'It will be strange': David McAllister on leaving the Australian Ballet

He may have had three years to prepare for it, but David McAllister has no firm plans for what he will do when he retires from the Australian Ballet next year.

McAllister is the company’s longest serving artistic director and announced last week that he would step down from the role at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

He first mooted the idea with the Australian Ballet’s chair, Craig Dunn, when negotiating for his current contract in 2016.

“I said then that I thought it would be my last contract,” McAllister told The Herald and The Age.


“I inherited the company in the 40th anniversary year and I was very pleased to program the 50th anniversary program, but with the 60th anniversary coming up I thought it was someone else’s turn.”


When he eventually walks out the Australian Ballet Centre’s doors he will have spent most of the past four decades – most of his life – working inside its walls.

He trained at the Australian Ballet School before joining the company upon graduating and eventually becoming a principal dancer. He danced with the company for the final time in March 2001 and became artistic director in June of the same year.

“I have to admit it will be strange waking up for the first time and not pulling out my Australian Ballet pass,” he said.

“Dancers, notoriously, have short careers and artistic directors can have sticky ends. I am proud of the fact I have had such an opportunity for such a long time and that I am leaving in a happy place with people saying they would like me to stay longer.”

While his time with The Australian Ballet officially will draw to a close when the curtain falls on the final production of the 2020 season, McAllister said he won’t be leaving the ballet world, and potentially may not stray too far from the company either.

“I remember going to my first ballet class aged seven thinking ‘these are my people’, so I think I will still keep close ties to the ballet world,” he said.

That could mean he works with other ballet companies around the world, although he has no desire at this stage to take on the artistic directorship of another company.

And, after the success of 2015’s The Sleeping Beauty, McAllister’s debut choreographic work, he also hopes to be more creative in his post-Australian Ballet life.


“I loved that, it was one of the most exciting creative things I have done in my life,” he said. “(Choreographing more) would be my first port of call of what to tout about.”

If the company tracks in 2020 as it has this year, McAllister will be leaving it in a strong financial and artistic position, ready for someone new to take the helm. But the search for his replacement is not something he will participate in.

“The board have got an incredibly rigorous and well thought through strategy and I am here to help in any way, but I am definitely not going to be part of it,” he said.

A significant part of the artistic director’s role at the company is ensuring the relationship with the government of the day runs smoothly.

McAllister's two decades in the role has seen multiple governments and eight different arts ministers. He describes the current Morrison government as “easy as she goes” when it comes to the arts.

“The major companies maintain a status quo, but what would be great to see from this government is for them to get the funding back to the Australia Council and back to the small-to-medium organisations so they can be as vibrant as they can be.

“The major organisations and the small-to-medium organisations really do facilitate the building of Australian identity and culture and, over the years, various governments have understood that.

“I don’t think the current government is on a negative path with that.”

McAllister’s final season for the company will be launched later this year and will include “lots of new, beautiful works”.

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The Crossing: cancelled after one season, but it shouldn't have been

With so many entertainment options, it's easy to miss brilliant TV shows, movies and documentaries. Here are the ones to hit play on, or skip.



The Crossing

Steve Zahn is good at making his jaw hang open while his eyes bug half-way out of his head – which serves him particularly well at the start of this uncommonly thoughtful and imaginative sci-fi series.

Zahn plays Jude Ellis, former Oakland cop turned small-town sheriff and sad dad of a faraway son. His awkward attempt at yoga is interrupted by a report of a body washing up on the beach, but by the time he gets down on the sand there isn't just one body, there are dozens. Soon there are hundreds.


The 47 survivors claim to be time-travelling refugees from a future America in which a genetically-engineered master race is waging a war of extermination against old-fashioned regular folks like you and me.


It's a heavy concept, to be sure. But there's more.

What if some of those genetically engineered bad guys have snuck in alongside the refugees? What if other baddies arrived here years ago and have worked themselves into the apparatus of government so that they are now perfectly placed to murder the refugees – and, indeed, the rest of us?

What if some of the refugees are carrying an exotic disease that could wipe out all of humanity in our time?

The whole thing is uncomfortably laden with what might be seen in one way as a reflection of contemporary Western anxieties, and in another as a collection of all of that vile old antisemitic conspiracy nonsense that has suddenly gained such widespread currency.


That series creators Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie (producer-writer veterans of Criminal Minds, Revenge and Star Trek: Discovery) give most of the apparent goodies names fresh out of the Tanakh might or might not mean something.

Perhaps the Welsh angle is more significant. Fans of The Terminator will recall that the character sent back from the future to save Sarah Connor's son was named Kyle Reese. So why – given all the anglicised Welsh names in the world – is our new, slightly Terminator-y pal from the future (Kingdom's Natalie Martinez) named Reece?

