These were the big stories of 2016

I think we can all agree that the underlying themes of 2016 were ‘change’ and ‘death’, and for baby boomers it has been difficult to see the first of many of the generation’s cultural icons begin to pass away.

There was a continuation, albeit perhaps more aggressive, of war and conflict around the world. Syria and South Sudan featured heavily in our daily news broadcasts. France endured more terror attacks against it, and Germany — in Berlin — experienced its own act of terror just a few days shy of Christmas.

There have been some notable surprises too. In the United Kingdom, it was the decision to leave the European Union; in the United States is was the election of Donald Trump to the role of president. While in Australia there has been concern and outrage about the Government and its treatment of the over-60s, especially in relation to superannuation, aged care, health care and pensions.

Starts at 60 takes a quiet moment to reflect on the happenings of 2016, and especially those stories from around the world that made headlines.

David Bowie dies

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Whatever your thoughts on David Bowie, it cannot be denied that his death at the start of 2016 sent the world into shock. The singer-musician-actor-artist had an influence that spanned generations. You mightn’t have liked all of his songs or seen the great many films that he had appeared in, but you would have been at least familiar with some of them. When news started circulating of his death there were many who suspected a hoax, but then there was confirmation that he had been battling liver cancer and it had ended his life.

David Bowie might have been your first cultural icon to depart in 2016, but he was followed by many others.

Other icons to make their way

In addition to Bowie was the death of Prince in April. Overdosing of prescription drugs was perhaps not something the 57-year-old singer would like to be remembered for, least not when he delivered so many catchy tunes. Though the peak of his popularity might have been several decades ago, Prince had an enduring and loyal fan base (just like Bowie).

Although his death did not shock in the same way, when Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 in June the world went into mourning. He had carried with him the title of ‘the greatest boxer in history’, but you could not deny Ali’s role as a human rights activist. He stood up for racial equality and religious understanding, and it has been written that he was “the most beautiful creature on the planet”.

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There were stars of literature (Harper Lee [89], Jim Harrison [78]), of the stage and screen (Alan Rickman [69], Garry Shandling [66], Patty Duke [69], John English [66], Doris Roberts [90], Alan Young [96], Gene Wilder [83], Florence Henderson [82], Carrie Fisher [60] and Debbie Reynolds [84]), some of the greatest athletes of all time (Arnold Palmer [87]) and larger than life political figures (Nancy Reagan [94], Phyllis Schlafly [92], Shimon Peres [93], Fidel Castro [90]) that all made their journey into the ‘great beyond’ in 2016. To go through them all would be like a high school roll call.

Politically speaking

The UK’s Brexit vote in June was arguably one of the biggest talking points of 2016. It was a shake-up for the Western world, though it is unlikely that the full impact of the decision will be known in the immediate future. Prime minister David Cameron saw fit to leave the post to make way for a ‘new Britain’, whatever that might mean… With talk of empowerment of the frustrated working class and their vote for change it is surprising that experts and pollsters did not do a better job of predicting the US election result, and Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in November.

At home, Australians went to the polls in July with some perhaps unexpected results. Malcolm Turnbull’s double dissolution decision was aimed at breaking the ultimate legislative circuit however, did anyone foresee the return of Pauline Hanson to the Senate or the debut of Derryn Hynch? It has been a difficult year for the Coalition — with a razor-thin majority, some unrest within the Liberal Party and an opposition eager to seize on any lapses or mistakes — and it’s likely to be more difficult in the new year.

Terror and war

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There were many terrorism attacks throughout 2016, but perhaps none more horrifying than the Bastille Day attack in the French city of Nice in July. A truck driven by an Islamic State sympathiser went on a rampage through the crowds celebrating in the streets and killed more than 80 innocent people.

There are the attacks in Turkey that happen on a weekly (if not daily) basis. There have been almost 1 million people die in the attacks.

As the final page is about to be turned for 2016 it’s time to consider just what the future holds. We all have a responsibility to do something for the betterment of humankind, but what will it be?

What global events stand out for you in 2016? Share your thoughts on this topic with us.