More than 50 whales dead in 'horrific' stranding

More than 50 pilot whales have died and authorities are racing to save dozens more after a mass stranding on a beach in Western Australia.

The pod was first spotted about 100 metres off the coast at Cheynes Beach on Tuesday, local time, tightly clustered in what witnesses say was an unusual sight.

Once the whales began beaching themselves on the shore, wildlife authorities launched an emergency response effort in a bid to save them.

Some 51 whales died overnight on Tuesday, with authorities trying to return the surviving 46 to sea on Wednesday.

Dr Andrew Brownlow, director of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme who recently responded to a similar incident on a Scottish beach, explains why an incident like this may have happened, and why rescuers are now fighting the clock.

Some of Australia’s worst mass strandings have involved pilot whales – 230 beached themselves on Tasmania’s coast in 2022, and 150 were stranded in Western Australia in 2018.

Video produced by Jordan Kelly-Linden

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Travis King: How the US negotiates with North Korea

Travis King (wearing black shirt and black cap) on the border between the two Koreas, 18 July 2023Reuters

The fate of Travis King, a US soldier who crossed into North Korea, remains unknown and experts say the US is at a critical stage to try and negotiate his return home.

The challenge is America has never had an official diplomatic relationship with North Korea.

As a result, the US relies on a network of backchannels to negotiate the return of citizens detained in the country.

It is believed the 23- year-old soldier is being detained and questioned by North Korean authorities.

Private 2nd Class King was last seen a week ago running across the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea. Tensions have since escalated in the region, with North Korea firing two ballistic missiles into the sea late Monday after a US nuclear-powered submarine was stationed in the South.

“All sides are trying to understand what happened and what to do,” said Mickey Bergman, executive director of the Richardson Center for Global Diplomacy.

Mr Bergman, who has spent nearly 20 years negotiating to return US citizens from hostile nations, said the best chance at releasing a prisoner is right after they are detained. This is when they are likely being interrogated by the country’s officials but before they have been charged with a crime, like spying.

It’s in that time before things become official that negotiators can best appeal to people’s humanity, Mr Bergman said.

“I think there’s a misconception about what negotiations are,” he said.

“If we pound our chests, and flip tables, and demand that the evil North Koreans return our soldier, we are likely going to cause them to dig in.”

Here’s how the US has previously negotiated for American citizen’s return.

The New York Channel

Because the United States has never officially held diplomatic ties with North Korea, during a detainee crisis, Sweden has served as an intermediary from their embassy in Pyongyang and has helped to relay communications to North Korean officials.

But there are also backchannels. North Korea maintains a mission at the United Nations in New York. In times of crisis, the mission – dubbed the New York Channel – has become an avenue for officials for both countries to hold talks.

Robert King

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For years, Robert King was one of the first people who received a call when an American was captured by North Korea. As the former special envoy for North Korean Human Rights at the US State Department, the ambassador has helped negotiate for the release of multiple detainees including student Otto Warmbier and American missionary Kenneth Bae.

After 17 months in captivity, US college student Otto Warmbier was released from North Korean detention in 2017 in a comatose state. He returned to the United States with extensive brain damage and died days after reuniting with his family.

Otto Warmbier’s death sparked international outrage and his family has levelled allegations of abuse and torture against the North Koreans.

After a brief period of diplomacy under the Trump administration, Mr King said renewed political tensions between the two countries often colour negotiations, making detainees a pawn in wider geopolitical fights.

“[The North Koreans] see this as, ‘how do we use this opportunity to make the US look bad?’ And whatever happens it’s not going to be a happy outcome,” Mr King said.

Fringe diplomacy

For nearly 20 years, Mr Bergman has worked alongside former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to secure the release of prisoners from countries hostile to the United States.

Although the Richardson Center is not involved in the Travis King case, Mr Bergman said in his experience, when it comes to North Korea, there isn’t a playbook for negotiations.

Instead, he said, it is best to approach tense negotiations through what he calls “fringe diplomacy”.

US non-profits and humanitarian agencies have provided aid to North Koreans for decades. When official channels stall, these non-governmental backchannels are often called upon to negotiate on behalf of a detainee’s family.