If that question can be answered it's perhaps only by diving into The Crossing, a series so well cast and so skilfully written that it's hard to imagine that the American ABC network cancelled it after this single season.

Perhaps "mainstream" American audiences just aren't into stories involving refugees, even when most of the refugees are white.

Wanda Sykes: Not Normal

The marvellous Wanda Sykes is at the peak of her powers in this new stand-up special, excoriating Donald Trump and the entrenched social inequities of modern America – without ever forgetting to make fun of herself or neglecting to keep the audience in stitches.

The humour is thoughtful, but the physical comedy is brilliant too, not least when Sykes is opining that Tiffany Trump probably doesn't need a secret service detail and could get by with a mall cop on a Segway scooter instead.

The Viking Invasions

Kanopy carries loads of The Great Courses' university-level lecture series, covering everything from mathematics to photography and comparative religion.

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Viewers whose interest in history has been piqued by Game of Thrones might want to check out American professor Jennifer Paxton's 36-part series on medieval England.

In The Viking Invasions Paxton explains how the Viking incursions into Anglo-Saxon England grew from bloody small-scale raids to large-scale settlements that would change the face of England forever. Free with a library card from a participating library.

Knock Down the House

This absorbing documentary follows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other progressive female Democratic outsiders as they fought shoestring campaigns against well-funded establishment incumbents in Democratic primaries ahead of last year's congressional mid-term elections.

The David-and-Goliath nature of the contests is clear from the outset, as is the motivation and commitment of the women, who feel that establishment Democrats have failed working-class voters on such life-and-death issues as healthcare and industrial pollution.

Only Ocasio-Cortez got through, but the insurgency continues.

Guava Island
Amazon Prime Video

Donald Glover and Rihanna bring us a dark, disturbing Caribbean fairytale that sits somewhere between musical feature film and long-form music video.

In a dilapidated island town, happy-go-lucky musician Deni (Glover) is everybody's friend and a bit of a local celebrity. Deni and his girlfriend, Kofi (Rihanna), might be able to live a small but contented life were it not for tyrannical businessman Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie), who rules the island in Orwellian style and forces everyone to work on his docks and in his factories seven days a week.

Long-time Glover collaborator Hiro Murai – who directed the stunning music video for Glover's song This Is America – is behind the camera once more, and he and Glover treat viewers to a tropical reimagining of the This Is America video staged in a dockside warehouse.

It's one of several musical interludes involving songs Glover recorded as his musical alter-ego, Childish Gambino, and all of them make good use of the film's gritty Cuban locations, many featuring local musical talent. It's something quite different – which you'd expect from Glover.

Just Tattoo of Us

Reality TV hits a brutal nadir as British friends, relatives and lovers trade mortifying joke tattoos that they will all have to carry around for the rest of their lives.

The tone is established by Northern cousins Lauren, 22, and Sophie, 19, who are best mates but have an uneasy undercurrent to their relationship.

Lauren is highly judgemental of Sophie's sex life – "she thinks of her fanny more than anyone else" – and wants to brand her with a tattoo that will scare men away.

*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this website.

In France, men tend to commit instantly – but do they really mean it?

I met David on my first of four days visiting Lyon. From our first kiss that night, we started behaving like a couple: We had difficult conversations, we were finishing each other's sentences and the sex was intense and intimate. On the third day, I accidentally told him my darkest secrets, which I had never admitted to any man before. Instead of being scared off, he held me and wiped my tears with his thumb. On our final night together, he told me he loved me.

"I know I'm not supposed to say it so soon, and I don't want you to say it back," he said. "But … I do."

There was no way I was saying those words back. I liked him, sure. But love? You can't love someone you barely know, right? Then again, I'd never been in love-love. Maybe I'm a cynical American woman who put too much weight on this word.

Now that I live in France full time, I've found that professing one's love right out of the gate is not aberration. It's just one of the many cultural differences: The French go all in from the start. But in the United States, where I lived for 39 years before moving to Europe, dating is generally casual and cautious. Professing your love early on – or immediately treating someone like your boyfriend or girlfriend – generally comes across as needy, aggressive or sociopathic.


David didn't seem to be any of those things. Just sweet, romantic, unafraid. So I went with it. I'd probably never see him again, I figured.


We dated long-distance for almost a year.

Since then, I've met many American women and expatriates who have quickly landed in relationships with French men. And most of us have found it pretty confusing.

The first day American business owner Kelly Clark arrived here, she hit it off with a Frenchman. After a couple of days together, he sent her a Facebook message to say he had booked a flight to Barcelona to join her on the next leg of her trip. She was surprised rather than annoyed by this grand gesture, because there were language barriers. He may have assumed she wanted him to join her because she had told him the specifics of her travel plans, she says. After they returned to France, she invited him to join her for a week in Venice.

