I got a lot of pride from what I made, so I believe art and craft generates confidence,” he says. “That is not just for children but for grown-ups as well. I often have parents and grandparents talk to me after live shows and they say thank you because the show has shown them that they can be creative and they can be arty. That is the cause of the show at its very core – to teach simple techniques. Once that has been taught, we hope to inspire whatever age that they can have a go – and the materials are easily attainable. It makes me pleased and proud that people surprise themselves.”

(Breakout) MISTER MAKER’S FAVOURITE MAKE: Phil says ‘pom-pom bugs’ are his favourite arty make. “It was something I made with my grandad when I was little. I still have one I made over 30 years ago, which I treasure.”

The tour commences June 25 in Hobart – with performances following in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. For complete tour and ticket information go to livenation.com.au – and if you do see Phil out-and-about, Mister Maker loves meeting his fans. “Quite often it is the grown-ups that stop me first,” Phil says. “A lovely thing is that children don’t expect to see me in any other way than in my spotty waistcoat and spiky hair, so it can take a while for a child to comprehend what’s going on. It is lovely when people say hello – grown-ups and mini makers alike.”
What should I include in my child’s ‘doodle drawer’?
If your child’s art and craft box only consists of paper and pencils, Phil offers some of his top arty material inclusions:

  • Pom-poms (Phil says they are his favourite arty material)
  • Googly eyes (or you can use white stickers and draw on the eyes with a black pen)
  • Pipe cleansers
  • Gloopy glue

TIP: Not the glitter…If you curse Mister Maker when you are cleaning up glitter after your child creates a masterpiece they saw on the show, Phil offers a handy ‘glitter clean-up tip: “A piece of sticky tape is a good trick. Gently push it onto a surface and the glitter sticks to the tape.”
“I do apologise to all the grown-ups about glitter,” he says. “Quite often parents will come up to me with a smile, put their arm around me and say ‘Why, Mister Maker? Why the glitter?’. I apologise for that. If it’s any consolation, I find glitter everywhere. My mum came to my house yesterday and as I was making her a cup of tea she remarked how much glitter there was in my kitchen… It follows me everywhere.”

 

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

How to cure a headache during pregnancy? 

We’ve compiled a list of the best natural, at-home remedies to relieve your headache as quickly as possible!

by Henna Clark

Headaches are common in the initial months of the pregnancy. It varies from mild to severe, depending upon your health and lifestyle. It is very important that you take foods rich in fibers, antioxidants, vitamin C, CoQ10, and magnesium. You need adequate sleep as well as need to be properly hydrated to counteract its initial development.

Causes

Your body undergoes various changes during the initial months of the pregnancy, such as:

  • Change in hormone levels and volume of blood during the initial months
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure

Apart from these some of the other causes involve:

  • Stress
  • Eyestrain
  • Caffeine withdrawal symptoms for regular coffee drinkers
  • Dehydration due to frequent vomits in initial periods of your pregnancy
  • Migraines
  • Sometimes sinus infections are developed due to common cold, which is common during initial months of pregnancy

 

 

How to cure a headache during pregnancy? This is the question the majority of women ask, and they start taking various medications to get rid of it, which must be avoided. 

Always take the advice of your doctor before taking any medication to treat it, as doctors advice to avoid them. The reason being the unborn baby might get affected by certain medications that might harm their growth.

Aspirin is one of the medications which must be avoided, as it carries the risk of miscarriage and cardiovascular complications on the unborn child. Ergotamines are used for treating migraine pains. However, doctors advise not to use it. It causes birth defects if taken during the initial months of pregnancy.

There are various natural cures for headaches during your pregnancy. Which provides quick relief with no harm to you and your unborn child. The various natural remedies are as follows:

Relieving migraine pains

For migraine-associated headaches, you must avoid noisy surroundings and turn off your lights. Migraine suffering women are sensitive to them. Apart from these, having a sound sleep is also effective in relieving the pain. Sometimes sleep deprivation, less food, and water intake also causes migraines. Make sure you sleep well, regularly drink water, and have adequate food.

Processed and junk foods trigger migraine pains, completely avoid intake of this food to prevent migraines.