An NGO’s separation from the US government is a benefit, Mr Bergman said, because it allows negotiations to focus solely on the wellbeing and return of the detainee, instead of global politics.

“People can talk to us about policy issues but there’s nothing we can do about that,” he said. “We are much more able to insulate the issue and come up with pathways to resolve some of these situations.”

Mr Bergman said the world often focuses on the moment of “intervention,” when a political prisoner is rescued and returned home. But that moment, he said, is not possible without years of meaningful engagement.

“You have to build relationships so that when there is a crisis, you’re not starting from scratch.”

Complicating factors

But the Covid pandemic has made both of these avenues of negotiation more challenging.

North Korea completely closed its borders during the pandemic and Mr Bergman said it is unclear if the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang has returned to full capacity.

Complicating matters further, after a brief period of attempted diplomacy, the Trump administration imposed a travel ban to North Korea, rendering US passports and visas invalid.

The ban has remained in place under the Biden administration and has effectively ended humanitarian avenues for engagement, Mr Bergman said.

“North Korea is the only country in the world where there’s a travel ban, that it’s illegal for Americans to travel,” he said. “The North Koreans see that as an insult.”

Otto Warmbier

Reuters

Mr Bergman, who was involved in the negotiations for Warmbier’s release, said he believes the international blowback over Otto Warmbier’s death has shifted the North Korean perspective on political detainees, and the country may be more amenable to compromise.

“After dealing with the Otto Warmbier negotiations, and the very tragic outcome, I believe that the North Koreans have chosen not play in the game of political prisoners anymore,” he said.

But whether that means US army private Travis King will have a speedy release, remains to be seen, he said.

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Watch: Flames engulf giant Buddha in China

A giant Buddha statue has been damaged by a fire in China’s north-west Gansu province.

Videos shared on social media showed the statue at the Great Buddha Temple of Shandan County surrounded by flames in the early hours of Monday morning.

After the fire was extinguished, the statue appeared to remain partially intact, but several temple structures were destroyed.

The statue was built in 1998 as a replica of an original which is thought to have dated back to around 425 AD. This older iteration was damaged during China’s Cultural Revolution.

No casualties have been reported so far and an investigation into the fire is underway.

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Commentary: India's food security is being choked by climate change

Where India is succeeding is biofuel. The government is running ahead of its 10 per cent ethanol blending mandate and looks on track to hit a 20 per cent rate by 2025 as it seeks to trim its oil import bill. 

That’s putting pressure on farm production, however. Sugarcane is a thirsty crop which, unlike most Indian food grains, needs a whole year or more to grow to maturity. It predominates in many of the same northern states where rice and wheat would otherwise be grown.

POLICYMAKERS NEED TO SHIFT THEIR PRIORITIES

Thanks to government pricing levels that make it an unusually profitable crop, the area planted went up around 17 per cent between 2017 and 2022, while rice had an eight per cent increase and pulse fields shrank by 0.8 per cent. 

If policymakers want to reduce emissions while cutting the impact of petroleum on the balance of payments, they need to reverse the current situation where biofuels are prioritised over electrification.

With renewables, too, India needs to lift its game. The 15.7 gigawatts of wind and solar installed last year is only about half of what is needed to hit the government’s target, and left the country 32 per cent short of where it had intended to be by that date. 

Planned tenders of 50 gigawatts a year through March 2028 are markedly more ambitious – but they need to be turned from words into reality first.

No country will suffer more from climate change this century than India – but no country is going to see its emissions grow faster over the coming decade. If New Delhi doesn’t want to see a future of more crop failures, floods, droughts, export bans and farmer suicides, it’s going to need to do everything to reverse that trend.

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Commentary: Jumpers and jackets shouldn’t be needed in Singapore’s tropical heat

Beyond its impact on health, air-conditioning also causes greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for more than 20 per cent of Singapore’s emissions, and more than a third of the country’s electricity consumption. A typical office in Singapore expends 60 per cent of its energy on cooling, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The World Economic Forum has estimated that emissions from air-conditioning alone could account for as much as a 0.5 degree Celsius increase in global warming by 2100.

