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Nurturing our

Nurturing our

cultural institutions

I WAS shocked to read that the future of another of Victoria's cultural icons, Orchestra Victoria (The Age, 18/7) is in doubt. Music above almost anything else keeps people's spirits buoyed. Orchestra Victoria has a vital role in the education of music to young people as well as within rural programs. Also, the livelihoods of a dedicated ensemble of musicians would be under threat if it folded.

It is sad that we do not put enough value on cultural institutions compared to most countries. If the orchestra were a sports team, there would be no question about funding. A society which values its cultural heritage is more likely to produce a population of people with broader minds and a stronger sense of identity, and who are generally more civilised.

Candy Spender, Balaclava

A musical icon

ORCHESTRA Victoria has a proud 40-year history of being the performance partner in Melbourne for Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet. We are also a partner of Victorian Opera. Although described as a "pit orchestra", we are outside the pit often. We perform concerts in collaboration with Arts Victoria, local councils, community representatives, sponsors, philanthropic organisations and individuals. We also mentor young conductors and composers.

Every year Orchestra Victoria conducts workshops for more than 300 young instrumentalists in regional Victoria. These include professional development sessions for teachers and conductors. Our collaborations with Melba Recordings have attracted international acclaim. Orchestra Victoria's musicians are committed to maintaining it as an extraordinary cultural resource to provide Victorians with exceptional musical experiences. This can only continue with proper funding.

Tania Hardy Smith, cellist, Orchestra Victoria, Mitcham

Helping the dying

IT WAS extremely disturbing to read about the catastrophe facing millions of people in East Africa (The Saturday Age, 16/7). Surely no one has to starve to death in the 21st century with our modern technological and communication systems. Tragically we still cannot share our food with everyone in need. I am grateful the government has announced it will contribute $11.2 million to assist. However, much more will be required and I ask people of goodwill to contribute as they are able through the relief agencies of their choice. I also wish we could put aside our differences about the carbon tax and focus on what we do best when we unite: helping suffering people who are in desperate need.

Robert Van Zetten, Highton

High cost of leave

THE Australia Institute has found that women who take maternity leave pay a financial penalty even three years after their return to work (The Age, 18/7). It is obvious that parents of growing families are faced with conflicting pressures. Every mother responds to the demands of a new-born, even when she knows she will be stretched to breaking point. At the same time, financial pressures make paid work more important for the family's wellbeing. If a breadwinner responds by working harder and earning more, the disparity between nurturing and full-time employment roles becomes even greater. Forget about the financial impacts three years after taking maternity leave. Fifteen years would be realistic. Single parents? God help them.

Rob McPherson, Brighton

A bold step forward

ANTHONY Caughey (Letters, 18/7), your five so-called facts on the carbon tax are anything but. When it comes time to vote, I will remember that: the majority of peer-reviewed scientific research on climate change suggests it is caused by high levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere these levels are increasing through human activity putting a price on carbon will make it more expensive to emit these gases and Julia Gillard will not benefit from putting a price on carbon. She may lose her current position, yet she is doing it anyway.

David Savage, North Bendigo

Time for innovation

WE ARE being browbeaten with arguments that the introduction of a carbon tax will be the end of the world for La Trobe Valley. However, there is a more immediate problem the world is fast running out of oil. Most people know that petrol and diesel are produced from oil but they would be amazed at the range of other products. One possible alternative to oil is coal. Estimates of the availability of coal, based on current usage, vary from 300 to 1000 years. If it is used as a substitute, this range would be dramatically reduced. Of course we would need continue to mine coal, but should we be burning it?

Development of industries to achieve this changeover in the use of coal will take decades, as will the industries to produce alternative power generation technologies. This should provide many opportunities for new businesses and jobs. We need a a business sector which stops expecting government handouts and gets on with innovation.

Bert Bland, Boronia

Excuse me, Mr Howard?

SO, former prime minister John Howard says we are "crazy" to go out ahead of the rest of the world in putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions (The Age, 18/7). Could this be the same John Howard who proudly told the Melbourne Press Club four years ago that "being among the first movers on carbon trading in this region will bring new opportunities and we intend to grasp them"?

Bro Sheffield-Brotherton, Hoppers Crossing

We all have a choice

ACCESS Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison's claim that it has a mandate to work with all children in Victoria, including those in independent schools (The Age, 18/7), is breathtaking. I have researched the state's independent schools and found that the majority are staffed by qualified religious education teachers. Does Dr Paddison believe this instruction lacks something that only Access Ministries can provide?

If you want your children to receive religious education from Access Ministries, you can. It is also the right of parents not to allow their children to be taught by Dr Paddison's volunteers.

Sigbert Muijsers, East Ballarat

Eddie everywhere

YOU reported that Collingwood president Eddie Maguire "worked hard to reduce Heath Shaw's suspension from being a season-ending one" (The Saturday Age, 16/7). Also, that the AFL had considered banning Shaw for the rest of the season but "settled for a shorter ban after discussions with the Magpies". Why were McGuire and Collingwood involved in discussions on the penalties? Does McGuire discuss with the AFL tribunal what he deems an appropriate penalty when a Magpies' player fronts it?

How convenient that Shaw's match ban ends at the start of the finals. And why was captain Nick Maxwell let off with only a fine for what was basically the same offence as Shaw, minus a $10 bet? The AFL and McGuire bang on about the need to keep the integrity of the game intact. But his purported involvement in deciding the sentence on his own players surely brings the game into greater disrepute.

Malcolm Livermore, Forest Hill

High cost of draft

FOOTBALLERS are the victims under the rules of the AFL. Coaches, doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, administrators etc can auction themselves to the highest bidder and go to the club of their choosing. Because of the draft, most players particularly at the beginning of their career have no choice which club they play for. The reward for being the best player in the draft is to be consigned to one of the poorest performing and least resourced of the clubs - at least temporarily.

Given the high levels of injuries that players sustain, it does not seem fair that they should be required to bear the full brunt of the AFL's "club equalisation" strategy. If the AFL is serious about levelling the playing field, the salary cap should be broadened to cover far more than player payments.

Stephen Whiteside, Glen Iris

Digging deep

HAVING worked at Berry Street for many years before my retirement, I can attest that Sandie de Wolf (Insight, 16/7) is an icon in the welfare industry. Her goals for the state government's inquiry into child welfare getting rid of the adversarial legal processes through the Children's Court, investing in early years, funding for out-of home care that matches demand, and an education allowance for kids in out-of-home care show her dedication. It is time the government put its hand in the big pocket and assisted our abused babes, children and teenagers.

Trish Clarke, Werribee

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