"I thought that we were just hooking up on vacation, having a summer fling, skinny-dipping-and-drinking-spritz kind of thing. I didn't find out that to him we were 'dating' until about a month into our relationship," she said, "after sort of stumbling into the conversation where I was interested in putting a definition on it."


At first she was surprised by his commitment. "It was far from what I was used to, and I was delighted by it. I found it to be a very … 'swept off my feet romance,' which knows no borders or boundaries."

Like me and several American women I've met, Clark was used to dating American men who were skittish about labeling anything until a few month have elapsed. Hooking up seldom meant you were suddenly in a relationship. But to her current boyfriend, it meant they were official.

For the first six months of our relationship, David and I had several fights over the phone about exactly this. I didn't necessarily want to sleep with anyone else, but he was in France and I was in Spain, so it seemed impractical to have an exclusive long-distance relationship with someone I'd only spent four days with.

Plus, my history of trysts or one-night stands in America was much like Clark's – they never led to anything serious. David just couldn't comprehend why being exclusive was such a big deal, or why this American girl he loved was obsessed with the notion of freedom. It took me six months to finally agree to be exclusive, and that's only because another woman was trying to move in on him.

Like me, Clark did a year of long distance before moving to France. She and her beau talked every day on FaceTime and frequently traveled to see each other. "It was an intense experience," she said, "which I have trouble imagining an American guy doing."


Nine years later, they are still going strong.

Cathline Fermet-Quinet, a French psychologist and sexologist in Lyon, confirmed that, yes, dating in France is different. "We don't have this causal dating period when it's OK to date several people at the same time and keep your options open," she said. "Things end up going faster because we're all in. It's pretty common to go on three or four dates a week with someone you just met."

Meeting friends usually happens after a few dates, she said, and meeting the parents within one to three months.

Caroline Conner, an American who runs wine tastings in Lyon, has had similar experiences. "American men will do anything to avoid calling you their girlfriend. For some reason that's terrifying to them," she joked. "But French men seem to want girlfriends. If you have sex once or even just make out – Bam! You're together!"

The only exception, she said, seems to be if you meet on a dating app and discuss being "sex friends."

This all-in approach isn't always smart, Fermet-Quinet said. "Signing a contract too early and under the influence of love hormones is a little risky." She said she believes couples who dive right in don't stop and ask themselves whether they share the same vision of love or whether they are even compatible.

Emily Chavez, an American law student here, said the accelerated approach the French take to dating hasn't always ended well for her. One man admitted the morning after they hooked up that his recent breakup was not actually a breakup. Others have pretended to be OK with a relationship – or at least not contradicted her when she said that's what she was looking for – only to admit a few weeks later, when things were really starting to get heavy, that they didn't want anything serious.

"Now that I've dated a few, I have decided that the easiest thing is just for me to go with the flow until things go sour," Chavez said.

According to Fermet-Quinet, one-night stands aren't as common in France, or they don't seem like one-night stands because people are too polite to cut off contact without a discussion. Unless you've discussed being "sex friends," not calling or texting someone back after a night together is disrespectful, even if you don't want to go any further.

As much as I like being treated with respect and care, it can be quite confusing. Nina Coates, a British yoga instructor in Lyon, agreed. "They treat you with too much respect for someone who just wants to shag," Coates said. Like me, she's open to relationships or "sex friends," but we never know what we're getting ourselves into.

The last two men Coates tried dating both disappeared after going "full boyfriend."

"They text you every day: Before they go to sleep, as soon as they wake up, when they get home from work, when they're out with friends. It's constant," she said.

Both guys corrected her French homework, and one even helped her find a used bicycle online, making all the calls in French for her. "They cook you dinner, show you pics of their mum, cuddle on the couch, listen when you speak and ask you thoughtful questions. They're good guys … but they don't know how to not be too boyfriend," she said.

Although we both enjoy the romantic gestures and being treated like cherished human beings, it stings much more when they disappear. Neither of us has a clue who wants to date and who is just grooming us for a sexual friendship because they act the same regardless.

Even the ones who do want relationships can backtrack abruptly. David and I ended things right before I moved to France. Even though I was the one to drag my feet on the girlfriend label, he was the one who wasn't truly ready to be a boyfriend.

Dating in the country known for love may be exciting and romantic, but it can also make you even more cynical and cautious about dating than back home. Because in the United States, when someone finally does say "I love you" and goes "full boyfriend," you actually believe them.

The Washington Post

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NSW Labor leadership hopeful in 'huge coup' as big unions swing their support

Two of the biggest right-wing unions have swung their support behind Chris Minns for the NSW Labor leadership, in what senior Labor sources say is a "huge coup" that undermines the party's powerful head office.

The Health Services Union (HSU) and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) will back Mr Minns for the leadership over his contender Jodi McKay, believing he has the best chance of winning an election.