Cold compress

Apply an ice pack or towel dipped in cold water in your head while you take a nap. The Cold environment narrows the blood vessels in your head, which helps in providing relief to your headaches.

Warm compress

Apply warm compress on your eyes as well as on your nose for sinus-related headaches.

Consume water

As per the study, drinking enough water and consuming foods rich in water relieves headaches and is a preventive measure for stress and migraine-related headaches. Dehydration alleviates the symptoms of your headache and is the primary cause of migraines and stress-induced headaches.

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium controls the blood sugar and improves the blood circulation of the body. It helps in curbing the occurrence of headaches. Consume less magnesium at the beginning as too much intake leads to digestive issues. Some magnesium-rich foods are avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, legumes, tofu, whole grains, etc.

No alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates your body and causes headaches if consumed in excess. Its a strict no for pregnant women.

Adequate sleep

As per the study, people sleeping less than six hours suffered frequent headaches ranging from mild to severe.

Sleeping for seven to nine hours is a must for better health. Lack of sleep not only causes headaches but also has severe health complications. Having an adequate sleep is a natural way to cure headaches.

Essential oils

Essential oils such as peppermint and lavender oil are proven to be effective for headache relief. Apply these oils in your forehead or on your temples for better results. Lavender oil is also better known for relieving migraine headaches.

CoQ10 supplements

CoQ10 or coenzyme 10 is a mitochondrial nutrient that is present in all our cells. It releases energy and provides antioxidant support to the body. As we age, its proportions get reduced, which results in numerous health complications headache being one of them. Taking C0Q10 supplements helps in regaining the lost energy of your body and gets relief in your headache.

Acupressure

Acupressure points in our body are the natural healing points that give us quick relief from headaches. In your feet, locate a gall bladder 41 point between the 4th and 5th finger of your toe. This point is very effective for headaches. Take a deep breath and gently push that point for two minutes. If you find it difficult, then your partner can assist in doing that. For headaches caused due to stress and anxiety, there is another point in your foot called liver three to kidney one. You can locate it in between the thumb and first finger of your foot.

Apart from all these remedies, you need to avoid strong odors and fragrances as it triggers a headache.

The Bottom line is that these remedies have no side effects, and these are safe and efficient ways to treat your headache.

Author Bio:

Henna is a wellness lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to natural remedies, Ayurvedic, yoga and fitness through her writing. She currently writes for How To Cure. She can connect with others experiencing health concerns and help them through their recovery journeys through natural remedies

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0072975210970127

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15985108

Declaring your goals for a healthier year ahead can be exciting and empowering. You may have accelerated into 2020 with enthusiasm for the high expectations of what you will accomplish in the months ahead. Why then, is the reality of maintaining a new habit, so much easier said than done?

What exactly is a habit?

 

A ‘habit’ is defined as a behaviour we do automatically, requiring either very little or no thinking at all.

For example, loading the dishwasher every night after dinner is automatic. Brushing our teeth before bed?  Automatic. Purchasing that perfectly brewed cup of coffee each morning? Automatic. We have completed these behaviours repeatedly; therefore our brain requires very little effort to put these into action. It is expected. It is routine.

If habits require little effort, why is it so difficult to establish new ones?

The key to maintaining a new habit is having the opportunity for repetition.

Using the coffee example, every morning for as long as you can remember, you’ve been stopping at your favourite café on the way to work to buy that lovely cup of joy to help get you through your day. Perhaps in the beginning, before this ritual became established, you may have found it a bit of a challenge to go out a little earlier each morning to ensure you had enough time to grab your caffeine fix before work. And yet, following months of repeating this behaviour five days a week, it soon became second nature and now easily fits into your daily routine.

 

 

The science tells us that when we repeat a new behaviour, the nerves in our brain and nervous system are stimulated; this strengthens our neural pathways, which means over time, this behaviour becomes automatic.

We need to have an opportunity to repeat our new healthy habit, and this needs to fit easily into our day.

So, what exactly can I do to make sure I stick to my new healthy habit?

