Workers at closing Hazelwood mine to move to AGL plant

About 150 Victorian coal workers will be made redundant and their jobs given to retrenched staff from the nearby Hazelwood coal mine, under a deal between the state government and power company AGL.

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AGL will take the Hazelwood workers at its Loy Yang A coal mine and power plant, once voluntary redundancies are taken up by its staff.

Victoria will pay up to $20 million to ensure the redundancies go ahead and workers are hired from Hazelwood, which is due to close on March 31.

“This is a fantastic outcome, it is the first of its kind anywhere in our nation,” Premier Daniel Andrews said in Morwell on Friday.

The redundancies will be offered over the next year, and the premier expects AGL workers close to retirement will be most likely to take them up.

“It will take some time to create the vacancies but we’ve come to an agreement to do just that. No one will be forced to leave their current job,” Mr Andrews said.

There are plans to expand the scheme to Energy Australia’s Yallourn plant, and Engie’s Loy Yang B, potentially opening up positions for more workers and contractors.

Mr Andrews said both companies had given in principle support for the move, but details were being worked out.

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AGL executive general manager Doug Jackson said the company was proud to support the Morwell community as Hazelwood closed.

“It’s an opportunity that recognises the skills and experience of a very experienced workforce,” Mr Jackson told reporters.

French energy giant Engie announced in November it would close the Hazelwood coal mine and power station, putting hundreds of people out of work.

The impending closure has helped drive up power prices around the nation, as retailers prepare to lose one of Australia’s largest baseload generators from the National Energy Market.

Watch Insight episode on the closing of the power station:

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Firebirds burn the Swifts in Super Netball

There was no revenge for the NSW Swifts in the grand final rematch as the Queensland Firebirds eased to a 62-53 win in Brisbane.

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A seven-goal surge in the second quarter gave the hosts a 28-21 lead, which the Swifts chased in vain for the rest of the match.

The Firebirds’ Jamaican goal shooter Romelda Aiken led the way shooting 44 from 56 and was well assisted by Gretel Tippet (18 from 23), who also had a game-leading nine turnovers.

The Swifts’ own Caribbean sharp shooter, Sam Wallace of Trinidad, made 48 from 55 shots at the other end.

The Firebirds won their second straight ANZ Championship title last July with a double overtime victory over the Swifts, though only seven players from the 2016 grand final were in action at the sold-out Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Both teams came into the fourth-round fixture with a win and a draw to their name but the Firebirds now move to second on the ladder ahead of the Sunshine Coast, who play unbeaten leaders the Giants on Saturday night.

Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said her team did what was asked by coach Roselee Jencke when the game was there for the taking early in the final quarter.

“She told us to lift,” Simpson said.

“She said: ‘Let’s take it a step up and make sure we lift the intensity in the first five minutes.'”

The champions did just that scoring the next four goals.

Swifts wing attack Paige Hadley bemoaned the lack of experience her side showed during the most crucial period of the game.

“The nine goals is obviously frustrating because it definitely didn’t reflect the type of game but in the end they converted every turnover they got,” Hadley said.

“We’re young and that lack of experience showed at the end there.”

Swiss police hunt gunmen who killed two in Basel cafe

No details were released on the suspects or victims, and prosecutors said the motive for the attack – in a small cafe in a residential neighourhood – was not known.

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“Two men came into Cafe 56” around 8.15 pm local time (1915 GMT) “and fired several rounds,” said police in the picturesque city on the Rhine river in northwestern Switzerland.

“Two customers were killed. Another is in a critical condition”, they said in a statement. 

The assailants escaped and headed in the direction of a city railway station after the attack.

“The reason behind the attack is not yet known and will be investigated,” the Basel prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

One neighbourhood resident said the cafe “was previously an establishment known for its links to the drug world.”

“But since the owner changed several years ago it became an ordinary cafe,” the resident told local newspaper Basler Zeitung.

The road next to the cafe was cordoned off and traffic redirected.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw police dressed in white forensic garb collecting evidence at the site early Friday.

