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What about the sports fans? Coronavirus has thrown their season out too


Michael Shillito puts the fan into fanatic. The 49-year-old has missed only two GWS Giants home games since their inaugural season in 2012.

One because of illness eight years ago and the other last weekend when fans were locked out of all games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope I don’t miss another game as long as I live,” Mr Shillito laughs.

After watching his team work their way up from easybeats in the early seasons to grand finalists in 2019, Mr Shillito approached this season with great optimism.

“Of course this was going to be our year,” he said.

“You look at how the club was building, we got ourselves into a grand final last year, recruited well and had a great pre-season.”

Over in the NRL camp, 41-year-old Troy Worner loves the Parramatta Eels with such a fervour that he has a “Parra cave” in his house.


Mr Worner has mountains of Eels memorabilia in his ‘Parra cave’. (Sideliners)

He reckons after finishing fifth in 2019, Parramatta was all set this year to end its 34-year premiership drought.

“You get all hyped up in the off-season, you look at the team and think, yes, this could be the year!” Mr Worner said.

Both fans are now dealing with the crushing blow that their teams’ premiership hopes could all be over after the AFL and NRL seasons were suspended.

“It’s pretty devastating on top of everything else that’s happening because the footy, it gives joy and hope to people’s lives.”

“And we’re having that taken away from us at this time when everything else is crashing down around us [too],” Mr Shillito said.

Mr Worner added: “I was probably a little bit shocked and overwhelmed, but at the end of the day I thought it was inevitable that it was going to get suspended, it was only a matter of time.”

Inevitable toll on fans’ mental health


AFL teams Richmond and Carlton played their round one match to an empty stadium at the MCG. (AAP: Michael Dodge)

Jess Richards is a lecturer in sports management at Western Sydney University.

She said having no AFL or NRL to watch on the weekends would take a toll on the mental health of thousands of fans who didn’t know when or if competitions would resume.

“Sport’s often an escape for people, it’s something that we can count on, it happens every weekend,” Dr Richards said.

External Link:

AFL wish you were here tweet

“It might have been a really stressful week at work but we know that the weekend is the time when we can get together with our mates.

“Whether that be at the stadium or your local pub or at home, [you can] sit down and have a jovial experience watching sport.”

For many people like Mr Shillito and Mr Worner, attending games means much more than the result on the scoreboard.

“Football’s not just a game, it’s a community, it’s what brings people together, we’re a pretty diverse group [but] the one thing that brings us together is the footy,” Mr Shallito said.

Dr Richards believes clubs now need to reach out to their fans while competitions are on hold.

“For some [supporters] it’s life, it’s everything to them,” she said.

“I think they [the clubs] have an incredible platform to reach thousands of people and see this as an opportunity to engage with their fans in new and innovative ways, through social media and smartphone applications to keep the conversations happening.”


Mr Worner in the stands at Western Sydney Stadium. (Supplied: Troy Worner)

Mr Worner is wondering what he’ll do without his fortnightly fix of seeing the blue and golds play at their home stadium.

“It’s going to be interesting, I might have to go through the catalogue of DVDs and videos and watch some re-runs of some classic games, I guess,” he said.

“Who knows, might take up the guitar and learn that, I’ll have a bit more time on my hands.”

Mr Worner acknowledged it was not just the fans who were feeling the pinch. He won’t be asking for a refund on his Eels membership.

External Link:

NRL Tweet thanks for watching

“At this crisis time with unemployment going up everyone’s financial situations are different. If it keeps them [the club] surviving, it’s only a little bit but every little bit adds up,” he said.

Mr Shillito believes clubs like the GWS Giants will need every bit of help they can get in the coming months too.

“Make no mistake this is a devastating blow, I just hope it’s not fatal. With everything the game is losing, there’s gonna have to be drastic cuts and you hope that we’re not one of them.”

Dr Richards suggests hard core fans stuck at home might have to turn everyday activities into sporting contests like “competitive cooking, vacuum relays or laundry-hamper basketball”.

But for fans, nothing can replicate the feeling of being at the ground to support their teams.

“It’s a massive buzz, the experience of being there, creating the atmosphere. That of course is why you go to the games rather than watching them on tele,” Mr Shillito said.

Dr Richards said sports clubs and fans were incredibly resilient.

“They’ve taken a pretty big hit here but I know they will bounce back.

“What we do know is we’ll have sport again and maybe we’ll appreciate it a little bit more and support our clubs more than ever when we get sport back.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

We’ve learnt a lot of lessons in a week but MPs haven’t got the memo


We live in a time of rapid escalation. Infection. Horror. Dawning awareness of how quickly the earth can move under our feet.

But we are also learning at a furious pace; all sorts of things.

How incredibly filthy our hands have been this whole time; that’s more or less universal.

Awareness of how frustrating it is to apply for unemployment benefits is also spreading fast.

“My bad,” said Government Services Minister Stuart Robert on Tuesday, explaining he hadn’t quite registered in advance how busy Centrelink’s website might immediately become when the economy was placed under sedation at the weekend (the site has been crashing all week, prompting a rethink of the decision to run it off Mr Robert’s historically overworked home internet server. Jokes.)

Video: Queues form outside Centrelink offices for the second day.

(ABC News)

Workers lucky enough still to have a job and be able to work from home have found themselves on an exponential learning curve, picking up everything from alarming new insights into their workmates’ home decor to top-range proficiency in completing a crucial teleconference while a 10-year-old burps the alphabet at the other end of the kitchen table.

How hard is it to be a teacher? Lots of people are finding out the answer to that one pretty fast.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Whole organisations are learning at the speed of light, and despite the desperate fear and horror that drives this innovation, the feats of ingenuity on display send exhilarating pulses of light out to other humans in lockdown.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic playing the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth together from their disparate loungerooms.

External Link:

Rotterbam Philharmonic

A “Couch Choir” of 1,000 humans singing Close To You together from 1,000 locations.

Large employers have found ways of moving their workforces online. The Sydney Morning Herald, for the first time, produced a newspaper from an empty office.

As a journalist myself, I am permitted to observe that there is no professional grouping more grumpily resistant to technological change or more averse to computer training of any kind.

And so I ask: if vast chunks of the Australian workforce can evolve and rapidly learn new ways of doing our jobs, why the hell can’t our federal Parliament?

If we are obliged to view each other’s nose hairs and download Zoom, why can’t they?

Morrison’s socialist acid dream

The House of Representatives rose on Monday night at 11:11pm after a sombre day legislating a costly rescue program that would have seemed like a socialist acid dream to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg a couple of months back.

MPs are not scheduled now to sit again for nearly five months. The Budget’s been postponed, and the Parliament’s great chambers will sit quiet until August 11.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

The general uncontroversiality of the proposition that we can simply do without our principal decision-making body for five months during the biggest disaster most of us will ever see is informative in itself.

In fact, it’s kind of frightening that the closure of pubs is getting more comment than the shutdown of the Parliament.

Labor and the Greens opposed the new schedule as the shadows lengthened on Monday.

“Of all the decisions that have been made procedurally, this is the only one where we have disagreement,” said the manager of Opposition business, Tony Burke.

“Let’s not forget, in terms of legislation, some of what we dealt with in legislation today was only announced and determined by the Australian Government yesterday. It is unthinkable that we will make it through to 11 August without the nation needing us to convene.”

“If further urgent decisions need to be made then surely we should be able to work out how to make them if Parliament has to be cancelled,” added Greens leader Adam Bandt.

“But the starting point in an emergency is to have more democracy, not less. The presumption that simply because there is a crisis we should cancel Parliament is a worrying one.”

Video: Scott Morrison foreshadows stronger social distancing measures.

(ABC News)

Baby steps to a new regime

The House of Representatives made a number of concessions to COVID-19 on Monday.

One was cutting the numbers of MPs present. Another was having MPs fetch their own glasses of water (baby steps).

Another was changing the way they voted to minimise the number of times MPs trooped back and forth.

There was no overt discussion of moving to a virtual Parliament, and it’s understood this is not an option under active discussion.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But the House did agree on another variation of standing order, providing that: “the House may meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided in the standing orders with the agreement of the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business, with the manner in which Members may be present (including for the purposes of achieving a quorum) to be determined by the Speaker”.

If this country is in lockdown for many months, the prospect of Zooming the House of Representatives without taking the risk of shipping 151 MPs and their staff around the continent becomes — you’d think — a decreasingly silly proposition.

For representatives to speak from the heart of their suffering communities — rather than the hermetically sealed suites of Parliament House where whips and factional heavies can easily find them — might actually lead to a different kind of advocacy.

Certainly, adopting a model for a virtual Parliament long term would address some of the most stubborn barriers that currently keep women out of the joint.

This crisis is changing our country already. Our Parliament should lead, not follow.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Turtle births mark important milestone for ‘living, breathing dinosaur’

Wingham 2429

Ten turtle hatchlings may not seem like a lot, but it is an important milestone for the Manning River turtle, an endangered freshwater species that dates back 85 million years.

Found only in the Manning River catchment on the New South Wales mid north coast, the turtle is the focus of a captive insurance and conservation program run by Aussie Ark.

The group’s president, Tim Faulkner, said it was the oldest turtle species in Australia and essentially a “living, breathing dinosaur” that played an important role in the river.

“They’re actually garbage cleaners of the river … anything that goes into the water, be it plant or animal that’s diseased or rotting, they clean it up, and you can imagine what that does for the water quality,” he said.


The turtle eggs were rescued from a river bank. (Supplied: Aussie Ark)

The eggs were rescued from the river bank as waters rose following rainfall earlier this year.

The hatchlings, the first of their kind to be born as part of a captive insurance population, will be kept for several months before being released.

“Essentially we get them up and fit and healthy, and then we figure out where we put them back in the system,” Mr Faulkner said.


One of the 10 hatchlings from the first clutch collected by Aussie Ark. (Supplied)

“Ten turtles might not seem like many, and I’m the first to say it’s not, but there’s somewhere around 1,000 of these things — that’s it, that’s the world population.

“This is our first year of breeding or rescuing eggs like that; we’ve also got another 20 in the incubator that are due to hatch in the coming weeks.”

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This week Aussie Ark staff checked in on the Manning River turtle eggs currently incubating. This heartbeat monitor shows a strong, steady heartbeat inside the egg!

