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Is Australia's national Linux conference, better known as LCA, really a community-run event meant for all and sundry? Or is it only meant for those who have money?

Linux Australia, which runs the conference through various organisers in different parts of Australia, and occasionally New Zealand, is mum when asked what it intends to do to help pensioners and the unemployed attend the conference.

Its president, Joshua Hesketh, has not responded to a request for comment on this issue, which was raised on the Linux Australia mailing lists on October 16. Doubtless, Hesketh has a great many important things to attend to.

In its code of conduct for the forthcoming conference, a somewhat laughable document, Linux Australia states: "Linux Australia aims to provide fun, welcoming and professional environments so that diverse groups of people - regardless of age, race, gender identity or expression, background, disability, appearance, sexuality, walk of life, or religion - can get together to learn from and be inspired by each other about all things Free and Open Source."

Of course, its definition of diversity does not extend to the unemployed and pensioners. Therein lies the hypocrisy. It cannot also cope with criticism. But that's a tale for another day.

Professional delegates have to pay $970. Students pay $99. Hobbyists - and presumably pensioners and the unemployed - have to pay $399. Where do pensioners and the unemployed get this kind of money? Does it grow on trees near the venue of the conference?

It's not as though Linux Australia is short of funds. The organisation makes enough money from the annual conference to manage right through the year and also shore up quite a few smaller events.

It has money to throw at organisations like The Ada Initiative which spend more than 90 per cent of funds collected on its own staff.

But when it comes to the less fortunate ones on its own doorstep, Linux Australia looks the other way. Its elitist mindset does not permit it to offer succour and support to those in need.

Yet it continues to trumpet itself as a volunteer-run, community-driven event. The only response to this is the same as that of the Dickensian character Scrooge: "Bah, humbug."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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