The NSW suburbs and towns where the most babies were born in 2015

10 month old Tania Ejaz in Francis Park, Blacktown. Photo: James AlcockMost popular baby names in 2015

Does your neighbourhood seem to be crawling with kids? It could be, as new figures from the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages show.

The state’s baby hotspots have been revealed, with the majority found in Sydney’s west and south-west.

Blacktown is doing its best to boost the population, boasting the most babies born in any town or suburb for the third year in a row. There were 784 babies born to mothers living in Blacktown, Sydney’s most populous suburb, in 2015.

Parents in Auburn, Bankstown, Merrylands, Liverpool, Parramatta and Guildford also welcomed high numbers of newborns.

The most fertile towns were Orange and Dubbo, both in the central west, while Randwick – which registered 467 babies born last year – was the only place in Sydney’s east to make the top 10 list.

The figures are based on the mother’s home address at the time of birth, and the same suburbs are featuring in the top 10 baby hotspots every year, Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrar Amanda Ianna​ said.

“Clearly many parents believe the west is best when it comes to babies,” she said. “Over the past decade, western Sydney has been driving the state’s population growth as young families are drawn to affordable housing and employment opportunities.”

Tania Ejaz’s parents, migrants from Pakistan, were living in Blacktown when she was born last May. Her mother, Samia, said it was a nice community and housing was not too expensive for young families. “It’s good to live here,” she said. “It’s the most multicultural place.”

Dr Nick Parr, associate professor in demography at Macquarie University, said birth rates in different areas were influenced by factors including parents’ age, socio-economic status and ethnic background.

“The outer suburbs tend to have higher per-person birth rates than the inner suburbs,” he said. “That may be linked to housing affordability, but also the type of housing available is generally sufficiently spacious to allow for an expanding family. In the inner city there tend to be higher proportions of people who are single, or younger couples without children.”

Dr Parr said birth rates were generally lower in areas with higher socio-economic status. “The areas towards the centre of Sydney, in the eastern suburbs, and on Sydney’s north shore tend to have lower per-woman birth rates,” he said.

Many of the suburbs which have the most babies are also home to large migrant communities, and data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows markedly higher fertility rates for mothers born in some overseas countries.

The national fertility rate has dropped to a 10-year low and stands at 1.8 children per woman. But women born in Lebanon who give birth in Australia have an average of 4.03 children each. The figure is 3.4 for mothers born in Laos, 3.38 for Syrian-born mums, 3.26 for mothers born in Samoa and 3.02 for those born in Pakistan.

The total number of babies born in NSW fell from 96,853 in 2012 to 90,833 last year, according to registry records. This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.

How to keep learning seen but not heard

When inner-city independent school St Michael’s Grammar decided it wanted to create a multi-storey, multi-age, multi-function building on its busy St Kilda site, one of the first discussions held with the architects was about noise. Or specifically about how to minimise and manage noise.

How could students from kindergarten level to year 12 work in a multi-level open-hearted building while studying science or cooking or using the library or listening to a lecture in the tiered seating space?

For St Michael’s principal Simon Gipson, the new building is the centrepiece of a physical and philosophical change taking place in the 120-year-old school. The school, once divided into an early learning centre, junior school and senior school, is now becoming one campus K-12 and all ages will use the new Gipson Commons building.

“There is a lot of research on peer learning that shows the infectious nature of seeing others learning,” he says.

And so it’s a clever architect who manages to allow learning to be seen but not heard: wandering through the Gipson commons there are year 12 students in quiet study; a year 9 class cooking some great muffins in the new food tech kitchen but the junior chefs are behind a heavy sliding door so their happy cooking sounds don’t seep out to the library or the science class in the building’s more open areas.

Mr Gipson says the key design elements were about usability of the space, not so much specific technology which dates almost instantly. Baffled ceilings limit noise; science labs are designed around a central equipment area; science benches go up and down depending if preps are learning or giant year 12s.

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Investa battle lines drawn

If DEXUS win Investa it will hold a big stake in CBD office markets Photo: Janie BarrettThe battle for control of the $2.5 billion listed Investa Office Fund has taken another turn  after the Takeovers Panel declared that Morgan Stanley is able to vote on its direct stake in the fund.