The move is seen as significant within the party's senior ranks, as Ms McKay is the preferred candidate of the party's Sussex Street head office, led by general secretary Kaila Murnain.

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One senior Labor source said: "It's a huge coup that the HSU has broken ranks."


"It can't be anything but a slap in the face to Kaila," the source said.

Another party operative said the Right wing was "tearing themselves apart", and the HSU had withdrawn its support for Ms Murnain by backing Mr Minns.

"This is a very public move by one of the biggest unions," the source said.

However, another party source said head office was playing no role in the ballot.

"It is the first time ever that a rank and file ballot of the party membership is being held. That's why the rule was introduced – so Sussex Street doesn't pick the candidate," the source said.

Several Labor sources have said if Mr Minns succeeds, Ms Murnain's position will likely become untenable. Rail, Tram and Bus Union national secretary Bob Nanva has been named as a potential successor to Ms Murnain.

Ms Murnain declined to comment.

Mr Minns, the member for Kogarah, and Ms McKay, the member for Strathfield, are both from the party's Right. The ballot will be determined by a vote of the parliamentary caucus and the rank-and-file members, with each group having a 50 per cent say.

The new leader will be announced on June 30. The influence of unions will be a factor, with many party members also members of trade unions.

The HSU, with 38,000 members in NSW, has put aside previous doubts based on what it considered to be anti-union sentiments in Mr Minns's maiden speech to state Parliament in 2015.

HSU NSW state secretary Gerard Hayes said his position was based on what was best for members, and Mr Minns had expressed a willingness to work collaboratively with the union movement.

"I had a long discussion with Chris around his inaugural speech and Chris does not hold those views at this time," Mr Hayes said.

"In our view, we think he has more to offer and has the ability to unite the groupings of the ALP."

Mr Hayes said he was also pleased with Mr Minns' understanding of a broader range of industrial health issues beyond Labor's election platform of nurse-to-patient ratios.

The SDA, the biggest Labor-affiliated union in NSW with about 60,000 members, is also backing Mr Minns, as is the Australian Workers Union.

However, other right-wing unions have not yet made their positions public, including the United Services Union, Electrical Trades Union and Transport Workers Union.

Ms McKay has irritated some members after she appeared to distance herself from the party machine and the union movement in an email to rank-and-file members soliciting support.

"I’m not a career politician. I was never in Young Labor, I’ve never worked in party office, I was never a staffer, or a union official – I’m a country girl whose dad used to mow lawns," Ms McKay said.

However, the Newcastle branch of the Maritime Union of Australia said on Wednesday it would support Ms McKay, citing her connection to the region as the former MP for Newcastle between 2007-2011.

Don Farrell quits Senate deputy race to make way for Kristina Keneally

Labor senator Don Farrell is quitting the Senate deputy leadership race to make way for Kristina Keneally to take the job.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese endorsed the move but denied it was a captain's call, despite telling the right faction he wanted Senator Keneally on his frontbench.

"I don't regard this as a captain's call at all," Mr Albanese told reporters at Parliament House on Thursday.

"He [Senator Farrell] was prepared to step aside as Labor's deputy leader in the Senate on the basis that I had made it clear that my view was that there be gender balance in Labor's leadership team."


Senator Farrell overwhelmingly had the numbers of Labor's right faction to remain in his job and said yesterday he would not stand aside.

“I’m not seeking to knock anyone off, I’m simply seeking to run for the position I currently hold,” he said.


It is the second time Senator Farrell has relinquished his factional support so a woman could be elevated above him.

In 2012 he gave up the number one spot on the Senate ticket for Penny Wong and lost his seat at the subsequent election.

It is also the second time a male MP has been forced to quit their positions to make way for Senator Keneally.

Sydney MP Ed Husic gave up his position on the frontbench to Senator Keneally.

Mr Albanese suggested there would be a place for Mr Husic in his cabinet, should he win government.

"Ed Husic is one of my best mates in this place," Mr Albanese said.

"If I am successful in government, I will want Ed Husic at the most senior levels of our party."

Labor's caucus is meeting on Thursday for the first time since the election. Richard Marles is expected to be elected deputy leader and Senator Wong endorsed to remain as the party's leader in the Senate.

Senator Keneally's role in the leadership group means the opposition will maintain its equal split of men and women in leadership roles.

 The man who lost $51 billion in one year is making a comeback – and has some advice for Elon Musk

Walking down a busy street in Rio de Janeiro one recent afternoon, we bumped into the Brazilian who is best known for losing $US35 billion ($51 billion) in a single year. After initially trying to deflect questions, he begrudgingly invited us along for a lunch that lasted two hours.

