Major changes to combat sports recommended by coroner after boxer dies

David Browne died from severe bleeding of his brain after receiving a flurry of punches to the head in the 12th and final round of a regional IBF super featherweight fight at Ingleburn on September 11, 2015.

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Deputy State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan said his death was preventable in her inquest findings handed down at the Glebe Coroner’s Court on Thursday.

Browne, 28, was repeatedly punched in the head before being knocked down and receiving an eight count toward the end of the 11th round.

He was punched again soon afterwards and fell back into the ropes about the time the bell rang.

“As a result of concussion and probably combined also with exhaustion, Davey was, at the end of round 11, injured to such an extent as to be unable to defend himself or to continue the contest,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

If this had been recognised by referee Charlie Lucas, ringside doctor Lawrence Noonan or combat sports inspectors Paul Toweel and Darren Perkins, the fight should have been stopped, she said.

The coroner recommended significant changes to the official combat sports rules, including that ringside doctors, “examine a combatant during an event…after knockdowns caused by a blow to the head…and on suspicion of concussion.”

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NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said Browne’s death was a “tragedy” and that “the government will carefully consider each of these recommendations and respond as soon as practically possible”.

The Australian Medical Association on Thursday repeated its stance that boxing should be banned, supporting coroner’s findings that doctor’s should be given more support to intervene.

“We’ve seen a reluctance to interfere in other sports like Rugby League, like AFL,” AMA President Dr Brian Owler said.

“I think that is evolving and changing, we’re seeing people taken off for head injuries much more commonly now and that sort of cultural change is something I’d hope would happen in boxing as well.”

Sports such as mixed martial arts and UFC appear to be growing in popularity in Australia.

“They need the people correctly trained and watching for the fighters,” boxing commentator Paul Upham told SBS World News.

“And understanding at the earliest possible sign that someone’s in trouble because the boxer doesn’t want to quit. The boxer doesn’t want to stop, he’s never going to put his hand up.”

Outside court, Mr Browne’s widow Amy Lavelle said the findings had brought some satisfaction and closure.

“I think if he [Mr Browne] was here, if he was looking down, he’d be proud and just to have that feeling that something good has come out of it,” she said.

“What the coroner found is what I’ve felt from the start.

“It’s just good to hear it … and to have it looked at in a formal way and be recognised that it was preventable, and hopefully it never happens again and no one else has to go through this.”

She said “any one of us could have jumped in” but ultimately it was the role of boxing officials to act as a safeguard.

With AAP

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Australian film industry looks to Asia

Actors Sam Neill and Rachel Griffiths joined Chinese film makers in Shanghai on Wednesday to launch a new award aimed at fostering greater ties between Australian and Asian cinema.

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Griffiths and actor Sam Neill unveiled the Asia International Engagement Program, which will include a best Asian film award, at a banquet in the city. 

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) will present the inaugeral award later this year.

“It’s all about building a bridge between Australia and the great cinemas of Asia,” said Damien Trewhella, the chief executive of AACTA.

Ms Griffiths said she feels the future of Australian film lies more with Asia, rather than with the US.

“We are part of Asia. We have two million residents, citizens, who were born in Asia, they think in a very bi-city or intercontinental way,” she told SBS.

“They are both very Chinese and Australian, or feel very Indian and Australian and they are trying to reconcile the two cultures. So I think it’s incredibly important that our industry looks to that.”

AACTA held a ceremony in Shanghai to launch a new Asian Engagement initiativeSBS News

The foundation of the program is a new AACTA Award for Best Asian Film, which will be presented at the annual AACTA awards in Sydney in December.

Films from 19 countries in the region, including India, South Korea and Japan, will be eligible to compete.

“I think it’s a nod to the brilliance of Asian cinema which is diverse and powerful,” Mr Neill said.

Mr Neill starred in 2010’s The Dragon Pearl, one of the first China-Australia co-productions and AACTA hope the new award will lead to more films like it. 

“Film-making can now happen anywhere anytime, it can cross boundaries,” Mr Trewhella said. “We want to find out what’s possible.”

Ms Griffiths said the award will deepen exchanges between Asian and Australian film makers and encourage more hybrid or multicultural Australian stories.

“That’s going to be so important as our Australian next generation of film-makers come from where they perceive Asia differently to my generation and my parent’s generation,” Griffiths said.

The Best Asian Film award will be decided by a grand jury headed by actor Russell Crowe.

Under ‘oath to protect’: Why is UN peacekeeper abuse still a problem?

Just days after the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence, the UN has formally announced it will withdraw about 600 Republic of Congo peacekeeping troops from the Central African Republic amid allegations of sexual abuse.

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In a statement a spokesperson for the UN announced the Republic of Congo would withdraw its troops from the UN’s MINSUCA force in the Central African Republic following a review.