It is hoped that as the program expands, hundreds of turtles will be released each year.

“The thing is that there are no young turtles in the system, there really is no recruitment,” Mr Faulkner said.

“The feral fox is annihilating them, so when the females come out to lay their eggs, the foxes have turtle egg season — they go along and eat all the eggs, and sometimes they eat the females while they’re laying them.

“I’ve snorkelled those rivers and I’ve been surveying the turtle for many years, and I’ve seen three smallish ones, cup-saucer size.”

Community group celebrating

The Manning River Turtle Conservation Group is working in the community to improve knowledge of the turtle’s plight.


Bob was rescued during dry conditions and is in rehabilitation. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

“They’ve survived 55 million years and we don’t want to see them disappear on our watch,” co-founder Kerrie Guppy said.

“It’s such exciting news with all the sad news, the bad news in the world … it’s definitely inspiring, we’re really excited.”


Manning River Turtle Conservation Group members Brenton Asquith, Kerrie Guppy and Clare Rourke. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

A turtle rescued from the river before Christmas is doing well and has been taken into a local school as part of an education program.

“It was very ill at the time and malnourished, and that’s sort of expected with the conditions of the river at the time,” carer Brenton Asquith said.

“The turtle’s shedding, which is a sign of growth; it’s fattening back up, it’s looking healthy and it’s a lot more active.”

Bellinger River turtles also doing well

Another population of turtles, these ones critically endangered, has also received a welcome population boost.

Taronga Zoo’s insurance population of the Bellinger River snapping turtle had 35 babies hatch this year.


A mystery virus killed 90 per cent of the Bellinger River snapping turtle population. (Supplied: Taronga Zoo/Paul Fahy)

Endemic to the Bellinger River, the species of freshwater turtle was almost wiped out in 2015 when a novel virus infiltrated the river.

A group of healthy turtles was rescued to establish the insurance population.

Taronga reptile keeper Adam Skidmore said it was the population’s fourth successful breeding season.

“We now have nearly 100 of these turtles living at our quarantine facility and the hatchlings are doing really well — eating lots and growing — and we are really happy with their development,” he said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Coronavirus is forcing families apart, but it doesn’t mean you have to cut off contact

Perth 6000

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we live our lives, families are having to make some tough calls to protect their most vulnerable members and for many grandparents it could mean being isolated in their own home.

Key points:

  • People over 70 have been advised to avoid contact in the UK
  • Many in Australia are already self-isolating or preparing to
  • Older people are advised to maintain social connections remotely

The Federal Government has yet to officially call for Australians over a certain age to avoid social contact — as in the UK where those over 70 have been told to avoid going out for three months — yet many among that age group are already bracing for a life behind closed doors.

Add to that the Government’s decision to keep schools open, at least for now, and grandparents are facing an unknown time period where visiting their grandchildren is ill-advised.

But people who already live on the other side of the world from their families say there are ways to stay close without face-to-face contact.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Lessons from those already kept apart

Emelyn Fuller is three years old and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her paternal grandmother, Alice Fuller, lives in Virginia in the United States.

They only see each other in person about once every 18 months and rely on technology to keep their bond alive.

Emelyn’s mother, Kara Fuller, is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Glasgow and is about 5,000 kilometres from her own parents, who also live in the United States.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

She said families separated by distance have long found ways to maintain connections and the lessons they have learned would be especially important during these difficult times.

“It is about changing your frame of mind to focus on the bond that you have and the social connection, rather than focusing on the physical distance,” Dr Fuller said.

“Everywhere in the news now we see the advice to practice social distancing.

“This is clearly important and responsible behaviour and it helps to ensure we minimise the spread of COVID-19.

“However, the term is misleading in a sense, because it seems to suggest that we will have fewer social connections — these can happen in person of course, but also through video, post, phone calls, messages and more.”


Kara Fuller says grandparents can stay close, even when they can’t have physical contact. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd

Technology key for social connection

Bronwyn Harman, an expert on family psychology from Edith Cowan University’s School of Psychology and Social Science, said forced isolation was difficult for anyone.

“We know that human beings in general are social people, we like groups, we like to be with people,” she said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“Even introverts like to be with people to some extent, so having forced isolation is not good for anyone’s mental health.

“But despite the myth, many old people are good with technology.

“They might bumble through to start with, but older people have lived through times of lots of change and they’re pretty good at adapting when they have to.”


Bronwyn Harman says despite the stereotypes, many older people can learn to use new technology. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)

Dr Harman suggested taking the time now to make sure those vulnerable to COVID-19 were technologically prepared and knew how to use video applications like Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.

“And don’t forget the phone call, ring them up and talk to them. Even talking to them is sometimes enough to alleviate feelings of isolation,” she said,

“If it’s the case of people being isolated to an extent where they can’t go out into the community at all, I would really be ringing them every day just to check that they’re OK.

“And rope in as many family members as you can — children are very good with technology now, so you can even get a five-year-old to ring nana and grandad or to have a chat.

“Set up family dinners via Skype — the options in that sense are almost endless.”


Children may enjoy writing letters to their grandparents while they are isolating. (Flickr: will

Write letters, use the post

For some people learning how to use a new technology might be overwhelming, especially if they are already struggling with heightened anxiety as the coronavirus crisis develops.

Dr Harman said if that were the case, it might be time to revisit a long-lost art of the past — letter writing.

“Get kids to write letters or draw pictures and post them, and that can be exciting for the kids because most don’t even know what a mailbox is anymore,” she said.

“They can send something in the mail and then nana or granddad will receive it a few days later, and maybe write one back.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Honest communication a must

In the event schools were to be closed, Dr Harman said doing those types of activities would help the whole family in a lock-down situation.

She said whether they remained at school or not, children, especially those who were close to their grandparents, would be feeling the impacts of the already introduced measures around social distancing and isolation.

“I think it’s going to be particularly hard for little children because little children don’t understand time and so for them an hour can sometimes feel forever,” Dr Harman said.

“If they’re used to seeing their grandparents, for example, every day or every second day, in a few days they’re going to get really uptight … and may not understand why they can’t see them.”

External Link:

Tweet – Julia Baird on Norway PM children's press conference

In the same way the Norway Prime Minister recently held a children-only COVID-19 press conference, Dr Harman said communicating with our younger generation would be integral for them in the long term as well.

“I believe in telling children the truth, but not scaring the life out of them,” Dr Harman said.

“I would use age-appropriate language and explain to them what’s going on.

“An example might be to say there’s some germs around at the moment and nobody really knows what the germs are or where they’re coming from, so to keep nana and granddad safe, we decided to stay away from them — just so they don’t catch any germs.”

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Abhorrent’ hangman game played by Canberra prison staff using name of detainee

Canberra 2600

A game of hangman played on a whiteboard in a staff-only area of Canberra’s prison featuring the name of an Indigenous detainee has been labelled “extremely disappointing” by the Corrective Services Commissioner.

Key points:

  • A hangman game played by staff using an inmate’s name was discovered in 2018
  • The case was settled in the ACT Administrative and Civil Tribunal last week
  • The Commissioner has issued an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees

The incident, which occurred at the Alexander Maconochie Centre in 2018, was taken to the Human Rights Commission by a fellow Indigenous detainee after he overheard staff talking about the image, which also featured a boat with the people onboard “celebrating as indicated by the word ‘yay’ while they looked at the hanging man”.

The complainant’s lawyers, from Canberra Community Law, told the ABC that the complainant had “suffered significant emotional and psychological harm as a result” of the incident.

“The reference to the boat cuts deeply given the history of this country and what has happened to our people since colonisation,” he said.

“It is hard for me to articulate just how terrible the impact of this blatant hate and racism has been on me.

“The realisation that the people entrusted with our care think and behave in this way is frightening.”

Matter referred to ACAT

After efforts between the prison and the detainee to reach an agreement broke down, the matter was referred to the ACT Administrative and Civil Tribunal (ACAT).

ACAT and the detainee reached a settlement last week, and the process has reportedly prompted “significant reform” within ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS) to “ensure that our operations are focused on maximising opportunities for offenders to positively change their lives”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ACTCS Commissioner Jon Peach apologised for the behaviour of his staff.

“This type of behaviour is abhorrent and reflects badly on all those staff that do the right thing every day,” he said.

“There is no place for it within ACTCS and it will not be tolerated.

External Link:

The tribunal ordered the hangman image be accompanied by this statement, which the parties agreed to on March 4, 2020.

“Any staff member who cannot meet these basic expectations, should rethink their career.”

Mr Peach also issued a separate apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees, given the drawing was of an Indigenous prisoner, and the complainant was also Indigenous.

“I acknowledge that this incident is particularly distressing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees and for this I further offer my sincere apology,” Mr Peach said.

“As a society it is our duty to call out this behaviour when it happens and to convey our apology to those who are directly affected by the reckless actions of others.”

However, Mr Peach confirmed to the ABC that the detainee who was the subject of the hangman drawing still does not, to this day, know it was about him.

In response to the Commissioner’s statement, Canberra Community Lawyers said that “too often stories involving Aboriginal People silence the voices of the Aboriginal victims directly affected. The statement from the Commissioner is yet one more example of that.

“The image is much more than a game of hangman. It represents the persistent racism that plagues our systems.

“Our client is pleased to have received a robust apology through the litigation process, but it is disappointing that the ACT Corrective Services has subsequently minimised the serious nature of the image.”

Rattenbury also condemns the drawing


Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach described the drawing as ‘abhorrent’. (ABC News)

Following the ACAT settlement, Mr Peach told the ABC his team had no way of identifying who did the drawing and so had instead taken a “systemic” approach to the response, including more cultural awareness training.

Mr Peach also said he was disappointed the “despicable” actions of one staff member “undermined the professionalism and reputation of ACTCS and my staff”.

“The vast majority of my staff are highly dedicated and professional,” he said.

“It is my expectation that ACTCS employees act with integrity, decency and respect at all times.”

Minister for Corrections and Justice Health Shane Rattenbury echoed the Commissioner’s condemnation of the drawing.

“I am personally appalled by this incident,” he said.

“It is deeply regrettable and frankly offensive.”