A bullet hole was visible in one of the windows of the cafe.

Gun crime is infrequent in Switzerland, even though the country has one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world. 

Citizens are allowed to keep their army-issue weapons at home outside periods of mandatory military service.

This right has been controversial as sometimes weapons are used at home in domestic incidents.

The number of weapons held at home is believed to be two million for a population of eight million, according to Swiss press.

In January, a man clad in military clothing shot and injured two police officers as they searched his home in northeast Switzerland for a suspected cannabis plantation.

The gunman fled but was eventually cornered and after a standoff lasting several hours, which included negotiations over the telephone, he shot and killed himself.

Police searching his home found gun publications.

Orora faces $8m bill shock on power prices

Packaging company Orora says it faces a power bill blowout of up to $8 million at its NSW recycled paper mill once a current electricity contract expires and it feels the brunt of a recent surge in energy costs.

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Orora shares surged on Thursday as the company reported a lift in profits and sales revenue but the company warned increasing gas and electricity costs remain a substantial burden.

Higher electricity costs for its paper recycling mill in the southern Sydney suburb of Botany will deliver a hit to earnings of $6 million to $8 million in 2018, once a legacy contract expires in December.

In January 2016, the Botany mill started paying higher gas prices which reduced earnings by around $3 million in the first-half of 2017.

“A high degree of volatility and uncertainty remains in the Australian electricity market,” Orora said on Thursday.

“This is expected to continue for the foreseeable future and represents further potential downside risk to earnings before interest and tax.”

Orora said a number of initiatives are being implemented to offset rising costs, including a $23 million investment in a waste water treatment plant to generate renewable energy by converting biogas to electricity.

It said it will continue to assess further energy efficiency projects and supply options.

Orora on Thursday lifted its full-year profit by 1.5 per cent to $171.1 million, while sales revenue was up 4.9 per cent on the previous year at $4.04 billion.

The company’s power price warning comes as Australia’s second-largest energy retailer, AGL Energy, on Thursday said prices are likely to remain high until there is more investment in power production, which requires certainty from government policy.

AGL chief executive Andrew Vesey said wholesale electricity prices have moderated in recent months but the energy market needs more investment for wholesale and retail energy prices to really ease.

Lawyers warn Merlino over lobster comments

Victoria’s deputy premier says he will not be silenced by legal threats from a man authorities accuse of being a mafia boss and who attended a controversial lobster dinner with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

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James Merlino used parliamentary privilege on Thursday to reveal lawyers for Tony Madafferi sent him two letters claiming defamation over comments the Labor MP made outside parliament.

“I can assure all Victorians that I will not be silenced, I will not be intimidated,” Mr Merlino declared.

Mr Madafferi was at an April dinner with Mr Guy at the exclusive Lobster Cave restaurant, organised by the alleged mobster’s cousin and Liberal member Frank Lamattina.

Mr Madafferi is widely accused of being a high-level organised crime figure, but has never been charged or convicted.

The legal letters marked “not for publication, private and confidential”, were released by the government.

“Each of the imputations is false and our client expressly denies the same,” the letter reads.

“You would no doubt be aware that our client maintains he has never been charged with any criminal offence and has no criminal convictions.”

The letters demand a retraction, apology and payment of Mr Madafferi’s legal fees.

“Unless a satisfactory offer to make amends is received by this office … we are instructed to immediately commence proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria without further notice to you,” the letter continues.

Mr Merlino opened question time by telling the parliamentary Speaker of the letters.

“I ask that you urgently investigate this matter because Melbourne is not 1920s Chicago, it is imperative that those who stand for justice call out organised crime and those that seek to profit from their activities,” he said.

Mr Merlino did not table the letters, but made them available to the Legislative Assembly.

Mr Guy insists he did not know Mr Madafferi, a successful market garden and pizza chain owner, would be at the Lobster Cave dinner until he arrived.

The dinner meeting was to discuss fruit and vegetable markets and not political donations, the Liberal leader said.