The man, of course, is Eike Batista, who once famously told Mexico's Carlos Slim to watch out because, he said, he was poised to surpass him as the world's wealthiest person. Slim has since faded to ninth on the list, Batista to oblivion. Now, he's staging a comeback. Or trying to, at least. He's also got lots of ideas for a man on the hot seat right now that he sees as something of a kindred spirit, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and he's quick to spew criticism at those he feels did in his empire.

Batista sat at the head of the table at one of his favourite Japanese restaurants in Rio, holding court and quizzing companions about Brazil's ongoing oil bonanza while he scribbled calculations on a place mat. Pinned to his black sport coat was a golden sun, the logo of his erstwhile commodities empire that once made him the world's eighth-richest person, and a household name in Brazil.

"People don't even know it's working,'' Batista said between bites of shrimp tempura, describing a port he owned that now loads giant oil tankers bound for China. "It's bigger than Manhattan!''


'Except the oil'

Other former ventures are all humming along under foreign ownership, and remain a source of pride. Then a slight frown came across his face. "Except the oil.''

He was referring to OGX, which went bust under a mountain of debt after an unsuccessful exploration campaign. He blames President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for succumbing to a bout of resource nationalism, leaving only shallow-water scraps for him. Then, without missing a beat, he drew parallels to an acquaintance who's in the kind of tight spot he knows too well.

"Elon Musk is suffering from this right now," he said.

Like OGX before it, Musk built Tesla on the premise of greater sales than were delivered, and the failure sent shares tumbling. Terms like "distressed credit" and "restructuring" entered the conversation. It's the biggest decliner in the Nasdaq 100 Index this year.

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Cautionary tale

While differences between the men are glaring – Musk wants his electric cars to break the world's fossil fuel addiction – the sudden downfall of Batista's oil company offers a cautionary tale for Tesla investors.

Both have attacked short sellers with caustic tweets and made market-moving announcements on social media, then came under scrutiny from regulators for doing so. (Brazil's securities commission this week banned Batista from running publicly-traded companies for seven years and slapped him with a 536-million-real ($195 million) fine.) They also regretted having taken their companies public once markets turned against them, and suffered high-profile staff departures.

The two have a personal relationship. In 2008 Musk travelled to Rio during another difficult moment, Batista said. A failed rocket launch had put Musk's space program in doubt. They also met at Tesla's factory in California, and Musk returned to Rio in 2014 for the World Cup where Batista assisted with his social agenda. "I helped him to go to some parties."

OGX still exists under a different name as a minor producer, not the giant Batista envisioned. Tesla, too, risks being relegated to a niche player amid growing competition from established car makers who are flooding the market with new models.

Speedboat racer

Batista's big concern for the company is the quality – or lack-there-of, he says – of the interior of Tesla cars. It's an unusual perspective. Not even the most bearish Tesla bears tend to dwell much on the seats.

"You can choose a Mercedes, Audi, or Jaguar that are cheaper than his SUVs, and you sit in there and see the interior; you can't compete!" said Batista, a former speedboat racer and car buff who displayed a Lamborghini in his living room until police seized it. "If you don't correct this, you fall behind."

Tesla is preparing a revamp of its Model S sedan to include seats from a higher-end model and a longer range battery, CNBC reported Thursday, citing unidentified current and former employees.

Batista doesn't see Tesla bringing down Musk's wider group of companies the way OGX sank his, even if the car maker doesn't endure. In any case, Musk has already altered the course of history by forcing the wider auto industry to produce electric cars.

"He provoked a beautiful and massive move toward change," Batista said, and then made a comparison to himself. "We are perfectionists, we are nation-builders."

Toothpaste startup

The conversation continued the next day at his office, a more modest space than he occupied in his heyday, but still offering a view of Rio's iconic Sugarloaf mountain and decorated by trophies from the past. A surfboard once ridden by Gabriel Medina, Brazil's two-time world champion, rested in a corner. A title belt given to him by a mixed martial arts fighter hung on his wall, and a coffee table featured a pair of samurai swords that were also a gift.

The man who once regularly graced Brazil's front pages declined to have his photo taken.

He played videos showcasing the companies he once owned, then spoke about the 15 "unicorns" he's "breeding in my garage" that will restore him to prominence. One plan entails producing millions of tons of calcium phosphate to sequester carbon emissions from power plant stacks and car engines. Another is toothpaste that regenerates enamel, though the tubes he passed around the conference table were for now filled with water.

Batista says he's looking forward, and is untroubled by the past.

"The difficulty is for people to understand that my relation to money is very different. I didn't mind breaking my empire," Batista said, adding that he quickly sold his companies on the cheap. "You can't let projects of that scale stop; if it stops for 2, 3, 4 years, sometimes you can't catch up."


Brienne of Tarth actually won the Game of Thrones: Gwendoline Christie

Warning: this story contains major spoilers for the final episode of Game of Thrones.