Hole in fence findings


The Corrections Minister described the game as “offensive”. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Today the Commissioner also released the review into an incident in November 2019, when a hole in the perimeter fence at Canberra’s jail was discovered.

It found the hole went undetected for a day because of changes to the perimeter checks by staff that did not meet established procedures.

But it did note that “ACTCS responded appropriately in securing the centre and following established emergency management protocols” once the hole was detected.

“I am pleased that the review has confirmed our security procedures are appropriate,” Mr Peach said.

“However it is disappointing that potential human error led to the delay in identification of this breach for a day.

“There is no excuse for those systems not to have worked in this instance.”

Mr Peach said there had been no similar breaches of the perimeter since November.

A formal investigation is still ongoing into the alleged human error that led to the delay.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Jillaroo’s video send-up of Kylie Minogue pays tribute to life in the bush

St George 4487

Lucy Sevil is comfortable in jeans and boots as a jillaroo but jumped at the chance to “glam up” like Kylie Minogue and sing a tribute to life in south-west Queensland.

Key points:

  • The good-humoured send-up is a celebration of a community struggling through tough times
  • Tourism Australian not only approves of the send-up, “they love it”
  • Locals have extended an open invitation to Kylie Minogue, Adam Hills and all Australians to come for a beer

Inspired by Tourism Australia’s Matesong video, released in December and featuring Minogue and TV presenter Adam Hills, locals in St George wrote their own version with the river banks of the Balonne standing in for the beaches of Sydney.

“Our community has been struggling through some pretty tough times,” Ms Sevil said.

“But we wanted to celebrate that, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us, with the drought and then the floods, this is a great place to come and see all the colourful and quirky people and locations.

External Link:

St George Matesong

“I guess our video is a tribute to Kylie’s video, which itself was a tribute to Australia, and we’re all working to the same cause of celebrating our unique lifestyle.”

The St George song shares a number of similarities with its star-studded inspiration.

While Minogue and company point out a quokka, the Queenslanders point out Thallon’s big wombat sculpture; the original’s beachballs by the sea are instead kicked around the riverbank.

“But our video does feature a horse in a bar, which the original didn’t,” organiser Kim Wildman said.

External Link:

The official Matesong video from Tourism Australia

Rain forces rushed rethink on river shoot

The new Matesong was originally meant to feature brown, parched landscapes.

“We were going to be making fun of ourselves by cruising on a dry riverbed,” Ms Wildman said.

“But then it rained, so we had to change the plan when the river started running again, which has ended up being a lot better.”

Basing the song on an international ad campaign meant treading carefully around copyright.


Thallon residents re-enact a scene from the Tourism Australia video. (Supplied)

“The first thing we did was contact Tourism Australia to let them know what we wanted to do,” Ms Wildman said.

“We didn’t want to have to deal with anything like copyright infringement, so we were very open with them in what we wanted to do.”

The song was co-written by country musician Josh Arnold.

“He made sure to change the music entirely and we’ve shown it to them [Tourism Australia] and I’ve heard unofficially that they love it.”

From SES controller to comedian

Ben Gardiner works for the local council and is the local SES controller, but it was his facial hair that snagged him the role of Adam Hills.


Ben Gardner (top) says singing and acting are not part of his day job as the local SES controller. (Supplied)

“I didn’t shave on holidays, and when I got home they said, ‘You look like Adam with your beard’,” he said.

“I pretty much got the job because I didn’t shave.”

But he’s happy.

“I got to eat a lot of ice creams in that one scene,” he laughed.

“But seriously, it was a chance to get out of my comfort zone because singing and dancing is not on my list of to-dos usually.”

Mr Gardiner said the hardest part of the performance was not singing, but knocking over a lamp on cue at the start of the video.

“I had to do it about six times,” he said.

“It’s actually hard to knock something over when you’re normally not supposed to.”


Farmers, school kids — even a horse — made it to the Nindigully Pub for the film shoot. (Supplied)

While he followed in Hills’s footsteps in the video, Mr Gardiner has no plans to follow the comedian to the UK.

“Nah, mate. Life here is too good.”

And the south-western Queenslanders have extended an open invitation to Minogue and Hills — and the rest of Australia — to visit the towns on the Balonne River.

“Absolutely, we can line up a beer for them easily,” Mr Gardiner said.

A horse at the bar cannot be guaranteed.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Donald Trump not tested for coronavirus despite Republican politicians’ self-quarantine

United States

United States President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus, the White House said, despite a number of Republicans announcing they were going into self-quarantine.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump does not have any coronavirus symptoms, the White House says
  • He announced a possible economic relief to remedy the impact of the virus
  • Mr Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, will also self-quarantine

United States senator Ted Cruz and House Representatives Paul Gosar, Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz have announced they will self-quarantine after attending a conservative political conference where an attendee later tested positive.

Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence also attended the conference.

Mr Gaetz travelled with Mr Trump aboard Air Force One and Mr Trump also reportedly shook hands with Mr Collins.

“Thank you for everyone’s well-wishes and concerns … I should have the COVID-19 test results back tomorrow. Health officials maintain the risk to people I have been in contact with remains low,” Mr Gaetz tweeted.

External Link:

@RepMattGaetz Congressman Gaetz was informed today that he came into contact with a CPAC attendee 11 days ago who tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr Cruz also released a public statement through Twitter explaining his encounter with the individual who tested positive, saying the interaction was “a brief conversation and a handshake”.

External Link:

@SenTedCruz Today I released the following statement

He said he decided to remain home in Texas this week until a full 14 days have passed since the interaction out of “an abundance of caution”.

Republican Representative Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s incoming chief of staff, will also self-quarantine until Wednesday, a spokesperson said.

The White House said there was no indication Mr Trump and Mr Pence came into contact with the infected attendee, and Mr Pence said the risk of the American public contracting the new virus “remains low”.

“The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms,” a White House spokesperson said.

“President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him.”

‘Major’ steps to prepare economy against coronavirus impact: Trump


Mr Trump and Mr Pence attended the conference where an attendee tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP: Carolyn Kaster)

The Trump administration scrambled on Monday to assure Americans it was responding to a growing coronavirus outbreak as stock markets plunged and top health officials urged some people to avoid cruise ships, air travel and big public gatherings.

Mr Trump, who has repeatedly played down the threat posed by the flu-like virus sweeping the globe, said he will be taking “major” steps to gird the economy against the impact of the spreading coronavirus outbreak and will discuss a payroll tax cut with congressional Republicans.

“We’ll be discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s a big number,” Mr Trump told reporters.

External Link:

@RepMattGaetz Reviewing the coronavirus supplemental appropriation and preparing to go vote.

Paid sick leave is among policy steps being considered, the official said on condition of anonymity.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow advocates specific tax credits, loans or direct subsidies to certain industries or hard-hit areas.

A payroll tax cut could encourage consumer spending and help households that might otherwise struggle to make rent and mortgage payments on time or pay medical bills if family members’ work hours are reduced during a coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders said they’re consulting with public health experts to plan their next campaign moves.

Senator Sanders cancelled a major rally because of the outbreak and Mr Biden told US media that he would consider doing the same if health authorities said it was necessary.

Mr Biden held a rally in Detroit on Monday and passed out hand sanitiser to attendees and the media.

Florida health officials said everyone returning from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy must isolate for 14 days while travellers from other countries affected by the outbreak should monitor their health.

The number of confirmed US cases reached 605, with 22 deaths, according to the running national tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University.

Thirty-four US states and the District of Columbia have reported to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infections of the respiratory illness COVID-19 that can lead to pneumonia.

A nursing home the hardest hit place in US


The dizzying action in financial markets escalated as stocks and oil prices fell. (AP: Mark Lennihan)

As worries over the virus deepened, the Dow Jones fell a record 2,000 points when trading opened and the S&P 500 posted its largest single-day percentage drop since December 2008, the depths of the financial crisis. A plunge in oil prices contributed to fears of a looming recession.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

Mr Trump, who often points to the stock market as a gauge of his economic record, criticised news media organisations’ coverage of the outbreak in a tweet and accused Democrats of hyping the situation “far beyond what the facts would warrant”.

Rate cuts can’t cure COVID-19
Reserve Bank interest rate cuts will do little to keep Australia out of a deep recession if coronavirus becomes a severe pandemic, but there are some unconventional policies that could help save the economy.

The CDC advised colleges and universities to consider asking students studying abroad to return home and cancel or postpone upcoming travel.

Several US universities were either moving to virtual instruction or considering the step and limiting gatherings on their campuses.

The hardest-hit place in the United States has been a nursing home in the suburb of Kirkland in the Washington state capital of Seattle, and the state is considering mandatory measures such as banning large gatherings, but not necessarily imposing massive quarantines.

The Life Care Center facility has accounted for most of the 18 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state.


The crew of 1,100 from the Grand Princess will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship. (AP: Noah Berger)

In California, officials planned to offload 2,400 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was barred from returning to San Francisco last week due to a coronavirus outbreak on board.

The coronavirus emergency plan has been activated
The Australian Government has pulled the trigger on its emergency response plan and is now operating on the basis the virus is a pandemic. Here’s what that means.

Most of the passengers will go into quarantine at four military bases across the country, with those requiring immediate medical attention heading to hospitals.

The crew of 1,100 will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship unless they need acute care.

California has more than 100 confirmed cases, while on the East Coast, New York state now has 142, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked employers in the nation’s most populous city to consider staggering workers’ start times to ease crowding on public transport and to allow more telecommuting where possible.


Video: A coronavirus reality check from Dr Norman Swan


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Dozens killed as gunmen attack Kabul ceremony attended by top politicians


At least 27 people have been killed in an attack by gunmen on a remembrance ceremony attended by top political leaders in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Key points:

  • The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack
  • Chief executive and former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped the attack unharmed
  • The ceremony marked the anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the Taliban

Chief executive and former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped the attack unharmed but at least 55 others were injured, officials said.

It is the first major attack on the Afghan capital since the United States reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw US troops last week.

But the Taliban — the largest Islamist militant group in Afghanistan — denied responsibility for the attack.

“The attack started with a boom, apparently a rocket landed in the area, Abdullah and some other politicians … escaped the attack unhurt,” Mr Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidoon Kwazoon, who was also present, said.

