Monthly Archives:March 2019

Betty Churcher wanted everyone else to experience art in the same way she first did as a seven-year-old.


As a ground-breaking arts administrator she won plaudits for bringing some of the world’s best art to Australian audiences, earning her the nickname “Betty Blockbuster”.

Whether through blockbuster exhibitions, television shows or her drawing notebooks, Churcher always wanted to share the feeling she experienced during a visit to the Queensland Art Gallery as a child.

It was there she found her first love: Blandford Fletcher’s painting Evicted.

“I’m sure that my enthusiasm for special exhibitions when I was an art gallery director had a lot to do with that first encounter with art,” she wrote in Notebooks.

“I wanted people, especially schoolchildren, to see and feel the magic of art.”

Elizabeth “Betty” Churcher, who died on Monday aged 84, was born in Brisbane in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression.

During her final weeks, she described her life as busy, long, fruitful and with no regrets.

She began drawing at an early age as a way of “creating order in a confusing world”, and later remembered being surprised to discover other children didn’t necessarily have the same natural ability to draw.

After a private school education enabled by a bequest from her grandmother, Churcher won a position to study art in England.

She graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1956 with a first class pass, the drawing prize, a travelling scholarship and a husband, fellow painter Roy Churcher.

The couple returned to Australia intending to stay six months, but Roy fell in love with the country.

They had four sons between 1959 and 1966 – Ben, Paul, Peter and Tim. Churcher decided from the start to give away painting when she became a mother.

“I know that my babies sapped my emotional energy and artistic ambitions,” she wrote in 2011. Nevertheless, she didn’t regret the decision.

Although she did not paint seriously again. In 1971 she returned to her early career as an art teacher, this time at tertiary institutions.

Undertaking a masters degree led Churcher to realise that what she really ought to be doing was working in a gallery and in 1987 she was appointed director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Churcher made history three times during her career: she was the first female head of a tertiary institution, first female director of a state gallery and the first woman to be appointed director of the National Gallery of Australia.

Initially she wasn’t interested in the NGA job, feeling she had unfinished business in the west.

But it was her approach to transforming the gallery’s public appeal and significance as a cultural exhibition that cemented her place in Australia’s arts history – and the nickname.

Before Churcher’s tenure, the gallery’s major exhibitions were largely “packages” curated from other institutions around the world.

That changed in 1992 with the Rubens and the Italian Renaissance exhibition, curated by the NGA’s own David Jaffe.

Churcher described it as the best exhibition Canberra had ever seen and recalled queues stretching hundreds of metres out of the gallery every day.

It was the first of a dozen blockbuster exhibitions that brought together the best of art collections from around the world.

She took the attitude “what we couldn’t afford to buy, we could borrow – and we could borrow the very best”.

Every exhibition aimed to arouse the curiosity in the viewer Churcher recalled from her own childhood.

Churcher left the gallery in 1997 but did not retire from the public consciousness.

She hosted television programs about art – Take Five and Hidden Treasures – and published notebooks of her drawings and recollections about her favourite paintings.

The latter project started when her sight began deteriorating in the mid-2000s and she was afraid of losing the joy of drawing, painting and observing the world.

“The thought of near-total blindness plunged me into black despair,” she said.

Since childhood, sketching paintings was the best way Churcher found of embedding them in her memory, so she began a tour of the world’s galleries to revisit her favourites.

Her aim, as ever, was to bring her enthusiasm for the great works to a wider public.

“Everything I do, whether it’s doing a blockbuster exhibition or a book, is towards educating, getting people curious to really look at a work of art as they may never have looked before,” she said recently.

“That obsession has just jerked me through life to this point.”

Homophobia is rife among Australian teenage boys, with many saying they feel anxious around gay peers and don’t want them as friends.


New research commissioned by Beyond Blue paints a disturbing picture of attitudes among teenage boys and the way they treat their same-sex peers.

The mental health organisation is reviving a campaign to educate boys against homophobia.

The survey of 300 teenage boys, aged 14 to 17, shows just over a third don’t want gay friends.

A quarter think it’s OK to use the word gay as a derogatory term to describe something they don’t like.

And 40 per cent suggested they had feelings of anxiety when they were around peers who were attracted to the same sex.

Approximately 1/4 of teenage boys think it’s ok to describe something they don’t like as “gay”. 苏州皮肤管理中心会所,深圳上门按摩,/ii59R6qxGU #StopThinkRespect

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Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman says it’s a sad fact that teenage boys are more likely to hold homophobic views than the general public.

“This is particularly concerning given young LGBTI people are already three to six times more likely to be distressed than their straight peers. If we want to reduce their distress, we must reduce the discrimination they face,” she said.

“We know that high levels of distress have a strong link to depression, anxiety and suicide.”

Beyond Blue is reviving an education campaign first aired in 2012, to challenge the views of the next wave of teenage boys.