It’s a vicious cycle. The hotter it gets, the more energy office buildings use on their air conditioning. And the more they turn on their air-conditioner, the warmer cities gets. 

SOLUTIONS ARE POSSIBLE

Many people feel intuitively they will be healthier and accomplish more if temperatures are more comfortable. The research backs them up. Singapore can achieve its net zero goals faster if temperatures in buildings go up a bit too. 

Yet change may be difficult. There are concerns that changing the behaviour of landlords and tenants could be the biggest hurdle. NUS assistant professor Clayton Miller told Eco-Business that there are many underused green building technologies, including innovative cooling. “Too many decision-makers want to play it safe and stick with conventional systems.”

Fortunately, a multitude of initiatives are underway to overcome hindrances to action. Since the early 2000s, for instance, the Garden City Action Committee has pushed for green buildings, which can reduce utility expenses and Singapore’s carbon footprint. The BCA has established a green mark for new buildings.

SP Digital created Green Energy Tech (GET) TenantCare, an automated submetering solution that gives tenants and landlords visibility of their utilities consumption. GET Engaged provides a digital dashboard which, when displayed in lobbies, could spur tenants to make more sustainable choices.

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Some make nothing, others can earn S$1,000 a month: Group buy organisers on why they do it

SINGAPORE: Group buy volumes are not what they used to be during the COVID-19 pandemic, but organisers who continue say they do so in order to support small local businesses and help participants save.

For three organisers who spoke to CNA, group buying is a side hustle on top of full-time jobs. While one did manage to make some money, the other two said they earned just enough to cover their costs.

After CNA reported on the nightmare experience of a group buy organiser’s neighbour, questions were raised about how much money these organisers make and whether they should be allowed to run these activities out of their homes.

Home-based businesses do not require approval from authorities but are subject to certain conditions, such as not bringing “extraneous traffic” and no frequent loading and unloading of goods, according to the Housing Board’s website. 

But as group buying is not considered a business, these conditions do not apply.

CNA spoke to group buy organisers to understand more about what motivates them, how they cover business costs and what can be done to improve operations.

NO EARNINGS VS S$1,000 A MONTH

Ms Irene Ng, 50, who organises the iheartSK group buy in Sengkang, does not make any money from group buy activities.

The full-time administrative executive usually organises four to eight group buys a month. During festive occasions, this can go up to 12 times a month.

Her pool of participants numbers more than 260, and she does not charge them any fees.

“As food enthusiasts, my buyers are aware that we can benefit from bulk purchases,” she said. “My intention is to give back to the community, and my buyers frequently express their gratitude for my efforts.”

Collections are hosted at her HDB flat, where she is “fortunate to possess a corridor space of my own”.

“Up to this point, none of my neighbours have expressed any concerns regarding the placement of my group buy items outside my corridor.

“I make it a priority to maintain substantial walking space for my neighbours and diligently (keep) the area as tidy as possible,” she said, adding that she pays attention not to obstruct fire-fighting access.

Another organiser, Ms Michelle Lim, 37, was making S$1,000 (US$740) a month at the height of her activities during the pandemic, when she was hosting group buys every day.

She started organising group buys as she liked trying different foods, and continued when she found that she could save on delivery costs and make some money.

Unlike other organisers CNA spoke to, Ms Lim charges each participant an administrative fee of S$2 to S$3. She introduced the fee as she felt the work involved was “quite tedious”.

There are about 200 people in her WhatsApp chat group, and she estimates about 10 to 20 people participate in each group buy, hosted at her landed house in the Newton-Bukit Timah area.

Ms Lim was unemployed when she started organising group buys but now works as a wedding planner, and estimates that her group buys have dwindled to once a month.

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LGBTQ+: When 15 rain-soaked marchers made history in India

India's first gay pride marchOwais Khan

Pride parades in India today are vibrant affairs, where thousands gather to express themselves and offer support to the queer community. But things were very different in 1999, when the country’s first Pride walk was organised in the eastern state of West Bengal. Journalist Sandip Roy revisits the trailblazing event.

On 2 July 1999, Pawan Dhall, a queer rights activist in Kolkata city, was among the 15 intrepid marchers to participate in what was later called the first Pride walk in India.

