Julia Baird

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Senator Sarah Hanson-Young at an Australian Greens news conference at Parliament House in February. Credit Michael Masters/Getty Images

Slut shaming — that is, turning women’s sexuality into a weapon that can be used against them — may be a new term, but it is an ancient practice in Australia.

The first ship to arrive here after the First Fleet, which brought our earliest settlers, was the Lady Juliana, in 1790, which carried female convicts and is to this day referred to as a “floating brothel.”

As recorded by the historian Sian Rees, the passage of these women — many of them former London prostitutes who had been banished to the colonies as penance — exemplified the true burden of slut shaming: its permanence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia’s Gulag Archipelago

In 2009, 5,609 people traveled to Australia in tiny cramped boats, seeking refuge. By 2012, it had rocketed to 25,173. Kevin Rudd, the prime minister at the time, vowed that no one who tried to get here by sea would ever be allowed to settle. The opposition party successfully ran on a slogan of “Stop the Boats” in the next election, and by 2014-15, the numbers were down to 158. Now it is virtually zero. And the success of this approach has meant the number of people in detention more generally has plummeted: in 2013 there were almost 2,000 children in onshore and offshore detention; now there is little more than a hundred.…  Seguir leyendo »

It's about time Britain was led by a “bloody difficult woman,” as the new leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, Theresa May, was described by a Tory grandee.

The term “boys’ club” seems to have been coined for the men who led Britain so clumsily to Brexit, without predicting the result, thinking through the consequences or mapping out a plan. Their résumés are studded with all the hallmarks of privilege: Eton College, Oxford University and the Bullingdon Club, the secretive student dining society, notorious for its right-wing politics and legendary debauches. The former prime minister David Cameron, the former mayor of London Boris Johnson and the former chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne were all members.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just after midnight a few days ago, a small crowd gathered in a jungle clearing on Nuksakambangan, a prison island in Indonesia.

It was an awful, terrifying moment. And so powerful it seemed strangely holy.

A row of eight men, tied to wooden crosses, with arms outstretched and feet bound, faced a firing squad. The men wore white shirts. A black cross was taped on the chests of the condemned to show where their hearts were.

All eight refused blindfolds, choosing instead to look their executioners in the eye. As they waited for the gunfire, the men — from Australia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil and Ghana; all convicted of offenses related to drug smuggling — sang hymns.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has been a long time since a prince toppled a prime minister.

But this is what could happen in Australia. When the adamantly monarchist prime minister, Tony Abbott, announced that he was going to make the heavily titled, gaffe-prone Prince Philip a knight, the nation laughed — then groaned. And now, as a direct result of his action, his party will be voting this Tuesday to decide whether it should be allowed to vote for another leader.

It was not that Mr. Abbott’s ardent affection for the royals was a surprise. He previously served as executive director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and at his signing in, he swore allegiance to the queen, unlike his two predecessors, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sydney, Australia. Credit Steve Christo/Associated Press

Australia's remoteness is, for those of us who live there, possibly the greatest thing about it.

We are, in the main, undisturbed. There have been some exceptions; in the Second World War, Japanese planes bombed us in the north, and their midget submarines slunk into Sydney Harbor in the south, sinking a ferry. But generally, we are safe.

This is the way we like it. (Even if we had a rather awkward debate about whether a former prime minister actually called us “the arse end of the world.”) The author Bill Bryson probably spoke for a lot of Americans when he wrote, “Australia is mostly empty and a long way away.…  Seguir leyendo »

The curious thing about sharks is that the people who have the most to fear from them — surfers, swimmers, paddlers — fear them least.

I was emerging from the subway at West 72nd Street, a couple of years ago, when my father called to tell me that an eight-foot shark had glided under him as he was catching waves at Manly Beach in Sydney. The adrenaline thinned his voice; it took days for the shock to wear off, but he was back in the water the next day. My older brother has had a great white try to knock him off his board with its tail while surfing on a remote beach in New South Wales.…  Seguir leyendo »

How We Misread Renée’s Face

Some physical flaws are apparent from birth. Others are pointed out to you.

I never realized that I had a reasonably big nose, for example, until someone made a joke about it at a dinner. A short time later, a newspaper artist who specialized in caricatures was asked to draw a cartoon of me to run with my columns. In it, my nose curved so far around my cheek that it almost tickled my ear. I can still remember the roaring laughter of my editor when she saw it.

When the artist asked me what I made of my likeness, I stared at the floor and mumbled.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Queen’s Forbidden Love

Their relationship titillated a nation. For more than a century, biographers have tried to fathom the improbable friendship Queen Victoria had with her Scottish servant John Brown. It has been posited as one of the great unanswered questions of her reign. How intimate were they?