There are three steps we can take to help that new habit become more automatic:

 

1) You need to identify a behaviour that you want to become a habit. Make the behaviour clear and measurable. For example, you identify that you want to practice Yoga more often. You decide you want to practice one hour of Yoga, three times a week. Write this behaviour in your journal, or on a calendar.

2) You need a cue, something that will prompt you to complete this behaviour. This cue could be environmental, situational, physical, visual or auditory. For example, you may identify that the best time for you to practice Yoga would be your days off, after the school drop off. So the situational cue here would be returning home after dropping your children at school. Perhaps, you could even wear your workout clothes for the school run so that you are ready to go.

3) You need an opportunity to repeat this behaviour. How many times can you realistically fit Yoga into your week? You may identify the best time would be on your days off, when the house is quiet. This gives you the opportunity to repeat this behaviour three times a week.

Visual tools are great to help keep you on track. Check off your sessions on the calendar as you go, check in at the end of each week to see how you went. Do you need to amend the schedule to make it fit easier into your life? Make it work for you!

What barriers do I need to watch out for?

Disruption to your usual routine can be a potential obstacle. We are human; we get ill; appointments will crop up unexpectedly; our days off from work may change. Our lives are changeable and so we have to create contingencies. If you have a really busy week coming up and scheduling in three one-hour yoga sessions is too much, could you reduce the duration of your practice to just 30 minutes? Could you change your days? Remember, some things occasionally may take priority over your Yoga practice. Do not beat yourself up if you have to cancel a session; practice compassion and kindness to yourself. Move on with your day, reflect and get back on track the following week.

Be aware of your inner critic. Some of us live with an inner mean voice that will try and sabotage our progress. It can be easy to listen to that inner voice that tells you to give up, and tells you that you will never be able to reach your goal, but it is important you are able to close off that inner voice. Offer yourself the positive encouragement you would offer a friend.

You may also want to watch out for when the ‘honeymoon phase’ ends. When we make resolutions, we are often taken by the ‘high’ of their anticipated success. Vivid images of what we believe our lives will look like when we achieve our goals can often distract us from the journey itself. When we initially start implementing these habits, we feel excited by how easy it all seems, only this can soon change to feelings of ambivalence; the initial drive to change can slow down. It is important to acknowledge the end result is not the goal here; what is important is that you are making small changes to enhance your health.

Every step, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. So please be kind to yourself and express gratitude at all times.

The take-away

Be realistic; plan feasible opportunities for you to practice this behaviour.

Keep it simple; do not try and introduce lots of new behaviours at one time. Take it one at a time and add in other challenges at a comfortable pace as you progress.

Have patience; developing and maintaining a new habit takes time. For some, it takes 21 days, for others, it can be 90 days, or even longer. Have patience and enjoy the journey.

 

Movenpick Resort and Spa in Phuket ticks all the boxes for a satisfying and enjoyable family holiday.

Set in the family-oriented precinct of Karon Beach, Movenpick Resort and Spa is a wonderful choice for families holidaying in Phuket and is one of my favourite resorts to go with children.

The location is ideal, with a beautiful beach, and many dining, shopping and entertainment options, all within close walking distance.

The hotel caters for all families’ needs with a Kids Club, four swimming pools and six fantastic restaurants offering a very high standard of food.

Additionally, the resort provides daily water activities and a complimentary Chocolate Hour – A Movenpick original feature – which includes a selection of chocolate sweets and treats.

 

The standard of accommodation is exceptional.

We stayed in a Two Bedroom Family Suite which was perfect for a family, set amongst the lovely tropical gardens and very closely situated to the main family pool area. In fact, it was the best hotel accommodation in which I have experienced with my two children – so spacious, well facilitated and in a great position opposite the Little Birds Kids Club.

It has a large screen TV in the family area and in each of the bedrooms, which includes a good range of family-friendly channels, including Nickelodeon.

We were able to use the hotel’s X Box too which the kids enjoyed and suited me when I felt like an afternoon siesta.

This accommodation is massive with a large living space, adjoining bunkbed bedroom, a King and Twin bedroom, each with their own generous en-suites.