Since the finale of Game of Thrones ran, Gwendoline Christie has been asking local cab drivers what they thought, both of that last episode and the series overall. The recognisable actress, 40, doesn't seem to care what the actual critics think – she's interested in the fan reaction. "They might not be telling the truth but so far, everyone's really positive," Christie says. "Everyone's said they didn't expect that ending, but they could see why it made sense."

For Christie, chatting on a lunch break from rehearsals for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at London's Bridge Theatre, the conclusion of the beloved HBO series was satisfying. It handed her character, Ser Brienne of Tarth, what Christie considers a happy ending, one that brings the recently knighted character back around to what she wanted from the very beginning: to be a member of the Kingsguard.

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"I could not believe that I made it all the way through," the actress says of her character's survival, laughing. "And I was in the end of the final episode. Brienne makes it through and has a life beyond. I found that incredibly positive and unexpected. And she gets a great last line." ("I think we can all agree that ships take precedence over brothels," she tells Bron as the king's advisors set about rebuilding King's Landing.)


Christie felt a strong connection with Brienne since before she was even cast on the show in Season 2. The actress was so compelled to get the role that she spent eight weeks preparing for her audition, binge-reading three of George R.R. Martin's books and training to get physically fit. While working as a dog walker to her mentor, actor Simon Callow, she spent hours perfecting Brienne's stride. The actress was driven because she couldn't believe this character could exist on TV.

"I did everything I possibly could to make it happen," Christie remembers. "I knew that emotionally I could identify with the character, but where the work had to go was into the differences, which was all of the physical elements and all of the physical strength. I was very scared to go near my androgyny, my masculinity and my physical strength – and the strength with which I felt some of my own opinions, especially some of my opinions about women. It was the opportunity to do something I knew I needed to do, which was to undergo a change and undergo a transformation and get in touch with who I truly was and how I've been made physically and who I am as a person."

She adds, "I felt that even if the show didn't go anywhere, it didn't matter, because I would get to do a job and I'd get to investigate that as work. That, to me, is what being an artist meant."

After she joined the cast, Christie quickly became aware that she wasn't the only person obsessed with Brienne. Fans gravitated to the character, a noble warrior committed to her duty and to doing what was right. With her grand stature and androgynous sensibility, she didn't fit into the narrow bounds of women on TV. "I don't know what plans [the writers] ever had for that character, but I was shocked by how embraced the character was by the audience," the actress notes. "I didn't think that would happen. I didn't think that's what audiences wanted, because we've been told that's not what audiences want."


The understanding of Brienne as a strong, unconventional woman might explain some of the backlash in the final season, when the character chooses to sleep with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) after the Battle of Winterfell. Some fans were upset that Brienne reveals vulnerable emotions when Jaime leaves to return to his sister, but Christie feels it's important for us to see a woman in all her colors – not just in the way we've grown accustomed to seeing her.

"When you're about to lose something that has truly meant something to you, it can destroy you, and I don't think there's any weakness in that," Christie reflects. "What I liked was that happens, but then she goes back to work. She doesn't follow him, does she? She stays with Sansa and she does her duty. And she did get her happy ending, and her happy ending wasn't defined by a man. What completes her as a character and what makes her three dimensional as a character is the fact that she becomes open about her feelings."

Since leaving Game of Thrones, Christie has been exploring what her own happy ending will look like. The day after the series wrapped, Christie left to shoot Armando Iannucci's upcoming film, The Personal History of David Copperfield, a project that was notably "joyful." A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens June 3, marks Christie's first time back onstage in eight years. She teases that audiences might be surprised by director Nicholas Hynter's take on the Shakespeare play, which she calls "untraditional and unconventional." She doesn't return as Capt. Phasma in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, although Christie refuses to believe the character, another gender norm-defying role, is dead.

Going forward, Christie also wants to be more involved in her projects, potentially helming her own or creating them for others. "With Brienne, we were on the same page, but that doesn't happen with every job," the actress says. "I need to be more creatively involved in the things I work on."

Los Angeles Times

NRL leading the pack with stance on Indigenous recognition

Stand by, sports fans, this is getting really interesting.

On the one hand rugby league has made appalling headlines for years for too many off-field atrocities to enumerate, begetting an image that would make a brown dog weep. A good section of the populace is still convinced that rugby league is filled with knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who have no higher calling than getting on the piss, abusing women, and starting fights.

And on the other hand – and this is the fascinating part – the NRL has also positioned itself right at the forefront of progressive politics in this country, using its weight for positive change.

Two years ago, for example, the NRL was the strongest of all sports in supporting the same-sex marriage legislation, and not only had Macklemore sing his anthem One Love at the grand final but saw his performance greeted by 75,000 delirious league fans who were clearly in full support.


As a tearful Ian Roberts said afterwards when embracing NRL CEO Todd Greenberg: “This will save lives.”

