Funds lag for brain cancer research
RESEARCH into curing paediatric brain cancer, which kills at least 35 children a year, receives only a fraction of the funding handed out to investigate the effects of wind farms on nearby humans and other more obscure projects.
The National Health and Medical Research Council, the peak research funding body, awarded just $534,102 to paediatric brain cancer in 2016, the lowest amount since 2006 and less than a third of what was granted in 2012.
Yet, in 2015, a whopping $12.5 million was awarded to researching the effects of wind farms on humans, while a host of other obscure “health” projects scored big.
Other grants awarded by the NHMRC included $845,278 for research into the link between omega-three supplements and aggressive behaviour; $1.89 million into combating asthma in Vietnam and $2.4 million to reduce salt intake using food policy interventions.
Paediatric brain cancer is Australia’s deadliest disease for children. One child dies every nine days and outcomes have not changed in three decades. Four out of five children diagnosed will die.
The investment into paediatric brain cancer research has dropped significantly each year since the Liberals came to power, halving between 2012 and 2013 and reducing to the current low rate.
Brain cancer researcher Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald said the amount granted in 2016 saw dozens of research projects knocked back. “It amounts to just one grant, it’s pathetic and I know among my 20 colleagues that they at least put in two applications for grants each last year so we know that 40 to 60 applications got knocked back,” she said. “The NHMRC tell us that the applications weren’t competitive enough on the basis of the science compared to more established cancers.” THEY’RE Australia’s best of the best and have gold medals in their sights but the Skillaroos are not a team of sports stars.
They are young tradies and vocational graduates who have been training hard for the past two years to compete at the biennial tradie Olympics, WorldSkills.
This year the event will be hosted by Abu Dhabi, where competitors from 58 countries and regions will compete in 51 skill categories from car painting and landscape gardening to beauty therapy and hairdressing. It kicks off on Saturday with an opening ceremony then three days of competition, with projects completed under strict test conditions and time limits.
Australia will fight to improve its ranking from 12th in the world.
WorldSkills Australia general manager Brigitte Collins said representing their country was motivation enough for the Australian team, however other countries had further incentive.
The Korean Government, for example, rewarded its gold medallists with USD $200,000 and exemption from military service, turning up the pressure.
For the first time this year, WorldSkills has introduced a 3D digital game art category and Australia will send a representative for heavy vehicle maintenance.
Ms Collins said this year would also be the first time most projects would not be unveiled until competition day.
This is designed to prevent competitors from simply practising the one task over and over. Instead, they must master all techniques within their trade and be ready for anything. In some categories, however, the project will be known in advance but a 30 per cent change can be made on the day.
Ms Collins said there were two types of assessment.
The first was pass or fail, where each criteria received either a tick or a cross.
“In bricklaying, it needs to be within a millimeter, so you get it right or you don’t get it right,” Ms Collins said.
The second assessment method was based on pre-determined industry benchmarks.
“It used to be subjective where it was a marking scale out of 10 so if I didn’t like the colour or flavour (it would affect the score) but we have moved to a scale of zero to three that is benchmarking excellence against industry standards,” she said. “Zero means, for example, if it was a bun in a bakery you wouldn’t display it – it’s rock hard and you couldn’t sell it. One benchmarks industry standards, so for example, all the bread rolls Carpentry
22 Crowned Best Tradie in the Nation last year, the former TAFE SA student from Swan Reach is feeling confident about Australia’s chances on the world stage. Hard-working Ryan was only a youngster when his future career path was identified. “When I was about 13, my mum and dad were getting renovations done by a family friend,’’ he said. ‘’He saw my passion to work and by Year 10 he offered me a job but I finished school first. ‘’I’m a perfectionist. Even during school doing (industrial) technology, with all my projects I’ve always been very particular. I think it is a good thing to have in a trade and at WorldSkills. I am probably a bit over the top and put too much pressure on myself though. I’ve taken from the start of the year off work just to train for this. I was prepared to do that because this is a once-in-alifetime opportunity.” are the same size, nothing special about them.”
A two meets industry standards but shows elements of excellence, while a three displays excellence. Ms Collins said in jewellery, the difference between a one and three was the kind of products in a department store versus Tiffany & Co.
Earning a three in restaurant service, on the other hand, required interaction with diners. “Making a cocktail, a three would be not just using the ingredients but talking to the customer while making it and (good) technique in shaking the cocktail,” she said.
“They put on a bit of a theatrical performance and the garnishes are fantastic.”
MR CHIPS: Ryan Grieger with kelpie Willis by the River Murray near his family’s Swan Reach home. Picture: TOM HUNTLEY