Broadcaster Tolo News showed live footage of people running for cover as gunfire was heard.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said the casualty toll could rise as wounded were taken to hospitals in Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said all of the casualties were civilians.


Afghan security personnel cordon off the site of the attack in Kabul.

Afghan security forces were still trying to flush the gunmen out of a half-finished apartment building, Mr Rahimi said.

Dozens of Afghan security forces had cordoned off the area.

Mr Abdullah was runner-up in the last three Afghan presidential elections.

He has served as chief executive of a coalition government since 2014 and is also a former foreign minister.

‘Crime against humanity’

The gathering marked the anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the Taliban.


Dozens of relatives gathered at hospitals, with many breaking down in tears. (Reuters: Omar Sobhani)

Several people were killed in a similar attack on the same commemoration last year, which Islamic State said was carried out by its militants.

President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that the attack was “a crime against humanity and against the national unity of Afghanistan”.

Dozens of relatives gathered at the morgue of a hospital not far from the blast, with many breaking down in tears as they waited to identify their loved ones.

“I was at the ceremony when gunshots started. I rushed toward the door to get out of the area but suddenly my foot was hit by a bullet,” Mukhtar Jan said.

External Link:

@USAmbKabul We strongly condemn today’s vicious attack against Afghans commemorating the anniversary of Abdul Ali Mazari’s assassination. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims & thank the Afghan security forces for swift response. We stand with Afghanistan for peace.

Ali Attayee, at the hospital to support his wounded brother, said: “Those who committed this crime want to destroy our people at this juncture in society, we’re sorry for those committing such crimes.”

Representatives of the United States, European Union and NATO condemned the attack.

“We strongly condemn today’s vicious attack … We stand with Afghanistan for peace,” the United States charge d’affaires in Kabul, Ross Wilson, wrote on Twitter.

The attack was one of the largest on civilians in Afghanistan in a year.

“Horrific attack in Kabul today … heartbreaking and unacceptable. We are tired of war and violence,” Shahrzad Akbar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

The United States has sought to spearhead efforts towards a lasting peace arrangement.

Violence decreased during a seven-day hold-down accord with the Taliban before last Saturday’s deal, though the Taliban has since resumed attacks on Afghan forces.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Matildas crush Vietnam to stand on verge of Olympic qualification

Sydney 2000

Sam Kerr led the way as Australia routed Vietnam 5-0 in the first leg of the women’s Olympic football tournament play-off in Newcastle.

Key points:

  • The Matildas should have won by a larger margin, spurning numerous goalscoring chances
  • The win came in the first leg of Australia’s Olympic football qualifier, with the second leg on Wednesday in Vietnam
  • A win on aggregate will see the Matildas qualify for the Games for the fourth time, following success in 2000, 2004 and 2016.

Star striker Kerr took just 10 minutes to get the scoring underway and added a second from the penalty spot on 80 minutes as the Matildas virtually locked up their ticket to July’s Tokyo Olympics.

Kerr’s opener was followed by further first-half goals from Chloe Logarzo and Newcastle-born Emily van Egmond.

The Matildas carved out a hatful of chances in an open match, although Vietnam had a couple of bright moments in attack and notably Pham Thi Tuoi spurned a golden opportunity to draw the visitors level during the early stages.

External Link:

The Matildas tweet: .@samkerr1 scores goal number 40 for @TheMatildas! #WeAreMatildas @AUSvVIE

Australia should have won by a larger margin and missed numerous goalscoring chances in front of a crowd of 14,014.

Caitlin Foord hit the post, Kyah Simon had a shot blocked off the line and Van Egmond spurned a couple of golden openings.

It took until midway through the second half before Australia added to their advantage as defender Clare Polkinghorne swept home a low cross for a rare goal.

Having won all seven previous matches against Vietnam, Wednesday’s second leg in Cam Pha should be a formality in terms of Olympic qualification for the Australians who are chasing a fourth Games appearance.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Cricket underdog Thailand lights up T20 World Cup with upbeat attitude

Homebush 2140

Coming from the Land of Smiles, the Thailand women’s cricket team has been the feel-good story of the T20 World Cup hosted by Australia.

Key points:

  • Thailand was the first team from South-East Asia to qualify for a Women’s T20 World Cup
  • The Thai players have taken the tournament by storm with their infectious and positive attitude
  • Thailand lost three of its pool matches but gave itself a chance of victory against Pakistan before the match was abandoned

Thailand’s rapid rise — in a country where cricket is largely unknown — to make its T20 World Cup debut has been incredible to watch.

The nation has only 11 contracted cricketers, all of whom are women, and it became the first team from South-East Asia to quality for the Women’s T20 World Cup.

Thailand did not win a match at the tournament — although it did set Pakistan a competitive target of 151 in this afternoon’s abandoned pool match in Sydney — but its impact has been profound.

“When we were preparing, nobody really even knew we were coming for a World Cup,” Thailand’s vice-captain Nattaya Boochatham said.

“But off the back of this, we’ve got a lot of attention around the world.”

Thailand was soundly beaten by England, South Africa and West Indies, prior to its final match against Pakistan being called off early because of rain.

External Link:

@T20WorldCup video tweet: "During the rain delay, Thailand kept the fans entertained on the big screen with an impromptu dance-off. Thank you for being part of #TheBigDance!"

Despite recording three heavy defeats, the joy and energy of the Thailand players has been infectious, highlighted when they bowed to the crowd, umpires and opponents during their matches.

“We can smile wholeheartedly and enjoy what a World Cup feels like, the experience has been invaluable for us,” Boochatham said.

Thailand has also experienced displays of sportsmanship from other teams.

New Zealand gave the Thais an impromptu coaching clinic when they met in a warm-up fixture.

Thai players feel ‘like a big family’

Most of Thailand’s team are semi-professional, forced to juggle their playing duties with jobs or education commitments.

“When we go back we will take a bit of a break, enjoy [time] with our families, go back to studying, then after that, it’s straight back to planning for the [one-day World Cup] 50-over qualifier,” Boochatham said.

There was a significant amount of preparation put into the T20 World Cup campaign, as the squad of 15 came from different parts of Thailand to live under the one roof in a Bangkok house rented by the Cricket Association of Thailand.

The players became “like a big family”, as they ate, slept and breathed cricket while undergoing a strict training regime.

“Always being together [makes] you understand the dynamics of everyone,” Boochatham said.

“We know each other inside out, which is great when we are on the field, [as] we back each other.”


The Thai players created a family-like environment in the build-up to the World Cup. (ICC)

Most of Thailand’s World Cup team switched to cricket from other sports such as softball, basketball and volleyball.

Captain Sornnarin Tippoch was scouted playing softball at university at 21, while Boochatham enjoyed a similar journey across to cricket.

“I thought, ‘this is going to hurt a lot because I don’t have my [softball] mitts on’, but once I got into it and started batting I fell in love and have been playing ever since,” Boochatham said.

The young team is hungrier than ever to match the standard set by the world’s best.

“How we’ve underperformed is a wake-up call to us to motivate us,” Boochatham said.

“We have been exposed but that’s not a bad thing. We have to get stronger and bring our A game.”

The tough initiation has paved the way for younger Thai players, according to Boochatham.

“We want the world to know that we can play, for us to set the benchmark for the new generation of Thai cricketers to show this is the level you have to be performing at,” she said.

“Hopefully, we are good role models for the future.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Indonesia’s most active volcano erupts, forcing airport to shut amid 6km column of ash


Indonesia’s most active volcano has erupted, sending a 6-kilometre column of ash into the sky and triggering the closure of the airport in the nearby city of Solo on Java.

Key points:

  • Villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes are advised to stay 3km from the crater’s mouth
  • The eruption lasted almost eight minutes
  • The last major eruption of Mount Merapi, in 2010, killed 353 people

The eruption of Mount Merapi on the main island of Java also unleashed searing gas clouds 2km down its slopes, Indonesia’s Geology and Volcanology Research Agency said on its website.

The agency said villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes were advised to stay 3km from the crater’s mouth as the ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages.

It said the eruption lasted almost eight minutes after it began at 5:22am on Tuesday (local time) and warned of a risk of further eruptions due to continuing movements of magma.


Volcanic ash has engulfed roads in Boyolali, Central Java province. (Antara Foto/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho via Reuters)

The volcano is a popular site for tourists and its fertile soil is also farmed.

External Link:

@IFRCAsiaPacific Earlier this morning, Mount #Merapi erupted, sending a plume of ash and smoke into the air. #RedCross volunteers in #Indonesia are helping to keep communities calm and providing face masks.

“Outside a 3km radius it’s still safe,” Biwara Yuswantana, the head of Yogyakarta’s disaster mitigation agency, said.

Yogyakarta city centre is located about 30km from the volcano.

The international airport in Solo was shut at 9:25am (local time), Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said. Four flights were affected.

Witnesses said the sound of the eruption was heard 30km away.

The agency did not raise the alert status of Merapi, which was already at the third-highest level due to its ongoing activity.

The 2,968-metre-high mountain is the most active of about 500 Indonesian volcanoes.

The volcano, located near the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo, has rumbled and generated dark hot clouds since last year.


The eruption spewed out a column of ash as well as searing gas clouds along the mountain’s slopes. (AP: Slamet Riyadi)

Its last major eruption, in 2010, killed 353 people.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 240 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines around the ocean.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Nick Kyrgios booed off court after retiring with wrist injury in Acapulco


Defending champion Nick Kyrgios has slammed the crowd at the ATP World Tour event in Acapulco after being booed off the court when he was forced to retire from his first-round match because of injury.

Key points:

  • Nick Kyrgios lost the first set 6-3 to Ugo Humbert before withdrawing with a wrist injury
  • Kyrgios said he found the crowd’s booing “disrespectful” in light of his injury troubles
  • The Australian has been struggling with injury since exiting the Australian Open last month

Kyrgios pulled the pin after losing the first set 6-3 to France’s Ugo Humbert, with his decision met with a chorus of boos as he departed the tournament that he won 12 months ago.

The Australian wore an ice pack on his injured left wrist while attending his post-match media conference, where he let his feelings be known about the crowd’s behaviour.

“I couldn’t give a f***,” Kyrgios said.