It holds 8.9 per cent and is expected to vote against the proposed DEXUS Property cash and scrip offer. Its no vote has the potential to disrupt the offer as DEXUS needs more than 75 per cent to get the deal across the table.

The panel said it “was not satisfied that a sufficient basis had been established for it to interfere with the voting rights attaching to units in IOF in which Morgan Stanley has a relevant interest”. The NSW Supreme Court also found last month that Morgan Stanley was entitled to vote.

But DEXUS, run by Darren Steinberg, has garnered the support of a number of proxy  advisory houses and leading shareholders such as CBRE Clarion, which controls 10.5 per cent, and Deutsche’s real estate investment arm, RREEF.

The two investors have argued that Morgan Stanley should not be able to vote, due to a conflict of interest as it will get a payment of $45 million if IOF remains in the control of the current manager.

However, the manager of Investa, run by Jonathan Callaghan, which is asking unitholders to maintain the status quo and vote down the DEXUS offer, was given a corporate roasting by the panel, which said more information must be sent to unitholders before the vote is held in Sydney this Friday.

In its decision, released late Friday evening, the panel said Investa Office Management, also known as Investa Commercial Property Fund’s campaign against DEXUS was deemed “unacceptable” in relation to the issue of proxy forms, among other points.

The panel said that Investa Office Management have been releasing documents that are misleading, and confusing IOF unitholders, creating “unacceptable circumstances”.

The panel ordered a clarification be made on management fees and any payments to Morgan Stanley, which the manager did so promptly late on Friday in a letter to IOF unitholders,  and issued to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“If the DEXUS proposal proceeds, while Investa Office Management is likely to lose the management fees … Investa will not be required to pay Morgan Stanley the second half of the Investa Office Management platform purchase price of an additional $45 million. In these circumstances, Investa will also be entitled to recover from Morgan Stanley up to $8 million in restructuring costs,” Mr Callaghan’s letter to IOF unitholders says.

The battle has been one of the longest in the real estate investment trust sector for many years. At stake is a high-calibre office portfolio worth $2.5 billion that includes such assets as Deutsche Place, at 126 Phillip Street, Sydney.

Investa also paid $422.5 million for a 75 per cent stake in 420 George Street, Sydney.

It is the only Australia-focused office REIT. If DEXUS is successful it will create a $24 billion office-focused REIT, which will dwarf its peers.

DEXUS will increase its share of the national office market to about 7.4 per cent from 2.6 per cent in 2009, or about $17.5 billion. In Sydney it would command about 11 per cent of the premium-grade office skyscrapers.

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New horizons: where you really face if you look out from a Sydney beach

Australian beach views from “Beyond the Sea” by Andy Woodruff. The brighter ends of lines show their point of origin, while the continent name on the map is the destination of those beach views. Photo: Andy Woodruff Andy Woodruff of Axis Maps created this map for Fairfax Media showing the countries Sydney beachgoers “look” towards. Bondi and Dee Why have very different end points. Photo: Andy Woodruff

One of Woodruff’s “messy” maps showing the “views” of hundreds of Australian beaches. Photo: Andy Woodruff

Where do you think you’d reach if you swam in a completely straight line from a Sydney beach? The answer is more surprising than you might first guess.

Launch into the waves at Bondi Beach, paddle in a straight line for a very, very long time and, all things working in your favour, you’ll reach southern Chile.

Do the same from Dee Why, just 16 kilometres north of Bondi, and you will eventually come ashore in Mexico.

It gets more unexpected: jump into the Indian Ocean near Ningaloo in Western Australia and you will meet Yemen, by which time you will have earned a well-deserved rest.  

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

A new set of maps by web cartographer Andy Woodruff illustrate the distorted sense of geography drawn into most maps of the world.

Inspired by a series of maps that show what lies across the ocean in purely latitudinal terms – Australia is on the same latitude as Peru, Chile and Argentina – Woodruff decided to go beyond our taken-for-granted cartographic version of reality. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps Photo: Andy Woodruff

While lines of latitude are a helpful construct, they do not take into account the true shape of the Earth and its land masses.

“The latitude maps got me interested in answering the question more strictly: standing on a given point and facing perpendicular to the coast, if you went straight ahead, never turning, where would you end up? There are two reasons why following a line of latitude won’t answer the question,” he writes on his blog. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

“1. Coastlines are crooked and wacky. 2. The Earth is round.”