However leaked phone calls of Liberal figure Barrie MacMillan suggest the meeting was designed to direct donations to the cash-strapped party.

Mr MacMillan resigned as a local electorate conference office bearer on Wednesday afternoon.

The Liberal Party say no one from the dinner who is not a member has made a declarable donation.

However after initially saying no one from the meeting has made any donation to the party since then, Mr Guy admitted Mr Lamattina did attend a $2,000-per head, 20-person fundraiser in June.

Mr Guy downplayed Mr Lamattina’s attendance.

“You don’t know first of all if everyone’s paid, if they’re a guest of someone and as party members they aren’t always paying for those events,” Mr Guy told reporters.

Gay marriage campaign kicks off

QUOTES ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE:

“I have many other calls on my time as prime minister, but I will certainly support a ‘yes’ vote.

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– Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

“I will be voting yes. I will be campaigning for a yes vote. I will do my bit and I encourage people to join the movement for marriage equality because no true leader is ever too busy to fight for the fair go in this country. Equality is not a diary appointment.”

– Labor leader Bill Shorten speech in parliament.

“We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorisation of parliament the government is acting beyond its power.”

– Public Interest Advocacy Centre chief Jonathon Hunyor, in launching a High Court challenge.

“We will not facilitate the introduction of a private member’s bill on this matter unless the Australian people have given their support through a ‘yes’ vote through this national vote that we are now undertaking.”

– Malcolm Turnbull, on the court challenge.

“We do have a pathway now that will see this issue resolved before Christmas.”

– NSW Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who will vote yes.

“I would call on everyone to honour the will of the Australian people as expressed through this plebiscite. So for everyone arguing against change, if it goes against us we should honour it and that’s what I will do.”

– ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who will vote “no”.

“I think the less said about this irregular and unscientific polling the better. I’m not going to take any part in it whatsoever. I think they should abandon it.”

– Former High Court judge Michael Kirby.

Citizenship limbo: Changes dent photographer’s bid to represent Australia

It seemed minor at the time, but Josselin Cornou now realises a “server issue” at the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection barred him from Australian citizenship for the foreseeable future.

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He now faces two-and-a-half more years of juggling work, a burgeoning photography career and visits to his frail father in France.

And his experience highlights the effect the government’s snap citizenship changes continue to have on members of the Australian community.

Approximately 115,000 people applied for citizenship in 2014-15. Since the scheme was frozen in April, it is likely tens of thousands of would-be applicants have fallen into citizenship limbo.

Mr Cornou’s server issue prevented him from lodging his citizenship form just two days before the freeze.

“When I tried to submit the application it said it was failing, I would just get ‘server error’,” he said.

“I just waited because they said we’re having some maintenance.”

The French 30-year-old, who works at Google, complained to the department about the website after applications had been frozen, but it told him that until an application has been “successfully” submitted, in its eyes it had never existed.

A photograph by Josselin Cornou of the Sydney Opera House and Milky Way Galaxy during Vivid festival in 2016.Josselin Cornou

If passed, the reforms are predicted by the government to reduce demand by approximately 20,000 applications annually.

Changes proposed include a tougher stand-alone English test and the granting of a power for the Immigration Minister to overrule citizenship decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

But the change that has the biggest impact on Mr Cornou is a requirement that applicants need to have permanent residency for four years before making the application.

Because the period of his 457 temporary visa is no longer counted, he now faces an extra two-and-a-half years where his travel overseas is limited by the residence rules in the citizenship application to three months out of every twelve.

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His employer expects him to travel overseas between one and three months each year, and his father in France has heart issues meaning he might need to return at short notice at any time.

“Last time my dad went to emergency room for a serious heart issue, I was not able to join him due to those restrictions – in order to keep my citizenship eligibility,” he said.

If work and family weren’t enough to juggle, Mr Cornou is emerging as one of Australia’s top landscape photographers.

He was named the French National Winner at the World Photo Organisation Contest for a photo taken on a trip to Antarctica.