Ads, due to screen in cinemas and appear on social media, feature a group of boys bullying a left-handed peer, and calling him a freak. It’s an attempt to highlight the absurdity of discriminating against people for being themselves.

“There’s a new audience of teenage boys who clearly need to hear its messages,” Ms Harman said.


– 25 per cent said they found it hard to treat same-sex attracted people the same as others

– 60 per cent said they’d seen people being bullied for their sexuality

– 40 per cent said they’d seen people bullied online over their sexuality

A blood-stained carpet is one of the only clues Minh Phuoc Nguyen left behind following his mysterious disappearance 11 months ago.


Detectives suspect Mr Nguyen – also known as Paul – has been murdered and believe his organised crime links might have something to do with it.

Mr Ngyuen was last seen driving out of the Hilton Hotel in the Sydney CBD on the night of May 1, 2014.

However, detectives received information the 50-year-old may have later visited a unit block in Bankstown.

A search of the Dudley St apartment earlier this year uncovered a large blood stain on the carpet police believe came from Mr Nguyen.

A white truck, similar to one seen at the units at the time, has also been seized for forensic examination.

Mr Nguyen was a familiar face around Bankstown and often visited the local sports club as well as Oscars Sports Hotel.

“Whilst we don’t know for certain, we believe it may be Mr Nguyen’s associations with the organised crime element that may have made him a target,” Homicide Squad Detective Inspector Jason Dickinson said on Tuesday.

Insp Dickinson wouldn’t elaborate on the links, only saying they weren’t direct.

A search of a room at the Fountainbleu Motel at Casula, in Sydney’s southwest, three days after Mr Nguyen was last seen uncovered an airline boarding pass and hire car rental agreement in his name.

Insp Dickinson said there were people in the motel room when the documents were found and they had spoken to police.

Mr Nguyen’s gold Renault Latitude hire car hasn’t been seen since last May either.

The Vietnamese migrant had only just reconnected with his three brothers and sister after becoming estranged from them when he moved to Australia in his 20s, got married and had a child.

Jacqui Lambie is looking for Facebook friends to join her new political party.


The independent senator has applied to register the Jacqui Lambie Network as an official party, with goals of highlighting Tasmanian issues and getting more members elected to state and federal parliaments.

Senator Lambie says anyone interested in becoming a party member should get in touch with her via Facebook.

“There will be a number of core beliefs that will bring supporters of the Jacqui Lambie Network together,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

Chief among those is that party members must always put the interests of their state first.

The network’s proposed constitution says the party’s objectives are to represent the people of Tasmania and to focus on local issues.

The party will also push for changes to electoral laws to give more information about the affiliation of candidates.

Other core issues include a special interest in issues affecting serving and veteran Defence personnel, opposition to Sharia law, requiring dedicated seats in parliament for indigenous representatives, cutting the foreign aid budget to fund universities, and the creation of special economic zones to help out regional areas.

The senator will soon release a book containing her parliamentary speeches and more policy information.

If Senator Lambie quits her own party, a clause in the constitution requires its management to immediately remove her name from the party’s title.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Senator Lambie’s new political party was an interesting development.

“We are a very exciting and vibrant democracy and anyone can run for parliament, anyone can start a new party,” he said.

“One way of becoming immediately registered, as I recall, is to have a representative in the federal parliament, and so she ticks that box immediately by being a senator.”

The theory that Collingwood pair Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas could have eaten beef contaminated by clenbuterol in New Zealand has been rejected by the NZ beef industry.


Keeffe and Thomas tested positive to the banned drug several days after returning from a week-long training camp in Queenstown, New Zealand, where they reportedly ate out several times, including a steak meal.

Australian cyclist Michael Rogers was cleared after testing positive to clenbuterol in 2013 when authorities accepted he could have eaten contaminated meat while racing in China two months earlier.

While clenbuterol is used in livestock in some countries, New Zealand beef industry association chairman Bill Falconer was adamant that was not the case in his country.

“It’s just not something that has cropped up in New Zealand,” Falconer told Radio 3AW.

“Obviously you can read stuff to say that there had been rumours of it happening in China and Spain but not in New Zealand.”

Former ASADA head Richard Ings also dismissed the possibility.

“Clenbuterol is not present in the Australian food chain. It is not present in the New Zealand food chain, it has occurred in China and Mexico but it is not an issue here,” Ings told 3AW.

“So the players will need to find the right explanation where this Clenbuterol came from.

“It’s a veterinary drug in Australia, it’s a veterinary drug in New Zealand, it’s only approved for use in racehorses.

“But as with all these performance enhancing drugs you can get it online and there is a person at the back of some gyms that will sell it to you. It is commonly abused in bodybuilding and other sporting activities.”

Keeffe and Thomas have denied knowingly taking the drug and have sought independent legal advice through the players’ association.