The resulting images in his Beyond the Sea series are ribboned with sweeping lines, taking in the curvature of the earth and the constantly twisting angles of our coasts.

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

On Woodruff’s maps, the brighter ends of lines show their point of origin, while the continent name on the map is the destination of those beach views.

One NSW beach faces Antarctica, while one view from Australia “looks” all the way across the Pacific, under the Tierra del Fuego and eventually reaches land in Brazil, of all places. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

Woodruff put together a simpler map especially for Fairfax Media that shows just how different views from our coastline can be, despite originating in the same city. To get to Chile, our imaginary Bondi swimmers would loop south of New Zealand, while the Mexican-bound Dee Why local would skirt above our Kiwi neighbours.

“It does, however, depend on the exact point from which you measure. If you look from other points on those beaches, following the way each one curves, many other ‘views’ would just run into New Zealand,” Woodruff cautioned. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

“I’m not sure I had particular goals from the beginning other than satisfying my own curiosity, but as the project came together I saw the maps as a way to illustrate something about the planet’s geography that we generally don’t see in our everyday flat maps and navigation apps,” he said.

“We tend to think of things on a map in terms of being simply up, down, left, or right of us, and even though we know perfectly well that the Earth is round, what that actually means for directions can be surprising.”

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Diplomats gone wild: Saudi staffers run riot on our roads with police powerless to stop them

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in Canberra. Photo: Jay CronanImagine driving at 135km/h past Parliament House at 2am on a Tuesday, leading police on a pursuit, failing to provide a valid licence, blaming your behaviour on a lack of antibiotics and getting away with it.

That’s exactly what happened to one diplomat at the royal embassy of Saudi Arabia who used his immunity to escape a $1811 fine and six demerit points.

His exploits are just one chapter in the latest chronicle of diplomats behaving badly, dutifully archived by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and released under freedom of information laws.

Another Saudi diplomat was caught speeding through an intersection at 107km/h in an 80km/h zone. Officers attempted to stop him as he approached, but he sped right past them.

Officers eventually caught up but he again refused to pull over despite sirens and lights blazing in his rear view mirror. Eventually, police gave up due to fears for public safety.

Another Saudi, who was caught at 126km/h in an 80km/h zone, told police he was driving his father’s car and was speeding “because he needed to go to the toilet”.

“The excessive speed he was travelling at risks undermining the reputation of the royal embassy of Saudi Arabia and that of the wider diplomatic community,” said one DFAT official.

In some cases, the foreign diplomats were drunk behind the wheel.

One Saudi told police he had not had anything to drink and didn’t understand why he returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.15, triple the legal limit.

A woman in the car began yelling at the man in a foreign language and told police it was forbidden in Saudi culture to drink alcohol.

Normally, this diplomat would be summonsed to appear before the ACT Magistrates Court and face a maximum penalty of $1400 or six months in jail. Instead, police allowed him to walk away scot-free.

It’s not just the Saudis who are letting diplomatic immunity get to their head. One Mexican Embassy staffer was stopped by police and asked to complete a breath test.

He raised his voice and said: “I don’t want to, so I don’t have to. I’m here with my family … I’ll complain if hear anything about this!”

Police believed he had been drinking, but were powerless to do anything more. He had an older woman in the passenger seat and children in the back.

These latest escapades only add to early offences reported by Fairfax Media, such as a $387 fine for a Saudi diplomat who failed to put a seatbelt on a seven-year-old girl.

These foreign diplomats were never formally charged by police or brought before a court of law like regular Canberra residents. In most cases, they never even paid their fines.

More than 200 reminder notices were served to foreign embassies chasing overdue money last year, ranging from simple parking fines to red light infringements.

DFAT’s chief of protocol, Chris Cannan, has the unenviable job of reminding foreign diplomats to respect the law of the land.

“Not happy,” was how he described his mood after reading about one Saudi’s exploits.

“I will be calling in the Saudi ambassador – most likely early next week – to express strong concern about this offence as well as another serious offence committed by a Saudi diplomat a week or so ago,” he told a police official.

“I will also foreshadow to the ambassador a freedom of information release next week which will again list Saudi Arabia as the embassy with, by far, the highest number of traffic infringements.”

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said road rules were designed to protect everyone’s safety and those who break them dramatically increase the risk of injury and death, to themselves and others.

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