Two months ago, when the Israel Folau saga broke for the second time, ARLC chair Peter Beattie said within hours: “Israel Folau doesn't pass our inclusiveness culture . . . we don't support him playing rugby league again.”

But there was much more to come, and a lot in the last couple of days.

On Wednesday, the NRL was the one Australian sport which came out strongly in the company of thirteen other major Australian organisations – banks, law firms, universities etc – in support of the Uluru Statement, the simple, wonderful idea that, as former Liberal Party politician Fred Chaney put it, the First Peoples have “the right to be heard on issues that affect them".

Simple as that.

But here is the wonderful thing.

This is not just the commissioners making decisions out on their own, because you now have leading players putting their weight behind it too.

In recent times there has been no more prestigious player in the game than Johnathan Thurston, and this week he has been vocal and eloquent in his support of the league on these matters, telling the Herald it is “absurd” Indigenous Australians are still waiting on such constitutional recognition.

“While we've made a lot of great steps in moving forward we've still got a long way to go,” he said. “I think people need to be educated on the history of our culture. I think that needs to start in our school curriculums. Rugby league has been a huge part of the Indigenous culture of the First Nations people for as long as I can remember. I think the NRL is doing the best they can, but again we've still got a long way to go.”


But the most powerful thing is the players themselves lining up behind the whole idea of Indigenous empowerment. On Wednesday, the Souths star and NSW Origin debutant Cody Walker announced he would not sing the national anthem before next Wednesday’s Origin I in Brisbane, just as he and other Indigenous players didn’t sing it during the recent All Stars game.

“I’m not pushing my views on anyone, it’s just how me and my family have grown up and how I feel,” Walker told the Herald. “I’ve already voiced my opinion, and I want to reiterate it’s just my opinion.”

Very broadly, it seems Walker’s view is that when the anthem is a paean to British settlement – the second verse runs "When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,/ To trace wide oceans o'er/ True British courage bore him on/ Till he landed on our shore/Then here he raised Old England's flag/ The standard of the brave'' – and makes no reference to the First Peoples, then, as he said after the All Stars game, “the national anthem has nothing to do with me or my family".


The best thing of all? He and Thurston are getting no grief from the league community, and it is believed his coach Brad Fittler supports his right to make that quiet protest. Walker has already received support from Thurston, and I suspect will be supported by other Indigenous players, both with the Blues and with the Queenslanders. And who knows, but some white players might join them?

Compare all that with the grief visited upon the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he took a knee during the American national anthem to protest against police brutality on black Americans. Kaepernick was virtually black-balled from the NFL for his trouble.

No such thing will happen to Cody Walker. He is being supported by the greats of the game, and it seems the rugby league community itself.

So how did the same game that has been so backward for so long in so many areas of social progress now find itself at the prow of progressive politics in Australia?

I have no clue. But good on the lot of them.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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'I had a 10-year vision', but Atlassian moved in quickly on Tim's start-up

Tim Clipsham wasn't prepared for a phone call from Atlassian inquiring about buying his start-up.

"I was really surprised, it wasn't something I had considered," the founder of analytics company Good Software says. "I had a 10-year vision ahead of what I wanted to achieve."

The 31-year-old software developer launched Good Software just over two years ago and sold the business to Australian software giant Atlassian for an undisclosed sum last month.

Sydney based Good Software created applications that worked with Atlassian products.


Its most popular product was an app called Analytics for Confluence which provided statistics and insights for users of Atlassian's popular Confluence product, a content collaboration tool.

Starting as a side hustle

Clipsham started Good Software after seeing an opportunity in Atlassian's marketplace, particularly on the cloud side to help solve customer problems.

"I have always had a desire to build a business and I saw Atlassian's marketplace as a great way to do this," Clipsham says. "It started as a side hustle doing a couple of hours every morning to chip away at the problem and test the ideas before making the jump [to running the business full time]."

Clipsham says he was not concerned at the dependency of his entire business on Atlassian.

"I think it's really important to focus on a specific niche as a business and do well at it and I saw a huge opportunity on Atlassian marketplace," he says. "With any business there are many risks you have to face whether on a platform like Atlassian or whether it is other competitors, but I believed the benefits outweighed the risks."

His costs of starting up the business were minimal with Clipsham initially working from his home.

"In terms of a software start-up there are not many large upfront costs you just need a laptop which I already had," Clipsham says. "The main challenge was how to reduce personal expenses to put more into the business, rent was a big expense so my wife and I moved house to a cheaper place."

Clipsham says while there were challenging moments building Good Software but demand for its apps grew steadily enabling him to hire a team of four.

Things were going according to plan until Atlassian "reached out" to him.

Reaching out

"The Atlassian team really talked through the circumstances we were in and the benefits of joining a greater team," Clipsham says.