This space easily accommodates a family of six. It has three mini bars which all included complimentary tea and coffee facilities

The family style accommodation is positioned close to the The Little Birds Kids Club, for children aged 4 to 12, which offers many creative and stimulating activities for the children including soap making, candle making, tie dyed t-shirt creating.

 

We spent many hours relaxing around the fabulous main family pool area, which features a large free form swimming pool, swim up bar and water slide, as well as daily water activities.

There are an additional three public pools on site and some private accommodation offers its own plunge pools.

Movenpick Resort and Spa has six fantastic restaurants which serve amazing cuisine across a variety of International styles ranging from Thai to Brazilian.

We enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast each morning which included a large variety of international cuisine at Pacifica, which also offered a-la-carte Thai and western lunch and dinner.

OrientAsia serves the most scrumptious Thai food, as well as an array of other Asian fare. It was fresh and delicious, and the décor was tasteful and authentically Thai, creating a delicious local experience.

The hotel’s Mint restaurant offers a cool, fun, evening vibe with lots of yummy share plates, oven baked pizzas and refreshing cocktails, in an alfresco balmy setting opposite the beach.

My favourite dining option I experienced while in Phuket, was at El Gaucho Restaurant – Movenpick’s Brazilian restaurant, which offers churrasco – where we were able to choose from a succulent selection of grilled prime cuts, served straight from a skewer at our table. It was a fun and special experience, and the meat was cooked perfectly.

Another unique feature offered at Movenpick is the Chocolate Fondue experience at Café Studio. I have never encountered an experience like it. It was creative and extensive, including a large range of fruits and baked treats with melted chocolate and Movenpick’s own signature ice-cream. It has to be tried to be believed!

The Spa at the resort is very special. Aromatic oils, gentle music and comfortable furnishings create a soothing ambience and my Thai massage was exquisite!

The staff at Movenpick are delightful – warm, friendly and helpful. Staying at this resort was a wonderful experience for me and my children.

JW Marriott in Phuket is a fantastic choice for a family holiday, offering a magnitude of activities and dining experiences, all to a five-star standard.

 

JW Marriott in Phuket is set on Mai Khao Beach, which provides a fresh, ocean breeze throughout the grounds of the hotel, and is ideal for walking along its long stretch of sand.

 

The resort is exceptionally well-facilitated with six restaurants, a large gym, spa, three swimming pools and a huge array of activities on offer.

A highlight for my children and myself was a personalised cooking class offered by a top Thai chef at the hotel’s Ginja Cook Cooking School.

We made juicy, delicious, prawn cakes, a fresh and spicy chicken noodle salad and warm, rich duck red curry. It was fun and a feast, while learning some useful culinary skills.

We also visited the local fresh food markets with the chef, which was novel and educational, as we learnt about local ingredients and cooking techniques

The kids club hosts many activities; my children’s favourite included tie dying t-shirts and a pirate treasure hunt in which they followed a map around the hotel locating lollies.

The hotel offers a large range of accommodation styles, with classy and attractive furnishings and décor throughout.

We stayed in a Deluxe Terrace room, which is one of the smaller accommodation options on offer, and it was ample for me and two children. I slept in the King bed and they slept on a Queen size futon which was converted from a sofa children’s sitting area.

 

The range of health and wellness activities on offer was particularly impressive. My 11-year-old daughter and I did a singing bowl meditation class which was a good way to de-stress, bond and nurture ourselves.

JW Marriott Phuket has created some appealing Wellness Packages, some of which are tailored specifically for families.

The food at all the restaurants was excellent. My personal favourite was Ginja Taste, at which I enjoyed the best Thai food I’ve ever had, with the soft-shell crab the best dish. The menu and range of flavours offered at this restaurant was expansive.

The Kabuki Japanese restaurant was a total hit with the kids! It offered an entertaining Japanese Cuisine Theatre experience – complete with a chef doing a personalised Teppanyaki-style – live cooking show for us, which was humorous and animated. The food was fresh, delicious and plentiful.

 

 Shedding a light on hearing impairment within Indigenous communities.

Aboriginal people are 10 times more likely to suffer from ear diseases than non-indigenous people, and only seven per cent of Aboriginal children in remote communities have healthy ears.