“I literally couldn’t give a f***. I’m not healthy, I tried to come here, I tried to play. I’ve been doing media for the tournament … helping out.

“I tried to play, I tried to give the fans a little bit of tennis … they [were] disrespectful, so I honestly couldn’t give a f***.”

External Link:

@TennisTV video tweet: "Unfortunately defending champion @NickKyrgios has had to pull out with a wrist injury, sending Ugo Humbert through to round two. Get well soon, NK"

Kyrgios, who was the sixth seed in Acapulco, received treatment for his wrist injury during a medical timeout in the first set.

He informed the trainer he was “going to pull out” as he had his wrist taped, eventually doing so four games later.

Kyrgios said he had been troubled by the injury in the wake of the Australian Open in Melbourne, where he reached the fourth round last month.

“I’ve been dealing with a wrist injury the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“After the Australian Open I took a week-and-a-half off and then I started hitting again. I started feeling my wrist. I didn’t play last week in Delray [Beach].

“I still came here, I still thought I’d be able to play but my wrist is not ready to play.

“I could feel it on every backhand. It’s unfortunate. After the memories I had last year, it was tough for me to come here and pull out.”


Kyrgios was booed of the court after withdrawing with his injury. (AP: Rebecca Blackwell)

Kyrgios had been a late scratching from last week’s Delray Beach tournament, while he had also withdrawn from the New York Open earlier this month because of a shoulder injury.

The world number 23 will slide down the rankings as a result of his early exit in Acapulco.

Kyrgios may now be in doubt for Australia’s Davis Cup tie against Brazil in Adelaide beginning on March 6.

In other Australian results in Acapulco, John Millman lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to American Taylor Fritz, and Alex Bolt went down to Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Racial vilification decision ends player’s career

Darwin 0800

A 23-year-old Aussie Rules player will be kicked out of the sport for a second time after being found guilty of racially vilifying an opponent earlier this month.

Key points:

  • A complaint was made against the player after a heated end to an AFLNT match in Darwin in early February
  • The player had been re-registered in October after having a life ban overturned following an on-field incident in 2018
  • It happened as racial tensions heightened after the re-airing of Adam Goodes’s The Australian Dream

The playing career of Leroy Larson is finished after he was given a five-week ban rising from an incident at a game in Darwin on February 8.

There was a scuffle between players after the final whistle of the St Marys-Tiwi Bombers clash at Marrara Stadium, in which Tiwi captain Paddy Heenan could be seen approaching and shoving Larson.

NT Grandstand presenter Shannon Byrne said a vilification complaint stemmed from a comment made by Larson to Tiwi forward Austin Wonaeamirri.

On February 21, an independent tribunal found Larson guilty of breaching the AFL’s National Vilification and Discrimination Policy.

Appeals against the ban were dismissed, and the AFL’s policy bars any parties from discussing the case for seven years.

Larson was re-registered as a player last October after he successfully had a life ban overturned following an on-field incident in South Australia in 2018.

External Link:

The Australian Dream ad on ABC Darwin Facebook

Hopes of a second comeback were dashed on Thursday when  an AFLNT statement confirmed the AFL has de-registered Larson. “

Both the AFL and AFLNT will work with St Mary’s Football Club to ensure the player’s well-being is supported during this time,” the AFLNT statement read

‘Not good enough’

Heenan was asked about the incident on ABC Radio after the finding.

“We’ve come together and we want to move forward from that, and we want to talk to the boys and just focus on what we need to do out there on the field instead of what’s happened in the past.”

AFLNT chief executive Stu Totham told ABC Radio Darwin he was following national guidelines and policies.


Stuart Totham says there is no place for discriminatory behaviour on or off the field. (ABC News: Matt Garrick)

“It’s really disappointing that we’ve had to deal with this sort of issue at the footy, and we don’t take it lightly,” he said.

“It’s just not good enough to have that sort of behaviour on the ground or off the ground or anywhere, for that matter.

“He’s a young man in this situation and that’s disappointing.

“I think the more important issue is that we can’t be tolerating any sort of racial or discriminatory behaviour around sport or anywhere in society.

“I think something we can all do better is recognising and calling it out and not accepting it, not accepting any of that type of behaviour.”

How does it feel?

Victoria University’s Dr Matthew Klugman, who co-authored Black And Proud, the story behind the iconic photograph of Nicky Winmar, said vilification had a devastating effect on the victim.


Matthew Klugman says constant re-airing of the comments are hurtful for all involved. (Supplied)

“It is a deeply humiliating process that is deeply alienating,” he said.

“It affects mental health, as we saw with the way booing was turned into an act of racial hatred.

“We saw what that did to Adam Goodes, and the airing of [The Australian Dream] just the other night on the ABC kind of brought all of that up again.

“These things link back and evoke the trauma of our violent colonisation of this land.”

But why the silent process?

Dr Klugman said he believed the league was trying to respect the mediation process and limit the damage done by the vilification.

“The airing of and re-airing that over and over again is intensely hurtful for those people,” he said.

“It can limit the abilities of both parties to speak out.


The iconic photo of Nicky Winmar reacting to racist taunts. (Supplied: NewSouth Books)

“But I think it is really important to approach these matters from a trauma-informed perspective and to know that certain comments or phrases can have a devastating effect, not just on the individuals concerned, but then is read over and over again by other people who have also been the target of racial vilification.”

He likened it in some respects to the vilification of Carlton player Tayla Harris, who called out the AFL for not moderating social media comments.

Given a second chance

Larson was kicked out of the sport in 2018 after he struck Robe player Craig Pitt while playing for Kalangadoo in the Mid South-East Football League in South Australia.

He incurred a seven-match suspension for that incident, invoking the rule that a player banned for more than 16 weeks in their career shall be deregistered from the AFL.

But less than 18 months later, an application from his childhood club St Marys passed through the NTFL re-registration panel and Larson was back on the field just in time for the 2019-20 season.

An AFLNT statement at the time said: “The panel was satisfied that Leroy displayed genuine commitment to his rehabilitation over the course of the past 12 months, which will continue into the future.

“The love he has for the game and the club will contribute to Leroy’s success in returning to the game.

“Leroy talked to what he needs to do if he ever found himself in a position on field, and that should he reoffend, the opportunity to ever be back involved in the sport he grew up playing will be gone for life.

“The panel felt that his dedication to the mentoring of the juniors and talking about his past to the younger players coming through while out of the sport, highlights that he doesn’t want to be back in this position.”

Editor’s Note 27/02/2020: This story has been updated since its original publication date of 26/02/2020 to say that a decision has been taken to deregister Leroy Larson

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Dramatic footage shows moment large tree crushes car during Perth storm

Perth 6000

Dramatic footage has emerged of a lucky escape on Perth’s roads during a destructive storm authorities have described as the most severe to hit the city in almost a decade.

Key points:

  • Emergency services received 280 calls for help due to the bad weather
  • Cars were crushed by falling trees as the storm hit during peak hour
  • The town of Calingiri lost power and could not pump water

Workers have been mopping up damage after the short-lived but severe storm hit Perth and parts of the Wheatbelt on Tuesday afternoon, causing widespread damage, creating peak-hour traffic chaos and knocking out power to thousands of WA homes.

One driver on Harborne Street in the suburb of Wembley escaped serious injury when a large tree fell onto her car, stopping it in its tracks and crushing the middle section of the vehicle.

Police said the woman was trapped in the car for some time but was eventually freed.


The tree crushed the middle section of the car but the driver escaped without serious injury. (Supplied)

Dashcam footage of the near miss was recorded by another motorist who was driving on Harborne Street at the time and saw the tree fall before other passers-by rushed to help.

The witness, Ron, told ABC Radio Perth he could not believe the woman survived.

“The guys who jumped out to help, they couldn’t open the front door and I thought ‘oh no’,” he said.

“I was certain that the person had been killed, it’s a very big tree.

“I was convinced the person wasn’t going to get out of the car. It was only when I saw it on the news or someone told me later that the person had got out that I was so relieved.”

Video: The storm hit Perth during rush hour, flooding roads and knocking over trees.

(ABC News)

The woman was assessed by St John Ambulance at the scene before being taken to Royal Perth Hospital as a precaution.

Tennis-ball-sized hailstones and no water supply

Water has been trucked in to one regional WA town after the storm cut off supplies.

Victoria Plains Shire President Pauline Bantock, whose remit includes the town of Calingiri, told ABC Radio Perth she had “never seen hail like it”.

“It was bigger than golf-ball-size and they came down initially as a ‘bang, bang’ and then it just came down in a flood, and lasted for about 10 minutes all up,” Ms Bantock said.


Aaron Edmunds collected hail stones the size of tennis balls in East Calingiri. (Twitter: @AaronEdmonds9)

She said she had received many calls reporting damage to infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of towns out of power, I know there are reports of Calingiri … and that’s actually affected the water supply to about 100 residents,” she said.

“They [the Water Corporation] are now trucking in drinking water from Bindoon. Hopefully that will restore some drinking water in the meantime to the town.

“I think our roads crew will have a busy few days ahead of them assessing the whole area of the shire.”

Jenny Ash runs the local and only store in Calingiri and said her water supply was cut off, but they could still provide petrol to motorists as they had a generator to run the pump.

External Link:

Facebook: Councillor Pauline Bantock

But she said she had heard many other towns had lost power, which meant their petrol supplies were affected.

“We’re on limited power because we had internal damage to some of our power boards,” she said.

“We’re just doing what we can.”

Most severe storm to hit Perth since 2010

According to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the main areas affected were East Victoria Park, Menora, Nollamara, Clarkson, Carlisle and Heathridge.

Over the course of six hours, more than 700 calls were made to emergency services, including almost 300 requests for help as homes were damaged, trees uprooted and power lines brought down.


Dozens of trees were brought down onto busy roads in Perth during the storm. (ABC News: James Carmody)

DFES chief superintendent Stuart Wade said it was the most severe storm to hit Perth in a decade.

“Perth experienced its most severe storm since the 2010 March hailstorms,” he said.

“There were over 350 calls to triple zero and another 350 calls to the 132 500 [emergency assistance] number, which resulted in 280 calls for assistance and 140 responses from the Fire and Rescue Service.

“Most of our requests were in the northern suburbs relating to trees down, water damage and structural damage.”