The photo of Antarctica that made Josselin Cornou French National Winner at the 2017 World Photo Organisation Contest.Josselin Cornou

Representing France instead of Australia in international competitions is a source of a frustration.

“I think Australia is more about creativity and innovation – people are always smiling and they are always looking towards the next steps,” he said.

Arriving in Australia in 2012 on a 457 visa, his adopted country helped him along his photographic journey.

“I went from being a newbie to being awarded in top competitions,” he said.

“(At the World Photography Awards) I asked to represent Australia, but I was not able to.”

The fate of the citizenship legislation is in the hands of the Senate crossbench.

And with the bill facing strong opposition in Parliament, the next steps for Australia’s citizenship laws – and for people like Mr Cornou – remain uncertain.

0:00 New Kenyan-born Senator Lucy Gichuhi says citizenship for migrants is ‘not a right, a privilege’ Share New Kenyan-born Senator Lucy Gichuhi says citizenship for migrants is ‘not a right, a privilege’

Aust netball coach promises fresh approach

Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander has warned netball purists to brace themselves as the Diamonds prepare to spring a few surprises in this month’s Quad Series.

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Holders of every major trophy, the Diamonds are not about to get comfortable ahead of a run of tournaments that culminates in the defence of Commonwealth Games gold next year.

Long-time mentor Alexander anticipates that eyebrows will be raised when the Diamonds begin the Quad Series against England in Brisbane this month.

“I think some will be surprised by how we run our matches and traditionalists may not like it as much,” Alexander said.

“It will test people’s sensibilities of what they think netball is about.”

Players were given a month off following the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball competition before reuniting in Canberra late last month.

There the playing group was purposely unsettled and challenged by Alexander in an effort to push them out of their comfort zone.

Currently training in small groups in their respective states, the squad will gather on the Sunshine Coast from August 22 to prepare for the Quad Series against England, New Zealand and South Africa.

Remaining cryptic, Alexander said they would use every last piece of talent available against an English side she expects to challenge them.

“Suncorp Super Netball brought the game to a bigger audience and helped address the disconnect to the top, but (with English representatives involved in the competition) it’s a double-edged sword because they’ve also improved,” Alexander said.

“I would say this is going to be the most competitive Quad Series ever.”

The Diamonds were rocked by the withdrawal of star defender and incumbent captain Sharni Layton from the series due to exhaustion.

Not drawn on the specifics of Layton’s condition, Alexander said she was hopeful of retaining her ahead of the Commonwealth Games next April on the Gold Coast.

Layton has been replaced in the Diamonds’ 12-strong team to play England by Melbourne Vixens rising star Emily Mannix.

The Diamonds are set to announce a new leadership group and captain, decided by the players.

Australia start against England in Brisbane on August 26, before meeting South Africa in Canberra (August 30) and New Zealand in Invercargill on September 3.

Elgar century lifts South Africa in Dunedin

The left-handed opener, who was spilt down the leg side by wicketkeeper BJ Watling on 36 shortly after lunch, brought up his century from 197 balls with his 20th boundary.

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The 29-year-old finished on 128 not out and also combined with captain Faf du Plessis (52) for a 126-run partnership that resurrected his side’s innings after they had slumped to 22-3 in a difficult first session of the three-match series.

Temba Bavuma, who joined Elgar before tea when du Plessis was dismissed, was on 38 not out at the close.

Du Plessis was caught in the deep by Trent Boult off all-rounder Jimmy Neesham three balls after he had a leg before decision overturned on review.

The Proteas were rocked by the loss of three early wickets when left-arm seamer Neil Wagner claimed two victims in one over following du Plessis’s late decision to bat after winning the toss.

Du Plessis finally opted against bowling first when he noticed that New Zealand had dropped pace spearhead Tim Southee to play two spinners in Jeetan Patel and Mitchell Santner.

The visitors had been under pressure when they resumed after lunch on 63-3 and New Zealand could have driven home their advantage had Watling held on when Elgar got a thick edge in the second over of the session.