Australian Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Dr Kelvin Kong recalls a remarkable encounter; “In a community in central Australia I visited, the health worker was baffled by a patient, a little girl. She called me over to have a look and it was a normal healthy eardrum. She’d never seen one before.”

What is otitis media?

The Department of Health defines otitis media, as the term used to describe all forms of inflammation and infection of the middle ear. Infections can present with middle ear fluid or persistent discharge, and can be chronic or acute. Unless corrected by surgery, chronic infections can lead to long term, and in some cases, permanent hearing loss.

The report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, highlights otitis media as the key condition contributing to hearing loss among Indigenous children. A condition that is treatable and preventable.

How is otitis media treated?

There are generally two ways to treat otitis media; one is through an operation called Myringotomy, whereby surgeons make an incision in the eardrum to relieve pressure caused by excessive build-up. Alternatively, surgeons perform a Tympanoplasty, which is reconstructive surgery used to treat a perforated eardrum.

What causes otitis media?

Data from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey of 2014-15, highlights how poor socio-economic factors may contribute to an increase in ear infections. Over nine per cent of Indigenous children living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged households had hearing problems, compared with just over six per cent of Indigenous children living in the least disadvantaged homes. Poor hygiene, overcrowded housing and inadequate access to clean running water and functioning sewerage, can all increase the risk of developing ear infections.

Many Indigenous families live in remote areas; this is associated with decreased access to key health services. A lack of coordinated, accessible and culturally sensitive health care services in remote areas can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment for ear infections.

Research shows one in five indigenous children in rural and remote areas wait longer than the recommended period of three months for audiology testing.

Reduced awareness of essential health information has led to higher numbers of premature births, low breastfeeding rates and nutritional deficiencies, all of which increase the risk of otitis media in children.

Why should we be concerned?

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) explains that 0-4 years is the critical age range for laying down neural pathways relating to language and speech, it is therefore imperative children’s hearing during this period, is properly functioning.

Sadly, statistics show on average, Indigenous children having to wait until the ages of five and six, before having their first hearing aid fitted.

Hearing problems at such a young age can lead to poorer outcomes in areas of expressive language; vocabulary; language memory and speech intelligibility. Poor development in these key areas can increase the risk of behavioural problems such as irritability, disobedience and poor school attendance.

Beyond the education system, these problems are closely associated with higher rates of social isolation, limited employment options, low income and increased contact with the criminal justice system.

The final report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991) was the first to comment on the relationship between childhood ear disease, poor school performance and their connection to involvement in the criminal justice system. An alarming 90% of Aboriginal prisoners at Darwin Correctional Centre showed signs of hearing loss, while this figure increased to 95% in Alice Springs.

On a spiritual level, the art of story telling within Indigenous families forms a crucial part of their cultural identity. If children are unable to hear stories of their family history, they will not be able to share these with future family members, causing far-reaching inter-generational difficulties. A crisis of personal identity is strongly correlated with reduced self-esteem and an exacerbation of mental health problems.

How can improvements be made?

The key is prevention and early intervention. NACCHO suggests increased awareness of the importance of basic hygiene skills such as washing hands and faces can help reduce the risk of ear infections, along with timely immunisations and healthy food choices.

The Department of Health put forward recommendations to improve the training of health care practitioners to ensure Indigenous children who attend primary health care are appropriately screened or treated for otitis media and hearing loss.

Greater coordination of research and collaborative health and housing initiatives, developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bodies is recommended to address the barriers and exclusion many Indigenous families encounter.

The Department of Health are also calling for education strategies to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Such an initiative has been trialled in remote parts of Western Australia, whereby teachers are using microphones and speakers in classrooms to create a more inclusive learning environment. The teachers have reported increased attentiveness, reduced frustration and report that students appear much happier and confident in themselves.

What does the future look like?

Data shows that the proportion of Indigenous children with poor ear health has fallen in the last 15 years thanks to the introduction of a range of Government prevention programs such as The National Healthy Ears, Better Hearing, Better Listening program, which offers diagnosis, treatment and management of ear and hearing health for Indigenous Children and young people aged 0 to 21 years.