In addition to the Wembley near-miss, emergency services responded a number of other reports of fallen trees hitting cars, but nobody was seriously hurt.


A car was hit by a fallen tree in Balga in the storm. (Supplied)

Perth recorded 19 millimetres of rain between 4:30pm and 9:30pm on Tuesday as the storm passed.

More rain forecast as disruption lingers

Up to 10mm of rain was predicted in Perth on Wednesday, but the city had only recorded 1mm by late evening while reaching a top of 30 degrees Celsius during the day.

More storms are predicted for Thursday and Friday before conditions ease on the weekend.

Western Power restored electricity to 18,000 customers on Tuesday night but about 5,000 houses remained without power on Wednesday in Perth and 7,200 in regional WA, with towns including Northam, Cunderdin, Moora, Wongan Hills, Dalwallinu and Bencubbin affected.

Somerly Primary School in Perth’s north was closed while cleaning and repairs were carried out, after various classrooms were inundated with water.

The school is expected to reopen on Thursday.

Repairs were also organised at Lathlain Primary School and West Leederville Primary School after trees were brought down.


A tree came down near the bike shed at West Leederville Primary School. (Facebook: West Leederville Primary P&C)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Across the ditch, NZ politics is looking ugly. Will it bring Jacinda Ardern down?

New Zealand

Around the world, Jacinda Ardern has received acclaim from those who see the charismatic New Zealand Prime Minister as a leader for the modern age.

Key points:

  • New Zealand First has been accused of dealing with opaque loans and donations
  • Ms Ardern has refused to reprimand, criticise or even question her Deputy Prime Minister
  • Polling shows a National-led coalition garnering more support than a second term for the Labour Government

The progressive young mother, who is due to make a short visit to Australia on Friday, has been lauded for steering her nation compassionately through terrorism attacks and natural disasters.

But at home, Ardern’s leadership and judgement are under question.

New Zealand’s political scene is currently beset by donations scandals, with the most dubious elements embroiling her Deputy Prime Minister and her Government’s junior coalition partner.

Ardern has refused to reprimand, criticise or even question her Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, and his party, despite — or perhaps because of — her prime ministership depending on his support.

With a general election due in September, will Kiwis see Ardern as flying above the political fray? Or will her hands-off attitude taint her as just another politician trying to dodge difficult questions about murky fundraising?

What’s going on?


Jacinda Arden’s prime ministership depends on the support of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. (AP: Nick Perry)

At the centre of this saga is Peters: long-time political provocateur, leader of the nationalist minor party New Zealand First and, crucially, holder of the balance of power in NZ’s Parliament.

Back in 2017, Peters kept everyone in New Zealand on tenterhooks for a month after the national election, before declaring he would back the Labour Party to govern.

His decision catapulted a new, inexperienced leader — Ardern — unexpectedly into power, and in the process snagged himself the deputy prime minister and foreign minister titles.

Fast forward to 2020 and NZ First has been exposed as dealing with opaque loans and donations.

The party received three significant loans in three years from an entity called the New Zealand First Foundation that were never made public.

Under New Zealand’s electoral laws, only donations, not loans, have to be disclosed.

But these loans haven’t been repaid and Peters initially denied any knowledge of them — despite being a trustee of the foundation and the party’s founder and leader.

It’s also worth noting that NZ First Foundation is the sole declared source of funding for NZ First.

But wait, there’s more


The Serious Fraud Office is investigating donations made to Winston Peters’s NZ First Party. (AP: Achmad Ibrahim)

Further investigative reporting dug up more information about where Peters’s NZ First gets its money from.

It turns out that some of NZ’s wealthiest business owners were making large donations to the NZ First Foundation, but splitting them up into multiple, smaller donations to avoid having to reveal them.

Two businesses owned by Graeme Hart — NZ’s richest man — made donations on the same day to NZ First Foundation, both worth $NZ14,995.

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The amount is significant — it just happens to be $NZ5.01 short of the disclosure threshold under New Zealand law.

In another case, three separate entities linked to the wealthy Van Den Brink family made donations on the same day, totalling $NZ36,000 but each falling under the $NZ15,000.01 disclosure limit.

In fact, every donation to the NZ First Foundation since the 2017 election has fallen under the disclosure limit.

To add to the ethical mire, another trustee for the foundation is a former MP-turned-lobbyist, who has lobbied for businesses while at the same time accepting political donations from them for the foundation.

The Serious Fraud Office, New Zealand’s specialist financial crimes investigator, is now examining the donations.

Then it gets really weird

It was in the midst of these revelations the saga took a seemingly nefarious turn.

A right-wing blog published photographs of the reporters who had uncovered the donations details meeting with sources connected to NZ First.

At the time, Peters bragged, “We took the photograph just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”.

After a backlash for appearing to be trying to intimidate the media, he backtracked, saying on Twitter the picture was an opportunistic snap from a supporter.

External Link:

Winston Peters on Twitter: NZF has no interest in following Mr Espiner or any other journalists. The very reverse applies. No private investigators have been engaged to follow Mr Espiner or anyone else

Ardern has been under pressure from opposition parties to stand Peters down while the Serious Fraud Office investigation takes place

But she has declared the scandal has nothing to do with her.

Ardern told Radio New Zealand that while she was in charge of the Government, she was not in charge of the two other parties that form part of her Government’s ruling coalition — NZ First and the Greens.

“These aren’t matters that I have any responsibility for,” she said.


Ms Ardern says says she is not in charge of the two other parties that form part of her Government’s ruling coalition. (Reuters: Carlo Allegri)

“I’m the leader of the Labour Party, I had nothing to do with this and I’m not going to stand here and explain it or defend it because it’s not for me.

“I cannot run both a government and three political parties.”

It stands in contrast to the leadership of former Labour prime minister Helen Clark, who in 2008 stood Peters down in remarkably similar circumstances.

Ardern a one-term prime minister?

Despite the strength of Ardern’s leadership image abroad, at home her political reign is a little more fragile.

If Peters were to baulk at any criticism from her and pull his support, the Ardern Government would fall, forcing a snap election.

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The election date has been set for September 19, but recent polling gives a good hint as to why Ardern and Labour aren’t keen to risk that being brought forward.

Despite her strong lead as preferred prime minister, voting intentions suggest the election outcome would be on a knife edge.

Some of the most reputable polling shows a National-led coalition garnering more support than a second term for the Labour Government.

National may have been pleased at this point with the pressure the donations saga is piling on Ardern and her deputy, but it is the subject of a donations scandal itself.

Former National MP-turned-independent Jami-Lee Ross and three other people — Yikun Zhang, Shijia Zheng and Hengjia Zheng — are facing criminal charges over donations to the party.

They have all pleaded not guilty over allegations they split up $NZ200,000 worth of donations into smaller amounts to hide their origin.

Ross says he was directed to hide the donations by National leader Simon Bridges and is blowing the whistle, while Bridges says the claims are false and part of a vendetta by a disgruntled former party member.


Ms Ardern is due to make a short visit to Australia on Friday. (AAP: David Rowland)

On the international stage, New Zealand’s clean, green image has been complemented by its youthful, optimistic leader.

But there has been a strong undercurrent of political skulduggery in the country in recent times.

The donations saga engulfing Peters is drawing in Ardern through her reliance on NZ First’s support.

How she wields her leadership at home could determine whether she’ll still have a role on the international stage after September 19.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Aussie Kim’ Clijsters loses first match in latest tennis comeback

United States

She may not have had quite as many comebacks as Dame Nellie Melba, but Kim Clijsters has shown plenty of promise in her latest return to professional tennis — despite a loss in her first WTA Tour match since 2012.

Key points:

  • Kim Clijsters has won 41 WTA Tour titles, three US Opens and an Australian Open in singles — plus doubles crowns at the French Open and Wimbledon
  • She retired for the first time in 2007 after 10 years on tour, came back in 2009 before retiring again in 2012
  • The popular Belgian player has now returned again to professional tennis as a mother-of-three

The 36-year-old was always one of the most popular players on the tour, and the crowd gave her a huge reception as she lost 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Championships.

The Belgian, a four-time winner of singles major titles, is now a mother of three.

She announced in September 2019 she was returning to the tour for a second time.

Known affectionately in Australia as “Aussie Kim” because of her former relationship with Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters had rivalries with fellow Belgian Justine Henin and an early-career Serena Williams in her first stint on tour.

She initially retired in 2007, got married and had the first of her children.

Clijsters returned about two years later and won her second and third US Opens and an Australian Open.

She retired again after the 2012 US Open.


Kim Clijsters retired for the second time after the 2012 US Open, but now she’s back for another shot at the WTA tour. (Reuters: Jessica Rinaldi)

For her re-introduction to the tour, Clijsters had a tough opponent in Muguruza, a fellow former world number one who lost in the final of the Australian Open less than a month ago.

She was broken in the opening game and struggled throughout the first set, throwing in five double faults.

External Link:

WTA tweet: .@Clijsterskim ends a phenomenal rally at the net. #DDFTennis

Muguruza broke again for a 5-2 lead and was two breaks up at 3-0 in the second set before Clijsters found her stride.

Her powerful groundstrokes put Muguruza back on the defensive, and Clijsters showed she had the confidence to come to the net and finish points.

The Belgian excited the crowd by levelling the set at 4-4, but Muguruza then converted her second match point in the tiebreaker, before graciously leading the crowd in an ovation for her opponent.

“I had a good feeling out there,” Clijsters said. “Second set, I felt I was really in the match.”

“I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

“I think that’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set. With the type of tennis I played, it’s something that is the positive about this match.

“I’ll take that with me for the next matches.”

Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.

“I think this is just special because I didn’t know how [Clijsters was] going to play,” Muguruza said.

“I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure, give us a lot of trouble.”

Barbora Strycova and Elise Mertens also advanced in Dubai.

Strycova ousted Amanda Anisimova of the United States 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4 and Mertens eased past Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-0.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos sets up nearly $15b fund to fight climate change

United States

The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, says he will commit $US10 billion ($14.9 billion) of his own money to fund scientists, activists, non-profit organisations and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change.