“The review of the deployment of uniformed military personnel from the Republic of Congo found that the nature and extent of existing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, in their totality, point to systemic problems in command and control,” the spokesperson said. 

“The Secretariat is working with the Republic of Congo and MINUSCA on the modalities for a speedy withdrawal that will have the least impact on the mission’s operational requirements and ability to implement its mandate.” 

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The UN has conducted 71 peacekeeping operations around the world since 1948. There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations, which can comprise troops, police officers and civilian personnel. 

The spokesperson added the Republic of Congo’s police contingent would remain, the review finding the military “failures” did not extend to the police.

The UN requested the Republic of Congo “urgently inform” it about accountability measures it would introduce to prevent soldiers committing sexual abuse.

A day earlier Angelina Jolie lambasted peacekeepers over the alleged abuse.

“The horror of sexual violence is compounded when it is carried out by someone in uniform who has taken an oath to protect,” Ms Jolie said.

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The problem of UN peacekeepers committing sexual abuse has existed for decades.

It gained significant attention in 2004 when rights group Amnesty International alleged that UN and NATO officials had been customers of child prostitution in Kosovo.

In 2015, an internal UN study by Jordan’s ambassador to the UN assembly, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, said abuse by peacekeepers was a widespread issue, occurring in countries from Haiti and Cambodia, to Bosnia and Sierra Leone.

In April 2017 an Associated Press investigation revealed there had been almost 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and other officials around the world.

It said more than one hundred UN peacekeepers had run a child sex ring in Haiti over 10 years and none were ever jailed.

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Dr Eyal Mayroz from the University of Sydney’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies told SBS World News the UN does not have enough money to fund its own peacekeeping forces, relying on troops from contributing states.

This hinders its ability to secure well-trained soldiers and ensure proper vetting procedures.

While non-military personnel attached to peacekeeping missions fall under the jurisdiction of the UN and undergo its internal vetting process, military personnel fall under the jurisdiction of troop-contributing countries.

“The UN has been traditionally taking soldiers from countries that are not known for their human rights record,” Dr Mayroz says, citing Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti as an example.

The countries are usually happy to oblige the UN mission requests for peacekeepers, as they receive money and intelligence, and their troops receive free training, he says.

Yet, when they are found to have committed abuse and are sent back to their countries, governments typically don’t hold them to account.

Dr Sherif Elgebeily, the director of the Centre for the Study of International Peace and Security in London, told SBS World News this is because sexual abuse investigations are lengthy and costly.

He says it can also be difficult for the country of the soldier to obtain evidence during an investigation.

According to an AP investigation, some 150 allegations of abuse and exploitation were reported in Haiti between 2004 and 2016. AAP

Can the UN stop peacekeeper abuse?

Dr Elgebeily says if the UN attempts to tighten its grip too much, states may begin considering whether it’s worth sending personnel on peacekeeping missions.

“Any secretary-general knows there is a very precarious balance between cracking down on sexual abuse or exploitation by peacekeepers and the risk of chasing away troop-contributing countries,” he says.

What about the Security Council?

The problem for the UN is that it does not have jurisdiction over troop-contributing countries. 

Despite this, the Security Council, which approves the mandate of peacekeeping missions, has attempted to stop the abuse.

In 2005, following several peacekeeper sexual abuse or exploitation scandals, a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation was incorporated into mandates authorised by the Security Council in Haiti and Sudan.

But this has since ceased, says Dr Elgebeily.

While the Security Council has established a human rights team to accompany missions, he believes the Security Council should take more action.

“Specific provisions must be inserted in all mandates – both at the outset and upon renewal, which usually happens every six months. This places an obligation upon states to ensure their personnel maintain a clear standard.” 

He also calls for the UN Security Council to be more proactive about its mandates.

“Reports that are presented to the Security Council are often not acted upon, despite the great number of tools at its discretion,” he says.

These tools include referring matters to the International Criminal Court and obtaining advisory opinions from the International Court of Justice.  

In this 2015 photo former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by UN forces. The United Nations

What can the home countries do? 

Of the 21 substantiated cases since 2015, less than half of offenders received any jail time and six were either dismissed or administratively reprimanded. 

Troop-contributing countries must step up, Dr Elgebeily says.

“It’s not as simple as the UN just investigating. Troop-contributing countries have to also play their part in bringing cases to trial, gathering evidence, and prosecuting.”

Without this, soldiers will “continue to benefit from crimes with impunity due to a combination of the legal lacuna in which they fall and unwillingness to fully prosecute perpetrators”.

“Troop-contributing countries must certify that their troops have not been accused or prosecuted of violating international human or humanitarian law, but not specifically rape – which is a criminal offence under domestic law.” 

He also suggests approaches to prevent sexual abuse or exploitation by troops must begin not at the point of call or deployment, but “far earlier and on a regular basis at the domestic level”.

“Troops come from wildly different cultural, social, and [il] liberal backgrounds,” Dr Elgebeily said.