"I was looking at what is the best outcome for the customer and for my team, I wanted to make sure they were looked after, and obviously for my wife and me for all the hard work we put in. The more I thought about it, the more Atlassian made so much sense. I thought the way to have maximum impact with what I had created was to join the team."

Clipsham and his team moved across to Atlassian just over a month ago and he has been given a role as a senior product manager.

"It's been surprisingly smooth to tell you the truth because we really knew the Atlassian culture from being part of the ecosystem," he says. "I am really excited for the growth opportunities that are here not just for me but also for the team members."

Clipsham won't disclose how long he is contractually required to stay but says the sale was "a really good outcome" for him.

"It wasn't my goal to be acquired, it wasn't something I was thinking of," he says. "There is benefit to having a plan but the most important thing is building a really good team and doing great work for your customers. If it distracts from that then you are working on the wrong area."

Fuelling Atlassian's growth

Good Software is Atlassian's most recent acquisition with the Australian tech giant paying $US295 million for OpsGenie last year and $US166 million for planning software provider Agile-Craft in March this year.



With a valuation of more than $US30 billion, the workplace software business continues to grow, both through acquistions and organically.

Atlassian's marketplace is one of the keys to its success with over 25,000 developers on the ecosystem, many more than the number of developers in the company.


Atlassian co-founder and co-chief executive Mike Cannon-Brookes is enthusiastic about the Good Software acquisition.

"The Atlassian ecosystem is full of brilliant ideas and products," he says. "Companies like Good Software understand our customer needs inside out, and it’s great to welcome them to our team."

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Hong Kong won't be swallowed up by Greater Bay Area: HK exec

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has told an Australian audience it was “speculation” and “absolutely untrue” that Hong Kong would lose its distinct identity as the Chinese Communist Party pushes ahead with an economic plan to link the former British colony with nearby mainland cities.

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Lam will travel to Australia to promote the Greater Bay Area, the Chinese government’s plan to create an economic hub linking Hong Kong, Macau and China’s technology centre of Shenzhen, among nine mainland cities.

She will call for Australian companies to invest in the project, which has already seen China build the world’s longest sea bridge to link the islands by road with the mainland.

Tax concessions that would allow professionals living in Hong Kong to work under the same conditions within the Greater Bay Area on the Chinese mainland have been announced.


But the push to create the Greater Bay Area comes as anxiety is rising in Hong Kong among the public and business community that Beijing is eroding the “One Country, Two Systems” principle that gave Hong Kong unique freedoms, including a separate legal system and police force.

Lam said that One Country Two Systems, and Hong Kong taking advantage of commercial opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, were not mutually exclusive.

“Any worry and rumour and speculation that once we cooperate and take a greater part in the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong will lose its unique characteristics, and the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle will be eroded, is absolutely untrue,” she said in a keynote speech to the AustCham annual awards.

Lam said she “will safeguard fiercely” the rule of law in Hong Kong, and said Hong Kong will continue to appoint overseas judges in a system that highlighted the independence of the judiciary. Four of 14 overseas judges in the Hong Kong court system come from Australia.

Her keynote speech to the AustCham dinner also comes after a noisy public debate in Australia last year over whether Hong Kong companies should be regarded as a national security risk on the basis of Hong Kong being subject to Chinese communist party rule.


A bid by a prominent Hong Kong company CK Group to purchase a major gas pipeline was rejected on the grounds it was contrary to national interest for any foreign company to acquire sole ownership of critical gas infrastructure.

Since the decision, CK Group has joined the board of AustCham Hong Kong. Hong Kong has also signed a Free Trade Agreement with Australia, which Lam said she hoped would soon be ratified by the Australian Parliament now the election was over.

AustCham had told Lam’s government that Hong Kong’s advantage lay in upholding One Country, Two Systems and this would be important to the island’s continued success.

Australian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong chairman Andrew MacIntosh said the business community was “optimistic about the promise” of the Greater Bay Area.



The latest flashpoint for concern over Beijing’s reach into Hong Kong has been an extradition bill proposed by Lam’s government.

On Monday 30 foreign consuls held a meeting with Hong Kong politicians where they expressed concern the proposed extradition law would allow suspects to be handed over to mainland Chinese authorities.

Lam said earlier on Tuesday she would meet with foreign envoys to explain the legislation.

The business community in Hong Kong has also expressed its concern.



The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce met with Hong Kong’s security secretary on Monday to ask for more safeguards in the bill, saying the law would have significant and far reaching implications for Hong Kong’s criminal justice system “which is a vital contributing factor to the city’s reputation as an international city”, the peak business body said.

Human rights safeguards should be improved and Chinese provincial governments banned from making extradition requests, the chamber said.

AustCham’s Macintosh said: “The chamber has been watching the issue very closely.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said protests against the extradition law by foreign governments were “clearly an interference in China’s internal affairs”.