New Zealand had seized the early advantage when skipper Kane Williamson introduced Patel in the sixth over, with the off-spinner proving difficult to get away as he extracted bounce and turn off the pitch.

Paceman Boult then got a delivery to swing back into right-handed opener Stephen Cook, who offered no shot and was given out lbw for three to leave the hosts 10-1 in the ninth over.

Williamson then reintroduced Wagner and he struck immediately to remove the dangerous Hashim Amla for one.

Four balls later, he had JP Duminy caught at first slip by Ross Taylor, also for one, from a rising delivery that brushed a glove to leave the visitors in dire trouble.

Following the first test, the teams head to Wellington before concluding the series in Hamilton.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O’Brien)

Downer to buy NZ builder Hawkins

Infrastructure and mining services group Downer EDI has agreed to buy New Zealand builder Hawkins for an undisclosed sum, as it expands operations in the Pacific nation.

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The Australian company called the acquisition an excellent strategic fit, saying it will complement existing capabilities and provide a platform for growth.

Hawkins is one of the largest construction firms in New Zealand, with current major contracts including building Wellington Airport’s new control tower, Christchurch’s town hall and Auckland’s Park Hyatt hotel.

The company was founded 70 years ago, and is being purchased from the current owners – the McConnell family.

Downer chief executive Grant Fenn said the acquisition would help his company benefit from the booming construction activity in New Zealand, where an estimated $NZ50 billion ($A45.9 billion) is expected to be invested in non-residential construction, over the next five years.

Hawkins will continue to operate under its own brand.

The acquisition, expected to be completed by March 31, will be funded through existing debt facilities and be earnings accretive in its first year, Mr Fenn added.

Downer in February posted higher half-year profit and raised full-year guidance, suggesting its shift to rail, transport services and technology sectors was helping to offset the continuing decline in its core mining services business.

Downer has built capability in other segments, particularly in light rail design and construction, and utilities services, as it continues to reposition the business to service increased investment and outsourcing in public transport, communications and defence sectors.

At 1055 AEDT, Downer EDI shares were unchanged at $7.21 each.

New AFL ruck rule confuses Eagle Simpson

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has urged the AFL to leave the rules alone, saying he’s not a fan of the new ruck rule and has no idea what it’s even trying to achieve.

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The AFL has outlawed the third-man up scenario at rucks this season in a bid to protect the role of the ruckman and to try to clear up congestion.

But the rule hit controversy last week when Adelaide midfielder Dean Gore was penalised because the ball accidentally hit him on the back during a shallow throw-in.

The AFL has since promised to tweak the rule so that instances of the ball striking passive players won’t be penalised again.

But Simpson couldn’t help but feel a tad bemused after raising that exact point to the AFL before the Gore incident even occurred.

And he is upset the third-man-up rule will be in place for the home-and-away season before being properly trialled and assessed over a full pre-season.

“I’m still trying to work out why we’ve brought that in,” Simpson said of the new rule.

“I don’t really understand the concept.

“What’s the purpose of it? Is it to protect the rucks? Was that an issue at the start?

“Does it mean there’s less stoppages?

“We were briefed on it, so I won’t say I was in the dark.

“But these rules are brought in after the draft and trade period, so what does it mean for the recruiting and what kind of players you’re looking for?”

Simpson hopes the AFL won’t make many more tweaks to the rules.

“Leave them alone,” Simpson said.

“I thought the standard of footy was pretty good last year, and what the Bulldogs produced was sensational for the competition.

“Strategies change, the game will evolve.

“I’d love to leave the rules alone. To protect the safety of our players – I get that a little bit. But I’m one for just leave it alone.”

West Coast will unleash a near full-strength squad for Thursday’s pre-season hit-out against Melbourne at Domain Stadium.

Ruckman Scott Lycett won’t feature in the match, but he’s set to play for WAFL side East Perth this weekend in his first hit-out since undergoing knee surgery.

Simpson is hopeful Lycett will be fit for round one, with Jonathan Giles, Nathan Vardy, and Drew Petrie the other ruck options battling for spots.