New evidence suggests that the world’s most powerful queen had a passionate relationship with Brown, a man far below her station, something not unusual today but unthinkable then. We have tended to think of Queen Victoria as strait-laced, so we may have misread the evidence. Still, whether it was ever in any way sexual, or just extremely close, is impossible to know.…  Seguir leyendo »

It will be remembered as one of the most ignoble moments in our history: On July 17, Australia became the first country to repeal a carbon tax.

The deputy leader of the Greens Party, Adam Bandt, said it was “the Australian Parliament’s asbestos moment, our tobacco moment — when we knew what we were doing was harmful, but went ahead and did it anyway.”

The tax, or carbon-pricing mechanism, had defined three elections, destabilized three prime ministers and dominated public debate in this country for eight toxic years. Finally, the leader of the center-right Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, won the last election in part by promising to “ax the tax.”…  Seguir leyendo »

At last, we have a military leader who refuses to allow male soldiers who witness rape to think of themselves as guiltless bystanders.

Every soldier has a “simple, terrible choice: to be a protector or a perpetrator,” says Lt. Gen. David Morrison, the head of the Australian Army. There is, he said in a London forum, no other choice, either in cases of a soldier witnessing a rape by another soldier, or by civilians in war zones. “I have deliberately excluded a third choice, to be a bystander while others commit sexual violence. There are no bystanders — the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”…  Seguir leyendo »

It all started, as is so often the case, with an insult to a powerful man’s wife.

But the man who divulged it was in another hemisphere.

Edward Snowden was roughly 15,000 kilometers away in Russia when the Asia-Pacific erupted with revelations that Australia had spied on the cellphones of the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as eight members of his inner circle and, most provocatively, his wife of 37 years.

The suspension of relations between Australia and Indonesia, two of the most powerful nations in the region, was swift and dramatic. And the consequences of this latest leak from Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Huge clumps of strange, pink-stringed jellyfish drifted into the protected bay near my home in Sydney last year. Thousands swarmed under the surface, stinging indiscriminately. I swam through them in a full-body wet suit for several long months with my swimming group, wondering if warmer currents had changed the habitat patterns. Scientists are now talking about a peculiar “jellification” of the sea, prompted by climate change. We smeared ointments on our faces and packed antihistamines and creams for the red welts on our exposed skin.

Last month, smoke hung over the water as we swam, and charred leaves fell onto the beach.…  Seguir leyendo »

When asked to explain why he was running for a seat in the Australian Senate while holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange quoted Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Plato was “a bit of a fascist,” he said, but had a point.

Imagine the chagrin Mr. Assange must feel now, given that not only did he fail to win a place in the Senate in the recent election, but he was less successful than Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Christopher Lane’s parents wore dark sunglasses throughout the news conference they held to address the “senseless” death of their son: their noses were red, their sobs uncontrolled, their grief raw.
Lane, 22, a star athlete from Melbourne on a baseball scholarship to a U.S. college, was shot in the back this month as he jogged alongside a road in Oklahoma. One of the three teenagers who, according to police, left him to die in a drainage ditch said: “We were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody.”

“He was just a kid on the cusp of making his life,” said Chris’s father, Peter Lane.…  Seguir leyendo »

The fastest way to lance a country’s anxieties about women and power is to appoint a female leader. For the three years and three days that Julia Gillard was prime minister of Australia, we debated the fit of her jackets, the size of her bottom, the exposure of her cleavage, the cut of her hair, the tone of her voice, the legitimacy of her rule and whether she had chosen, as one member of Parliament from the opposition Liberal Party put it, to be “deliberately barren.”

The sexism was visceral and often grotesque.

There were placards crying “Ditch the Witch,” toys designed for dogs that encouraged them to chew on the fleshier parts of her anatomy, and, most recently, a menu offering “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail — small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Uluru, the large red rock in the Australian outback, is a sacred site for aboriginal people. Photographs do not convey how dramatically it looms: an enormous crimson heart in the middle of thousands of miles of flat, muted desert.

It was here, on Aug. 17, 1980, that a dingo — an Australian wild dog — dragged a baby called Azaria Chamberlain from a tent as her parents sat by the campfire. Her body was never found.

Azaria’s desperate mother, Lindy, was accused of lying, convicted of murder and sent to prison. The film about her, “A Cry in the Dark,” starring Meryl Streep, spawned a thousand jokes: “A dingo’s got my baby!”…  Seguir leyendo »