Outreach programs; such as the Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment Hearing Health Program (NTRAI HHP) have also shown promising results. The results, following their delivery of specialist ear and hearing services to high risk Indigenous children and young people in remote parts of the Northern Territory have shown so far, of the children who moved through the NTRAI HHP, 51% had improved hearing loss and 62% had improved hearing impairment over time.

There is hope that improvements can be made, however there needs to be continued awareness, understanding and support if there is to be success in improving the health and social outcomes of Indigenous children across Australia.

Melbourne mother of four and body positive artist, Tania Sutton (44), shares how she escaped the shackles of the destructive eating disorder that took over her life. She recovered for the sake of her family.

*Please be aware some readers may find this content triggering.

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tania recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Eating disorders creep into your life without realising it. Tania remembers the promises Ed made to her in the beginning: “It starts out like a new friend, teaching you ways to make you happier, ways to cope and a promise to you that as long as you follow all the rules, you will reach some sort of enlightenment.”

Eating disorders occur for various reasons, including genetic vulnerability, psychological factors and social-cultural influences. Figures show the prevalence of eating disorders is rising rapidly; Beyond Blue reports one in four Australians know someone who has experienced an eating disorder.

Tania struggles to pinpoint the exact cause of her eating disorder, but believes her need for perfectionism and sensitivity about her physical appearance were predisposing factors.

Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender, body size, age and socio-economic factors.

From a young age, Tania felt a constant sense of anxiety; if she was unable to do something exactly right, this fed her belief something was fundamentally wrong with her.

Tania describes an intense need to be accepted by others. “Anytime someone else was complimented on their physical appearance, it reinforced the idea I wasn’t good enough.” Yet, when she received compliments, especially in relation to her body size, it fuelled her desire to continue the behaviours that led to the compliment.

As time went on, Tania struggled to separate herself from her eating disorder. The voice of Ed grew stronger, convincing Tania to punish herself through under-eating in order to equal out all of the perceived faults in life.

“If I was thin, then I would be happy, people would like me and possibly love me.” The truth was, Tania was loved, but her eating disorder made her believe those around her were only pretending, “I felt like I didn’t belong in society, I was a failure, disgusting and unlovable.”

Tania describes how weak she became, both mentally and physically. “Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window”. She believes this is part of what makes seeking help so difficult, “My thought process was really obscure to everyone else, but to me it made perfect sense. I was convinced I could never get better, I believed everyone was out to see me fail and therefore if I gave up Ed and followed a treatment plan, I would have failed and I couldn’t do that.”

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tana recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Becoming a mother and seeing her body grow and change only emphasised Tania’s preoccupation with her appearance. Feeling incompetent as a parent reinforced to Tania that she needed to keep punishing herself. The use of restrictive behaviours and keeping herself busy became a form of self-punishment she believed would somehow cancel out her perceived inadequacy as a parent.

Tania remembers trying to be there for her children and doing the best she could, but never being able to feel fully present. Tania describes her head as a “battle ground” which led to her being distracted and irritable.

Tania greatly resisted treatment for a long time, deleting her therapist’s number on several occasion. She would lash out verbally at her treatment team and remembers one incident where her GP refused to allow her to see her weight. “I was furious because in my eyes this meant I was not allowed to see what kind of a day I was going to have; at that time the number on the scale would define a good or a bad day.”

Tania’s eating disorder behaviours continued until something convinced her to make a change. Tania recalls driving home from an appointment; her daughter was going through a particularly difficult time, and despite Tania’s best efforts she felt she could not be fully there for her daughter. The eating disorder voice grew louder and louder until it was screaming in her ear, blaming her for everything that was wrong. Tania knew her daughter needed her, but she was chained to her eating disorder. It was at this point she decided to seek help.

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”  Although she could never find the strength to recover for her own sake, her family became the motivation she needed.

Tania was fortunate enough to be referred to a psychologist and a dietitian, who each had a special interest in eating disorders and with whom Tania instantly connected.

Recovery was tough, Tania recalls. “I had to relearn to trust my body and myself. I had to let those close to me, my husband and treatment team, be in charge of what I needed.”