The event was timed to coincide with global celebrations marking 30 years of the Stonewall riots in New York which sparked the LGBTQ+ movement in the US.

But July is monsoon season in India, and the 15 marchers in their custom-made bright yellow t-shirts with pink triangles were soon soaked to the bone.

“It was more of a wade than a walk,” Mr Dhall says.

The marchers also did not call the event a Pride march, instead going for the more innocuous-sounding “Friendship Walk” to avoid trouble.

In 1999, homosexuality was still criminalised in the country – a Victorian relic in the Indian Penal Code – and gay life was largely underground, though a few groups dedicated to supporting the community had formed in some cities.

Queer Indians found each other through mailing lists and Yahoo groups, and the idea of a Pride march surfaced there.

On 28 April 1999, Owais Khan, a convener of the LGBTQ+ India group, suggested doing something to celebrate “Gay Liberation Day” in New York – he called it “a small pada-yatra (procession) complete with pink triangles and rainbow-coloured peacocks”.

Mr Khan said he was inspired by the Pride parades in cities like New York, but also by Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March during India’s independence struggle.

First pride parade

Getty Images

But not everyone shared his enthusiasm. Rafiquel Haque Dowjah, a communications consultant and one of the 15 marchers, says some members of the community called Mr Dowjah an “attention seeker” and accused him of “copying a western idea”.

Even Mr Dhall remembers being less than enthusiastic. “Another procession in Kolkata! I’ve been part of many processions and it’s quite a pain,” he thought to himself, he said.

But Mr Khan was determined to make the march happen. In the book Gulabi Baghi, an anthology of essays on the LGBTQ+ movement in India, Mr Khan recalls telling his peers: “Friends, The Walk is happening even if I am the only walker.”

But it wasn’t easy for a motley group of volunteers to pull off a march with practically no money.

Mr Khan says he woke up on the day of the walk with “a stomach full of fluttering butterflies” and wondered if anyone would turn up.

Eventually, 15 people participated, seven from Kolkata and the rest from Delhi and Mumbai and from smaller towns such as Bongaon and Kurseong in West Bengal.

An elderly woman, who was passing by, asked one of the participants why they were marching. He said they were demanding their rights. The woman shook her head and wondered aloud why the state had nothing better to do than “police people’s private lives”.

Others were more bemused. After their initial walk the marchers split into two groups and visited non-governmental organisations and the state’s Human Rights Commission to distribute information brochures.

“We met a junior official there who was completely bewildered by the issue,” says Mr Dhall.

At a press meeting later in the afternoon, reporters complained that they had no pictures of the parade.

So the group re-staged their historic “walk” for the cameras. “That’s what eventually appeared in the newspapers,” Mr Dhall laughs.

India's first gay pride march

Owais Khan

Not all of the participants had come out to friends and family at the time. “My relatives had no idea where I disappeared on the day of the walk,” says Navarun Gupta who lived in Atlanta but was visiting relatives in Kolkata that day.

Aditya Mohnot, now a fashion designer in Kolkata, said he joined the walk because his parents were not in town that day. But he did not realise pictures from the march would appear in newspapers the next day, with headlines like “15 friends walk with gay abandon”.

At first, Mr Dhall said the walk felt like “an unnoticeable ripple” as the participants went back to their lives.

But the ripples were noticed – and they sparked a flurry of reactions.

Mr Mohnot said his friend’s parents read about him in the newspaper. Luckily they were “surprised but proud”.

In Mr Dowjah’s case, his neighbour cut off all ties with him after she found out about the march.

“It was very hurtful and painful. Her family had known me since I was born,” he said.

Mr Khan, however, remained hopeful. “Fifteen was a modest number but at least one needed two hands to count them,” he said.

Soon, reactions began to pour from abroad as well.

“I am moved to tears,” said Faisal Alam, founder of the queer Muslim support group Al Fatiha in the US, in a letter to the organisers.

“For a young queer person like me, the march showed that we could struggle for a better and more queer-friendly India visibly, proudly and publicly,” said Parmesh Shahani, author of Queeristan – LGBTQ Inclusion in the Workplace.