Key points:

  • The Bezos Earth Fund will start issuing grants by mid-2020
  • Mr Bezos is urging large and small companies to help him fight global warming
  • He was named the richest man in history in 2018 with a net worth of $US150 billion

Making the announcement on Monday, Mr Bezos joined a growing list of billionaires dedicating substantial funds towards combating the impact of global warming.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Mr Bezos said in an Instagram post.

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways, and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants by the middle of this year as part of the initiative.

“It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organisations and individuals,” Mr Bezos said.

Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for US billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists.

Last year, Mr Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040, the first major corporation to announce such a goal.

He also announced his intention to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from US vehicle design and manufacturing company Rivian Automotive LLC.


Mr Bezos has pledged to make Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040. (ABC News: Alistair Kroie)

Mr Bezos said at the time that Amazon would meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of schedule, and would invest $US100 million ($149 million) to restore forests and wetlands.

Cutting emissions related to Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and datacentre footprint, promises to be challenging.

The company has faced recent protests by environmental activists in France, and rising pressure from its own employees to take action on climate change.

Mr Bezos, who started Amazon in a garage near Seattle in 1994, was named the richest man in history in 2018 after his net worth increased to $US150 billion ($223 billion), having briefly overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates the year before.

External Link:

IG: Jeff Bezos to donate $US10 billion to climate change


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

10 children dead as families burn rubbish to keep warm amid ‘catastrophic’ Syrian winter

Syrian Arab Republic

Families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Syria’s Idlib province are sleeping rough in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting winter weather, aid workers say.

Key points:

  • 3 million civilians are stuck between advancing Syrian forces and the Turkish border
  • A family of four suffocated after inhaling fumes from a fire made from old clothing
  • The UN says displaced Syrians are being ‘abandoned by the whole world’

Hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted by a Syrian government assault which has corralled ever growing numbers of people into a shrinking pocket of land near the Turkish border.

Humanitarian agency officials say it is the biggest single displacement of civilians in the nine-year-old war. But they lack the shelter and supplies to support them.

Relief workers say 10 children have died in the last week alone in makeshift camps that now dot the border area.

A seemingly endless flow of cars and vehicles packed with belongings of fleeing civilians jam the roads. Some have also fled on foot.


Syrian civilians have fled from Idlib toward the north in an attempt to find safety near the border with Turkey. (AP)

In one camp in northern Idlib, a family of four died of suffocation on Tuesday after inhaling fumes from a fire they had made from shoes, old clothing and cardboard, their neighbour in the camp, known as Dia3, said.

“Most people are bringing bundles of shoes or clothing and burning it … the family were sleeping and suffocated,” they said.

The father, mother and their two children were among tens of thousands of people who had driven north to escape the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive.

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Up to three million civilians are stuck between the advancing Syrian government troops and the closed-off border with Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot take more.

Storms which blanketed much of northwest Syria in snow this week has worsened the plight of the displaced.

Shelter is scarce, with houses and tents already packed with dozens of people. Many who have become destitute have little money to buy fuel or heaters.

“People are burning anything they have available to them, things that are often dangerous to inhale just to stay warm,” said Rachel Sider of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Mark Cutts, United Nations deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said the situation in Idlib was catastrophic.

“We keep hearing stories of babies and people dying as a result of cold weather and the inability to stay warm,” he said.

With the Syrian army on the outskirts of Idlib city, currently home to an estimated 1 million people, a full military assault there could lead to even greater upheaval.


Humanitarian agencies have long pointed to the impact of the Syrian conflict on children. (AP)

‘No place left’

International humanitarian agencies say the number of people on the move has swamped existing camps in northern Idlib, set up to shelter families displaced by earlier fighting, and people were being turned away.

External Link:

@GerrySimpsonHRW tweet: Rusian & Syrian forces indiscriminately bombing #Idlib are displacing catastrophic number of civilians

“We are seeing people who simply have nowhere else left to go. They are being squeezed into a smaller and smaller area and are feeling very abandoned by the whole world and that the world is just failing them,” Mr Cutts said.

The once agricultural rural terrain of Idlib province, Syria’s main olive growing district, now resembles the shanty towns on the edges of large congested cities.

“Families are sharing tents with up to 30 to 35 other people so there is very little space for people to seek refuge in northern Idlib at this stage,” Ms Sider said.

A resident from the once sleepy border town of Atma said the many people in the human wave pouring north are now sleeping in cars and under olive trees along congested routes.

Some families, with relatives further east, are able to cross from Idlib into areas of northern Syria controlled by Turkish troops. For most, there is no escape.


The once agricultural terrain of Idlib province now resembles the shanty towns on the edges of large congested cities. (Reuters: Khalil Ashawi)

“Along the border area in northern Idlib it’s overcrowded and the situation is much more difficult,” said local aid worker Adi Satouf.

Despite the turmoil and constant upheaval in the shrinking area of rebel rule, few people say they would return to areas now under the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s Government.

“People are no longer thinking of returning as long as Assad is there,” said Ibrahim Islam, a rescue worker now struggling with his family in a camp on the outskirts of Idlib.

“They are ready to put up with every injustice and hardship here but not go back to the regime.”

Video: Civilians flee an offensive by Russian-backed Syrian Government forces

(ABC News)


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

New Jane Austen movie Emma is no Clueless, but it should please newbies and die-hards alike

United Kingdom

Cinema returns to the snappy sense and sumptuous sensibilities of Jane Austen with Emma, the latest adaptation of the author’s social satire concerning the exploits of everyone’s favourite literary matchmaker.

With Greta Gerwig’s widely acclaimed Little Women slicing and dicing another beloved 19th-century classic for a more contemporary perspective, you’d be forgiven for expecting a similar sort of fashionably radical reworking here.

But this new Emma. (which the studio spells with a full stop), from veteran photographer and music video director Autumn de Wilde, is a relatively faithful rendition of the text, albeit with a ravishing design palette and an otherworldly star in Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch).

With her enormous, wide-set eyes and CGI-immaculate complexion, the actress could be a 21st-century alien materialised into Georgian-Regency England, corkscrew ringlets beaming back findings to the mothership.

As carefree, romance-immune society girl Emma Woodhouse, Taylor-Joy brings an appropriate air of modern nonchalance to Austen’s fictional setting of Highbury, where she devotes her unvexed days to plotting the love lives of the less socially fortunate.


Mia Goth (right) says her pre-rehearsal costume fittings were instrumental in developing her portrayal of the young and eager-to-please Harriet Smith. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

The actress’s single eye peels open like Jurassic Park’s T-Rex in the film’s opening frame, sizing up a world ready for match — if not mischief — making.

Famously “handsome, clever, and rich”, Emma splits her time between obsessing over the entanglements of those around her, bickering with her sister’s principled, slightly older brother-in-law Mr Knightley (the shaggy-haired Johnny Flynn), and humouring her doddering old father — an underused but always reliable Bill Nighy, whose paper-cutout limbs and patterned coats give him the impression of a man recently emerged from the wallpaper.


Bill Nighy plays Mr Woodhouse, Emma’s valetudinarian father. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Emma seems even more self-possessed here than the independent woman of Austen’s prose; note the emphatic period after the film’s title, severing family ties and asserting its protagonist alongside other, historically mononymous heroines like Cher and Madonna.

The arrival of klutzy, unsophisticated teenager Harriet Smith — Suspiria and High Life star Mia Goth, initially unrecognisable as the plain understudy — is a gift for our bored and rich meddler. At last, Emma has her very own plaything she can set up with the local vicar, Mr Elton (an earnest and amusing Josh O’Connor, from The Crown.)

As anyone familiar with Austen’s story, or its many filmed iterations knows, Emma’s best laid plans soon comically crumble, when Harriet’s intended reveals his true crush — and our matchmaker begins to experience a world from which she’d remained cleverly aloof.


British folk musician Johnny Flynn plays George Knightley, a neighbour and close friend to Emma. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Emma’s emotional awakening runs parallel to her deepening friendship with Mr Knightley, with whom she often critiques the frippery of society life. But even the world-weary, progressive Knightley has a thing or two to learn from his younger companion, whose inexperience also brings a fresh perspective — allowing her to size up a class system where women aren’t permitted agency, and marriage is the only hope for those without wealth.

As spins through Austen’s classic go, Emma is bright and lively, though it isn’t about to supplant Amy Heckerling’s vivacious, bratty Clueless (1995), a loose adaptation that remains the standard to which all filmed versions of the text must aspire.

First-time feature filmmaker de Wilde, whose work includes photoshoots and clips for the likes of Fiona Apple, Beck, and Florence and the Machine, directs with confidence and an instinct for the story, although the movie’s plot-ticking breeziness occasionally feels mechanical.

The screenplay, adapted from Austen by Booker-prize-winning New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton, offers little in the way of surprise — not necessarily a bad thing with a book so admired.

Frivolous in all of the ways it should be, de Wilde’s film feels purposefully airy, sliding around on its character axes in ways that splinter and shift Emma’s worldview — the kind that seems so unshakeable in the mind of a 21-year-old.

The momentum is powered by brisk, funny performances, Christopher Blauvelt’s (Certain Women, The Bling Ring) spacious cinematography, and a soundtrack that mixes perky classical cues (Beethoven, Mozart) with folksy ballads — with Mr Knightley himself, musician Johnny Flynn, contributing some of the audio accompaniment. (Flynn has the considerably more unenviable task of playing David Bowie in the forthcoming movie, Stardust.)


Screenwriter Eleanor Catton says Emma and Harriet’s friendship is at the heart of the film and not treated as secondary to either character’s romantic relationships. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

And of course, there are looks to water the eyes, courtesy of make-up and hair designer Marese Langan, and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), whose work has garnished productions from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Thor (2011) to last year’s Mary, Queen of Scots.

Emma’s luminous, rapidly revolving ensembles and the pastel panoramas in the drawing rooms show off de Wilde’s eye for the aesthetic, giving the film the look of an animated fashion spread.

In fact, the director’s film and photographic work for fashion label Rodarte is all over Emma, a fitting influence on a story where characters are defined by their poses — both socially and physically within the frame.

(Rodarte founding sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s 2017 curio Woodshock, starring a stoned and delirious Kirsten Dunst, would make for a fascinating double feature.)