Tania credits her family’s support for helping her to recover; “They helped me fight when I didn’t want to anymore, they loved me at my worst and stood by my side.”

Tania says recovering from her eating disorder has enabled her to be a better mum, “we had our fourth child after I had decided to not engage with Ed and I am able to play with him much more; I played with my other kids, but mentally I wasn’t there, now I am.”

“The first time I went out in public after deciding to no longer engage in Ed’s demands, I was in a shopping centre with one of my daughters and I turned to her said ‘wow, it’s so bright and colourful in here’, the eating disorder made my world so dark and dull. The world is literally more colourful without Ed.”

Tania now has four children aged between five and 22 and uses her own experience to teach her children “to question what they see and hear when it comes to societal beauty standards in the hope they will adopt a healthy attitude.”

“Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window.”

Tania no longer engages in eating disorder behaviours. She enjoys food and appreciates her body; she no longer weighs herself, as it no longer bothers her what size she is. “I have realised my weight does not equal my worth.”

In choosing Recovery, Tania simultaneously unleashed her creative side. “Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

Tania uses her talent and love of painting, drawing and printmaking to create figurative and portraiture art work, t-shirt prints and bag designs that spread mental health awareness. Tania recently had the pleasure of designing the logo for the ‘Body Positive Expo’ that was held in Melbourne; an event which united hundreds of people, sharing their own experiences of disordered eating and negative body image. Tania’s eye-catching logo depicted the individuality of all body shapes and sizes to celebrate their uniqueness.

Recovery is something Tania is still working on. She makes sure she does something every day to support her mental health and reaches out when she is struggling.

“Sure I have days where I don’t feel so confident in my skin or in myself but that’s because I’m human. Now though, my thoughts aren’t taken over by self-hate.” She also describes her relationship with food as being healthier than it has ever been: “I honour my cravings and listen to my body. I trust my body and I treat it with love as it is my closest friend.”

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“Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

 

Figures show fewer than 25 per cent of people with an eating disorder receive the care they need. Tania hopes her recovery journey and the messages she conveys through her art will reduce the stigma and encourage others to seek help.

“Mental illness is not a choice, but Recovery is. It’s not always easy to work through our struggles but if we push ourselves in a gentle and nurturing way we can come through the other side.”

You can check out Tania’s incredible and inspiring art work on her Facebook page, Tania Sutton Artworks, or follow her on Instagram, @tania_sutton_artist

If you have been affected by any information in this article, please reach out to your GP, health professional or contact an organisation such as the ones listed below:

www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

www.au.reachout.com

www.beyondblue.org.au

Poem – written by Tania Sutton

She stands there beaming smile
There is laughter and cheer
She is so content and happy
Friends all around her

She stands there panic stricken
There is turmoil and torture
She is drowning in poison
All alone in a crowd

She stands there as the same
There are two people in one
She is only known as one
The other is a secret.

LOCKED IN A BUBBLE
You have me locked in a bubble
I can see what you are doing
Yelling out for you to stop
My efforts going unheard

You have locked me in a bubble
Sometimes I see a faint glow
Mostly just darkness
Trying desperately to find the light

You have me locked in a bubble
I want to trade places
But I can’t find the key
Please let me out.

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Gender reveal videos are the latest social media craze for expectant parents looking for a fun way to disclose the gender of their baby-to-be. However, an increasing number of couples, including many celebrities, are opting to forgo this trend in order to raise their children gender neutrally.

In 2019, the leading children’s entertainment company, <a href=”https://news.mattel.com/news/mattel-launches-gender-inclusive-doll-line-inviting-all-kids-to-play”>Mattel</a>, launched ‘The Creative World’ doll range, enabling children to choose from a range of skin tones, hairstyles, clothes and styling options.

“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” says <a href=”http://www.barbiemedia.com/bios/executive.html”>Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design.</a>

Is now the time to embrace the progressive initiative of gender-neutral parenting?

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>So, what does ‘gender-neutral’ actually mean?</em></strong></span>

The term ‘gender neutral’ relates to avoiding the assignment of roles and expectations based on someone’s gender.