“It showed us literally, and not just abstractly, that queer alternatives are possible in our country.”

In 2019, Mr Dhall and Mr Khan recreated the Friendship Walk to mark its 20th anniversary. But this time, they felt like they were marching in a different country.

Homosexuality had just been decriminalised in India in 2018. In a few years, the Supreme Court would be hearing arguments to legalise same-sex marriages. Transgender activism had led to a landmark (though controversial) transgender bill. And a panel they organised saw participation from several small cities and towns in India.

Then again, not everything had changed. “The 20th anniversary walk was also quite a washout because of the rains,” Mr Dhall says.

There was a happier postscript though. Years after she stopped talking to him, Mr Dowjah’s neighbour knocked on his door and finally apologised for her behaviour.

Mr Dowjah says it just showed one had to keep doing the right thing. “People will come around, if not today, then in 20 years.”

Sandip Roy is an author and journalist based in Kolkata city.

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GIC’s annualised real return at highest since 2015; to invest more in infrastructure amid economic headwinds

Apart from sticky inflation and chronic geopolitical risks, GIC sees disruptions to businesses arising from the shift to a regime of higher interest rates, along with the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI).

Asked what that would mean for future returns, Mr Lim said: “We have been warning about lower returns over time.

“Even for the 20-year number, it’s hard to foretell what that number is (year to year). But generally, the investment environment is uncertain … so I think it is better to assume that the return prospects are challenging.”

INFRASTRUCTURE OPPORTUNITIES

GIC said investments into infrastructure would provide opportunities for “inflation-protected returns” and was one way to navigate the uncertain environment.

This is because several aspects of infrastructure, such as rental income, are “inflation-linked”, said GIC’s group chief investment officer Jeffrey Jaensubhakij. Infrastructure is also tied to essential services such as utilities, which remain much needed even in an economic downturn.

“So that stability is actually quite valuable, as we go into an uncertain environment,” he said.

In particular, GIC is “focused on businesses which generate stable, predictable and often times have inflation-linked cash flows across macroeconomic cycles”, said Mr Ang Eng Seng, chief investment officer for infrastructure.

This generally includes businesses that are regulated, have long-term offtake contracts or are in segments with high barriers to entry, he added.

Opportunities in infrastructure are “large and growing” due to factors such as energy transition and the digitalisation of the economy. These two trends have led to the need for new infrastructure like fibre  networks, data centres as well as green power generation and storage, Mr Ang said.

GIC has increased the size of its infrastructure portfolio by five times since 2016, with an annual deployment pace of US$10 billion (S$13.3 billion) to US$20 billion in new commitments a year. These investments are highly diversified and spread across six continents, according to Mr Ang.

This ramp-up in infrastructure investments could be seen in the increased composition of real estate in GIC’s portfolio, which went up to 13 per cent from 10 per cent.

Elsewhere, allocations to emerging market equities inched up by one percentage point to 17 per cent, while that of developed market equities was cut by one percentage point to 13 per cent.

Nominal bonds and cash, which are generally seen as safer investments, still accounted for the biggest share of the portfolio at 34 per cent, although that marked a drop from 37 per cent a year ago.

Allocation to inflation-linked bonds and private equity remained unchanged at 6 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.

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2023 Women's World Cup: Australian football suffers despite Matildas

Sam Kerr poses for a photos with fansGetty Images

Just 50 years ago, Australia was so indifferent to its first national women’s football team that only recently did it actually begin figuring out who was in it.

And yet, these days, Matildas captain Sam Kerr is the face of football in the country – something unimaginable for a female player even a decade ago.

So watching her beloved team kick off their World Cup campaign on home soil, you’d be forgiven for thinking that women’s football in Australia is fast catching up with the men’s game.

A green and gold sea of more than 80,000 cheering fans filled the Sydney stadium, while almost two million more were glued to their screens across the country.

Demand for tickets for last Thursday’s match was so great organisers had moved it to a venue almost double the size, and before the tournament even opened the Matildas had sold more jerseys than the Socceroos managed during – and since – last year’s men’s World Cup.