“One cannot deny the disparity between attitudes towards rape across the globe, yet troops are placed side-by-side and expected to maintain a united moral standard, which is unrealistic.”

In this picture taken 2011, surrounded by relatives, an 18-year-old man who claims he was sexually abused by Uruguayan peacekeepers lies on his bed in Haiti. AP

Should the UN be held responsible over peacekeeper abuse?

One of the biggest scandals of the UN involved whistleblower and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights field operations director Anders Kompass.

Kompass believed the UN had failed to act on a confidential report about allegations that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in the Central African Republic, so he passed it on to French authorities in 2014.

The UN Office for Internal Oversight Services launched an investigation into Kompass’ handling of the issue and suspended him.

Months later, Ban Ki-moon commissioned an independent review into the alleged abuse and Kompass’ actions. 

It found UN agencies’ response to the allegations was a “gross institutional failure”, and both the internal investigation and the independent panel exonerated Kompass.

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The UN is a member organisation, run by states and subject to its own authority.

“No one state can hold accountable the UN,” says Dr Elgebeily. 

“This is the perennial problem with any UN reform – it must come from within and change is both slow and difficult.”

However, Dr Elgebeily says both former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and incumbent Antonio Guterres have shown they are willing to step up not only rhetoric but action to clamp down on abuse.

In 2016, Ban called for courts-martials to be held on missions where abuse was alleged to have occurred, and Guterres has this week announced he would repatriate Republic of Congo troops from the Central African Republic over abuse allegations. 

Other London buildings combustible: PM

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office says around 600 buildings in England have cladding similar to the type blamed for the quick spread of flames in the London high-rise disaster.

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Councils in England made the estimate as authorities desperately try to get a grip on the scale of the issue facing local authorities following the blaze at Grenfell Tower that killed at least 79 people on June 14.

The cladding on the building has been singled out for scrutiny because the blaze engulfed the building in less than an hour. That has surprised fire officials, who have wondered aloud how a 24-story building could become an inferno so quickly.

Flames spread rapidly up tower block, trapping people inside, in what was Britain’s worst blaze since World War II. Exterior cladding added during a refurbishment may have played a part, residents have said.

“(We) should of course be careful on speculating what caused this fire, but as a precaution the government has arranged to test cladding on all relevant tower blocks,” May told parliament.

“Shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible.”

She said local authorities and fire services have been informed and are taking steps to make affected buildings safe and to inform residents.

May has launched a public inquiry into the fire and police have announced a criminal investigation.

May said tests on the cladding of Grenfell Tower where the fire blazed would be made public in the next 48 hours.

“This has been a wake-up call for the whole country,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party.

After apologising for a slow state response to the fire, May also said it was appropriate that the head of the local council had resigned over the fire.

Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, said he was forced out by the government.

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Maroons get slow ruck they wanted: Fifita

NSW prop Andrew Fifita believes Queensland were given the slow ruck they wanted – and the resulting State of Origin decider – in their game-two win.

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From the moment Fifita turned in a performance for the ages in the series opener, the rugby league spotlight hadn’t moved from the Blues’ forward in the lead-up to the return clash.

His star has dimmed after being kept quiet by a rugged Maroons defence that had refused to go away before stealing an 18-16 win and sending the series back to Brisbane.

Fifita admitted feeling contained after finishing with just 77 metres and three tackle busts – both less than half of his output from his heroic game-one effort.

The Cronulla prop also conceded the Maroons had successfully slowed down the ruck, with statistics revealing there were more than 40 additional plays three weeks ago at Suncorp Stadium.

“I did feel it, to be honest. They did their research,” he said.

“They were holding down a lot more normal than usual. It wasn’t as fast as game one, I could tell you that. The refs did their job. I felt like it was slower a bit. Game one was very fast.

“I think that’s what they wanted. They wanted to slow it down because I don’t think they can keep up with us in the middle. In saying that, they got the carrots.”

The Kangaroos’ representative also took a subtle swipe at the hierarchy’s decision to bunker down at The Star casino for game two instead of going back up to Kingscliff on the NSW far north coast.

After spending the week in camp, players were allowed to go home to family before regathering in Homebush ahead of the game on Wednesday.

“We’ll be ready to go for game three. We’re not at The Star or the Novotel here. We’ll go up into our own little camp. It’s a great place and all the boys are that tight,” Fifita said.

“If someone is moving, we’re all moving. You’ve seen what it is like up there. We’re there until the Tuesday. I can’t wait to go up there in three weeks – it’ll be the best preparation for us.

“It was tough at The Star. There were a few of us on level 16, but we couldn’t even get down to level 11. It was a bit different in the casino. It wasn’t as bad as I first thought it was going to be.

“(Coach Laurie Daley) gave us time to go home on the Friday to the family to regenerate. That’s respect to him. Moving forward, nothing beats being up away from everyone else.”