The goal is to move away from stereotypical assumptions and encourage increased creativity and freedom for individuals to choose who they want to be.

Many feel growing up in a gender-neutral environment increases one’s tolerance of others.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>Why should we encourage gender-neutral parenting?</em></strong></span>

Encouraging boys to only play with trucks when they really want to play with dolls, for example, conveys a message that their true desires are not valid. Growing up in an environment where a child feels they need to hide their true self could lead to problems later in life as the child faces an ongoing internal emotional battle.

Many feel growing up in a gender-neutral environment increases one’s tolerance of others.An understanding that people can choose how to dress and which sports they enjoy, regardless of gender, can mean they meet  with acceptance rather than judgement.

Some argue that a lack of diversity in the workplace begins in childhood when gender is often assigned to certain hobbies and interests – girls dressing up as nurses and a boy dressing up as a builder, for example – conveying a message these jobs are gender specific. Increased exposure to the possibility of male nurses and female builders could enhance a child’s freedom when choosing a career.

The way in which we respond to our children when they are scared or upset can reinforce gender stereotypes<em>. </em>When boys cry, some parents feel they need to show less compassion to encourage resilience, whereas girls are often shown more affection. Perhaps if we removed these gender specific responses, we may encourage our sons to grow up unafraid of expressing emotions.

Supporting children to express themselves authentically and make choices based on what feels good to them could help nurture increased creativity and strong self esteem.

Some argue that a lack of diversity in the workplace begins in childhood when gender is often assigned to certain hobbies and interests.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>How can we create a gender-neutral environment?</em></strong></span>

For many, creating a gender-neutral environment means no longer buying blue for boys and pink for girls and choosing colours and images that do not enforce a particular gender stereotype.

It may mean ensuring household chores are gender-neutral, encouraging children to learn it is not just their mother who cooks the meals and it is not just their father who takes the rubbish out.

We could encourage children to play with all kinds of toys, have various hobbies, play a variety of sports and read an assortment of books. Enabling children to see that girls also play football, boys can practice ballet, girls play with trucks and boys play with dolls, for example, helps children develop a mixture of interests and skills.

For some, raising children in a gender neutral environment can take a more extreme approach. In 2010, a Swedish couple opted to keep the sex of their baby, ‘Pop,’ a secret to discourage stereotypes being placed on their child. Many are following this example and choosing to not use the pronouns ‘him’ or ‘her’ at home, opting for ‘they’, which is deemed more gender inclusive.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>Could gender-neutral parenting cause harm?</em></strong></span>

<a href=”http://lindablair.co.uk/?LMCL=uvrFql”>Clinical Psychologist, Linda Blair</a>, feels parents may be doing a disservice to their children. Linda argues that ‘between the ages of three and seven, children are searching for their identity, a part of which, is their gender.’ Children want to feel a sense of belonging and ‘fitting in’. Avoiding the assignment of a gender may make a child feel confused about who they are and where they fit in a society where gender roles remain prominent.

There is a concern that once a child starts school, their gender-neutrality may open them up to ridicule and bullying. Most children grow up in traditional households where gender is assigned at birth, which could make school years incredibly difficult for those who do not identify with a specific gender.

Many worry that children will grow up without a strong sense of their own identity and will never truly feel they belong. This may impact on their emotional wellbeing as they grow into adulthood.

The way in which we respond to our children when they are scared or upset can reinforce gender stereotypes.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>What does the future hold?</em></strong><em> </em></span>

Many feel it will not be long before gender-neutral education systems are introduced. A preschool in <a href=”https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14038419″>Sweden</a> has taken the lead on this, being the first of its kind to create a gender neutral environment, offering a variety of gender inclusive books, toys and sports; the use of pronouns that assign gender is also not allowed, opting instead for the term ‘friends’, ‘they’ or the genderless pronoun ‘hen.’

While some feel raising children in a gender-neutral environment will support their emotional wellbeing, others still worry it will create a childhood of confusion. When one of the largest doll making companies in the world introduces a more inclusive doll range, it is reflective of our ever evolving society in which gender identities are becoming more fluid.