But the Matildas’ growing profile obscures a women’s game which in Australia is often still left to beg for scraps from the men’s table.

“The Matildas’ success is definitely despite the structures and environments that exist here in Australia, not because of them,” Samantha Lewis – one of Australia’s top football journalists – told the BBC.

From the ground up

Former Matilda Sarah Walsh, who is now the head of women’s football at the national governing body, says the women’s game has been suffering from a century of neglect.

The first official women’s football match took place in Australia in 1921, but by the end of that year associations around the world had followed England’s lead in deeming the sport an endeavour unsuitable for women.

For 50 years women’s football was effectively banned nationwide, and for much of the other 50, it wasn’t a priority.

“Our game [is] so underdeveloped, we’re almost starting from scratch,” Ms Walsh told the BBC.

Sarah Walsh

Getty Images

But female participation has become the fastest growing area of the game – expected to spike even more thanks to the Women’s World Cup – and Football Australia wants to achieve gender parity by 2027.

Four years short of that deadline, three-quarters of players remain male. Like most sports, football leagues across the country have been struggling to retain women and girls.

The inequality they face when starting out at grassroots level is still well entrenched.

Female players say they’re turfed off the best fields and time slots. Many teams report subsisting on meagre support, with referees and club officials – like coaches – prioritised for men’s teams. And research shows at least 96% are forced to wear ill-fitting uniforms made for men – often hand-me-downs.

At many clubs, women don’t even have their own changing rooms.

Simple things like freshening up after a game or managing their periods become a battle for privacy. Often there are too many urinals, not enough cubicles, and the showers – if they even have doors – don’t lock.

When Jaya Bargwanna started playing football, it was a barrier she quickly became acutely aware of.

Instead of using half time to recoup with her teammates, the new mother often spent the 15-minute break running around, trying to find a quiet and safe place to breastfeed her daughter.

“At most places that means you sit in the back of your car,” she told the BBC.

Jaya Bargwanna

Ms Bargwanna’s club has recently made a concerted effort to change – from building new, government-funded change rooms to erecting a scoreboard that includes the achievements of women’s teams.

They’re basic gestures – but they feel massive, Ms Bargwanna says.

“It shows… not only are we part of a club, we’re important to the club.”

‘Is a career even worth it?’

But it isn’t just the everyday inequalities that deter female players – many struggle to see a professional future in the game.

Elite training opportunities for women and girls in the country are scarce, and pathways to the top unclear and convoluted.

For example, Ms Lewis says, in the A-Leagues – Australia’s only professional competition – almost every club has a youth academy to turn boys into stars. But for the girls it offers only two.

That can leave hopeful players like Madi Wright feeling lost and disillusioned.

As a child hell bent on keeping up with her older brothers, she fell into football, and fell in love.

Tiny but talented – earning her the on-field nickname of Mighty Mouse – Ms Wright had lofty ambitions.

“My number one goal was always to play for the Matildas,” she told the BBC.

“I felt like playing soccer was my purpose in life.”

Madi Wright

Supplied

But as she grew older and more skilful, she also grew discouraged.

Frustration at the discrimination female players faced, from the sexist jokes to the opportunity drought and lack of recognition, ate at her resolve.

And by the time her possible break finally came, in the form of an offer to join a football college in the US, she feared chasing her dream would be a fruitless and expensive pursuit.

It felt like she was faced with leaving her friends and family in Australia or shelving her dream. She chose the latter – a decision she now regrets.

“I had a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I might not even be good enough to go all this way and spend all this money.

“I kind of got to a point where I was like, will it even be worth it?”

It’s a familiar conundrum for many promising female players, as often even those who ‘make it’ still struggle to earn a living.

In 2019 the Matildas inked a landmark equal pay deal – a phenomenal achievement considering just six years earlier the players were still required to wash their own uniforms.

But for women in the A-Leagues, football remains a part-time, semi-professional endeavour.

The players union says most earn around the minimum wage, which last season was about A$20,000 (£10,500; $13,500). They are forced to juggle extra jobs – and often study – with their playing careers, while the top male player in the A-Leagues pockets A$2m.

And the women also have shorter seasons – meaning less game time, and less chance to develop than both their male counterparts and international peers.