BHP Billiton expects oil demand to firm

BHP Billiton has reaffirmed its optimistic view on oil markets as it looks to invest further in the sector amid a steady recovery in prices.

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The resources giant expects oil demand to rise and level with supply for the first time in nearly three years in 2017, and forecasts even more “compelling market fundamentals” over the next five to seven years.

“Based on modestly higher growth in absolute demand and the need to replenish existing natural field decline, we estimate the world will need about 30 million barrels of oil a day by 2025,” BHP Petroleum Operations president Steve Pastor said.

“We think investing counter-cyclically is a smart idea.”

His comments come days after BHP finalised an agreement with Mexico’s PEMEX to invest in the deepwater Trion oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. BHP will spend a minimum of $US382 million, and up to $US1.2 billion, exploring the offshore permits.

The company last month approved a $US2.2bn investment for a share in the Gulf of Mexico’s Mad Dog Phase 2 crude oil project.

“Most of our focus on long-term renewal is based on tier-one conventional assets,” Mr Pastor said.

He said the company also has short-term flexible opportunities to boost production, particularly through its stakes in North American shale gas developments in the Permian and Eagle Ford.

“Right now, we have an abundance of high quality gas in our portfolio, but quite frankly, we are a bit more bullish on oil,” Mr Pastor said.

BHP stripped its shale drilling program to a minimum in 2016 after a collapse in oil and gas prices forced it to write down the value of its US shale assets by $US7.2 billion.

Crude prices have recovered gradually and currently trade around $US53 a barrel.

The company has preferred to focus on developing its conventional petroleum business, which has some of the lowest unit cash costs in the industry.

BHP bounced back to profitability in the six months to December, as a rebound in prices for iron ore, coal and petroleum contributed to a $US3.2 billion profit.

Its shares were down 32 cents, or 1.3 per cent, at $25.18.

Sydney Boys students support women in their lives in IWD video

A Sydney Boys High school student stands on the school’s grounds and looks into the camera.

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“Feminism is important to me because a few months ago a guy decided for me that I wanted to have sex with him,” he says.

“I didn’t want to.” 

For a moment the audience may wonder if he’s referring to his own experience.

Text appears across the screen: “We asked the women in our lives why feminism is important to them.

“This is what they said.”

The video, which students at Sydney Boys High School posted to Facebook for International Women’s Day, then cuts to another male student.

“Feminism is important to me because despite being a fully qualified vet, a woman recently told me I would not be able to go out to her farm and pull a calf because it would be too hard for me.

“I went out there and I pulled that calf.”

Another student says: “Feminism is important to me because when I give directions at work I get called a bitch rather than a leader, and bossy rather than assertive.”

And another: “Feminism is important to me because my Dad doesn’t think I can be an engineer and my Mum doesn’t think I can be an economist because that’s too hard for a girl.”

The Facebook video had racked up more than 120,000 views at the time of publication.

Facebook user Sally Lancaster wrote: “Great work SBHS Prefects – so impressed by you.”

While Holly Coleman commented: “There is hope!!! What amazing young men you are.”

Damian Yates said: “Awesome – a fine outstanding group of young gentlemen.. I wish I had this wisdom at their age.. #realmendontfearstrongwomen.”

And from Jenny Harding: “This is what our community needs – the voices of young men to be in partnership with women to recognise the inequities that permeate society. This is a start of what should be a global conversation. 

“SBHS this is just a wonderful contribution to IWD!”

Student leaders decided to produce the video to raise awareness about gender equality, deputy principal Rachel Powell told SBS News.

The boys were in a sport class at the time of publication and were not available for comment.

Ms Powell said it was disturbing that the boys were able to come up with such “shocking experiences of sexism so easily from talking to the women in their lives”.

The students have been taking part in ‘One Woman Gender, Inequality and Feminism’ workshops this week.

Sydney Boys High School will be fundraising for programs sponsored by UN Women by selling purple ribbons and holding a breakfast on Thursday.

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