“It’s no coincidence that our current World Cup squad is made up almost entirely of players who play for clubs outside of Australia, where they’re given the resources, pay, and facilities to be full-time athletes,” Ms Lewis says.

A similar story is reflected in the ranks of female coaches, referees and administrators. Only one in five football coaches across Australia are women – at the elite level, it’s just three – while only 13% of all match officials are women.

World Cup a turning point

These are issues Football Australia knows it needs to address. Infrastructure, career pathways and female participation throughout the entire game are all identified as key areas where improvement is needed to cement the legacy of the Women’s World Cup.

But the key issue – their root cause – is the same which suffocated the women’s game a century ago.

“The biggest inequality of all [is] the ongoing cultural assumption that women’s football is not worthy of equal funding, visibility, or treatment,” Ms Lewis says.

“We’re still having to reshape beliefs and attitudes towards women’s place in society,” Ms Walsh adds.

And that is where the Matildas progress is most pronounced.

The team has busted the myths about the quality of women’s sport, the audience for it, and the money it can make – in fact the Matildas are now a stronger brand than the Wallabies, Australia’s national rugby union outfit.

The Matildas celebrate a goal

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And so while the breakthroughs at the Matildas level are largely yet to flow through all levels of the game, change is coming, Ms Walsh says.

“Everyone [is] pulling in the right direction.”

For Ms Wright, now 22, much of that change will come too late. But the Matildas success has given her the courage to try and work towards a professional football career again – despite the odds.

“I think I’ll always have that dream – to be realistic with myself, it’s possible, but right now it’s very very hard in Australia.

“But maybe for the little Madis in Australia, this gives them some more hope for the future.”

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Qin Gang: The abrupt fall from grace of China's rising star

Qin GangPool

One of the most visible figures in China’s government, a rising star who was catapulted into the role of foreign minister by Xi Jinping himself, has been removed.

The announcement that Qin Gang had lost his job was massive news here, but it was delivered, typically, without fanfare and with very little detail.

Just a few sentences on Xinhua wire service – which were then read out on the main evening TV news bulletin – spelt the dramatic end of Mr Qin’s time as the global public face of China, only half a year after he had been appointed.

About a month ago, he had disappeared from his normal duties and the official reason given for his absence was some sort of health issue.

However, as the weeks went on and he failed to re-emerge, speculation turned to the possibility that he was being punished for stepping out of line politically.

Then social media was abuzz with rumours of an affair with a female television presenter, normally quite active on social media, but who had also suddenly “disappeared”.

Some China watchers have wondered if these two potential explanations could be combined: that rivals within the Communist Party have used this moral indiscretion to get him.

Such an affair would not be against the law, but it could be construed as a potential breach of Party discipline.

Then again, the possibility that an overwhelming health emergency played a part also can’t be ruled out.

What’s more, because of the extremely opaque nature of Communist Party governance in China, none of these options can be confirmed, nor can they be dismissed.

One of the most surprising aspects of Qin Gang’s demise is that he was seen as having the clear backing of the country’s all-powerful leader.

Xi Jinping brought him back from Washington, where he had been serving as ambassador to the US.

Immediately, analysts were watching his behaviour to see how much of a “wolf warrior” he might be in this new role. The wolf warriors were a group of Chinese diplomats who’d taken to social media in loud support of China, even if it meant abusing others as a means of turning attention away from the nation’s woes.

Going right back to his time as foreign ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang had been known for his capacity to take a tough stance in defence of China, but also as someone who could turn on the charm.

The fluent English speaker and avid sports fan was seen in the US taking shots from the free throw line at NBA games or, during an earlier posting in the UK, cheering on his beloved Arsenal.

For some in the Party, maybe this type of person wasn’t “wolf warrior” enough.

On the many occasions I have met him, he enthusiastically defended his country and presented it to others the best way he could.

He seemed like exactly the type of modern, sophisticated, servant that the Communist Party needed – someone they would have bottled and churned out a hundred times if they could.

But now his fate is unknown. References to Qin Gang are already being removed from the Foreign Ministry website.

And, whichever way you consider it, it can’t be good.

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