De Wilde also offers some distinctive touches. Hers must be the first Emma to introduce Mr Knightley via a full-body, rear nude shot, and then to linger on his shapely legs as they’re being fitted with undergarments — the sort of period drama primping traditionally reserved for the ladies. And the chattering flocks of Harriet’s schoolmates, who float through scenes in red capes and winged bonnets, evoke future visions of The Handmaid’s Tale.


Director Autumn de Wilde describes Jane Austen as a talented satirist of early 1800s small town life. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Meanwhile, there are more cakes being ravished than anything since perhaps Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006).

De Wilde plays off this pristine world to startling effect at one point, when an unexpected nosebleed ruptures the icy surface of manners. (Or whatever alien host that’s been occupying Taylor-Joy decides it’s time to escape.) The dash of red comes as a minor shock, particularly in a film where — as often happens in English period dramas — one can find their attention adrift in a sea of interchangeable white faces.

And though Emma’s supposedly wiser perspective still leads her to the not-so-smart destination of the marriage altar, de Wilde’s adaptation honours Austen’s progressive intent within the context of the period it was created.

It’s not perfect happiness, but it’s a pleasing diversion.

External Link:

Emma YouTube Trailer

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Chernobyl scientist still backs nuclear power for Australia’s future energy mix


A former Soviet scientist who witnessed one of history’s worst nuclear disasters has called on Australia to embrace nuclear power.

Key points:

  • A former Soviet scientist who witnessed the Chernobyl disaster unfold says a clean energy future for Australia is impossible without nuclear power
  • Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld now works in the field of medical radiation at the University of Wollongong
  • Amid passionate views on both sides of the issue, a parliamentary inquiry last year recommended a partial lifting of the moratorium on nuclear power plants

Anatoly Rozenfeld visited the Chernobyl nuclear power plant more than 50 times in the three years following the 1986 nuclear meltdown.

The malfunction of a reactor triggered a mass release of radioactive material into the atmosphere — the extent of the fallout is still being assessed more than 30 years later.

Despite witnessing the disaster’s devastating impacts, Professor Rozenfeld said he was confident there was a place for nuclear power in Australia’s future energy mix.

“It’s impossible to avoid nuclear power in the future because of the reliability of modern reactors,” he said.


Anatoly Rozenfeld remains a strong supporter of nuclear energy. (Supplied: University of Wollongong)

Vast improvements in nuclear technology since Chernobyl, he said, have made it one of the most stable sources of energy.

“Nuclear energy is very reliable, and with modern reactors there’s a very low probability of accidents,” Professor Rozenfeld said.

“Most reactors designed in France and the United States are very stable; if you look at France, where they have so many reactors, they’ve never had any problems.”

Impossible to forget

Since moving to Australia, Professor Rozenfeld entered the field of medical radiation, establishing the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

But it was his work developing technology to measure levels of radiation in the Soviet Union that took him to the epicentre of the Chernobyl disaster.

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“I was part of a research team in Kiev at the time and we were very dedicated to helping everyone and making sure the reactor was fixed as soon as possible,” he said.

“I worked there for several years, sometimes in Chernobyl and sometimes in Kiev — it was impossible to forget.

“We were a lot like liquidators, applying our innovative technology to understand what happens when a reactor breaks.”

His work in dosimetry — the measuring of ionising radiation — was critical in allowing clean-up crews to work safely at ground zero.

“With our equipment we could measure the level of radiation and understand when it’s safe to work and what time to work to avoid over-exposure,” Professor Rozenfeld said.

“There were thousands of people working there who were exposed much more than me wearing little more than a coat, which doesn’t provide any protection against radiation.”


Dozens of scientists helped in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. (Supplied: Igor Kostin)

The nuclear question

A nuclear power station has never been built in Australia, and their construction has been banned since the Howard government introduced a moratorium in 1998.

Last year, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor commissioned the first inquiry into nuclear power in more than a decade, to consider the “economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power”.


Angus Taylor is the minister responsible for national energy policy. (ABC: Marco Catalano)

The House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy delivered its findings in December, acknowledging passionate views on both sides of the debate, yet recommending a partial lifting of the moratorium.

It also suggested assessing a new generation of nuclear reactors and examining their feasibility and suitability to Australia.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency said the rise of renewable energy alternatives made nuclear energy a less-attractive option.

It said a lack of investment in nuclear technology meant Australia would be beginning from a standing start.

“It costs a lot of money and takes a long time to build, and it takes a lot of money to decommission, and then you have to deal with a nuclear waste issue,” AREA chairman Martijn Wilder told ABC’s Q&A program.

“At the end of the day, will an investor invest in nuclear? I think, in this country, probably no.”

External Link:

@QandA (with video): Should Australia be focusing on nuclear energy instead of renewables? #QandA

Jacopo Buongiorno, the director of the Centre for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems at MIT, said it did not have to be an either-or decision.

He backed the findings of the parliamentary inquiry that recommended a cautious approach to investigating next-generation nuclear technologies.

“Renewables and nuclear are not competitors — they’re strongly synergistic,” Professor Buongiorno told RN Breakfast.

“What our studies show is that if you are trying to minimise the overall cost of decarbonisation from where we are now to where we need to be … then the optimal mix is solar, wind, hydro and nuclear.

“Nuclear, being controlled and dispatchable, allows you to cope with the variability of renewables. All the studies we’ve done indicate having some nuclear in the mix is a good thing.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Professor Rozenfeld, who claimed there was no reason why all viable energy technologies could not be included in the national power supply.

“There’s nothing wrong with using all types of energy, and nuclear can be complementary — nothing should be excluded from the current available sources of energy.”

More on Chernobyl:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘We are Nokia and the iPhone is coming’: Gunsberg likens coal-fired power to outdated tech on Q+A


On a night dedicated to finding solutions to climate change, Q+A eschewed politicians in favour of sustainability entrepreneurs, renewable energy experts and a business lobby group representative.

But it was a television host of a popular dating show who best captured the audience’s attention, raising a series of relatable analogies for Australia’s climate change position.

Osher Gunsberg, host of the Bachelor and Bachelorette programs, compared the push by some Government MPs for new coal-fired power stations to an electronics store selling outdated telephone technology.

“If they were selling us mobile phones, they’d be saying the Nokia 3210 is the only phone we’ll ever need,” he said.

“I’m telling you that we are — as a country exporting coal — we are Nokia with a 3210, thinking people will only ever want to play Snake forever. And the iPhone is coming.”

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As for Australia’s attempts to use carryover credits to meet its emission reduction targets, Mr Gunsberg compared it to doing housework in a past relationship.

“Trying to say the Kyoto credits work is like … saying to my current wife, ‘I did heaps of dishes in my first marriage, so I don’t need to do the dishes in this one’,” he said.

Too scared to have children

One audience member revealed climate change anxiety meant she was “too scared” to have children.

The audience member, Alice Trumble, said her studies in environmental and climate science had shaped her opinion on becoming a mother.


Q&A audience member Alice Trumble revealed her experiences with climate anxiety, saying she did not want to bring children into the world. (ABC News)

“I came to the conclusion that it was unsafe, unethical probably and just a bad choice for me to make to bring children into the world,” she said.

“I would really like a family but I’m way too scared to do it.”

Mr Gunsberg said having a five-month-old son gave him hope, while small decisions, like driving an electric car and having an electric bike, gave him a sense of agency.

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“As someone who has suffered incredible climate anxiety, I had episodes of psychosis that manifested as paranoid delusions,” he said.

“I was on two different kinds of antipsychotics and was seeing things, it was horrible. I can say to you, you’re not alone and when you know what you know, it’s a completely ordinary normal reaction to have when you look at what is coming.

“Having Wolf in my life, with a baby in your life that is hope. That is absolute hope. What can we build for this child?”

He said the world needed parents who thought about climate action to bring children into the world and urged her to “please” reconsider.

External Link:

@QandA: Does the panel see a role for Australia’s brown coal reserves in the future? #QandA

The television host also said giving politicians space to change their positions towards climate change solutions might help develop a plan.

“You’re allowed to say, ‘I’ve got it wrong. Let’s do this instead’,” he said.

“Let’s just allow our politicians some room to move. If we go, ‘Aha, you said something else eight years ago’, they’re so tied into this idea of catching each other out, they’ve painted themselves into a corner.

“Even though it’s very clear, we stand on the cusp of economic abundance in this situation, they’re so terrified to move.”

Australia has ‘good story’ to tell

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said she thought climate anxiety was real but argued there was a collective responsibility to create a plan that gave people hope to want to have children.

“The point that people have been making is that in Australia particularly, we’ve got the technology, the skills to actually be a global superpower in exporting renewables, in exporting hydrogen and exporting lithium,” she said.

“This should be a good story for Australia if we get things right.

“And I think we’ve got an obligation or a responsibility to actually take control of this issue and paint a positive story for people.”

Ms Westacott said the Australian Government making a plan and sticking to it — such as agreeing to net-zero emissions by 2050 — might give young people faith.

External Link:

@QandA: How will the BCA support businesses in the resources and energy sectors to transition to a strong renewable energy market?

Martijn Wilder, chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, said he had similar discussions about bringing children into the world with his teenage children.

He said the debate was very different in other parts of the world and there were many exciting innovations in technology.

“One of the real issues is in Australia, in the US, climate is a toxic issue,” he said.

“In the rest of the world we don’t have this debate. The rest of the world is moving very fast. A completely different story and narrative.”

‘Pretty much everyone wants’ a solution

The episode also heard from people employed in the energy sector in the La Trobe Valley and farmers wanting to use new, environmentally friendly practices.

Chef and farmer Matthew Evans said there was a broad spectrum of people wanting a solution.

“The farmers want it. The people want it. The businesses want it. Pretty much everyone wants it. It’s just the tiny [minority] of federal politicians who seem to be in the way,” Mr Evans said.

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview or enjoy the replay by watching it again on Facebook.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Identical twin clowns with cystic fibrosis ‘fighting for every breath’ after grim prognosis

Brisbane 4000

When identical twins Peter and David Bissell were born with cystic fibrosis in 1973, they were not expected to live past three or four years of age.

Key points:

  • David Bissell has been in ICU since Monday night for liver issues, while twin brother Peter has liver cancer
  • Their history of health issues including a double lung transplant means it is too risky to operate
  • The pair have been entertaining Queenslanders for over two decades as clowns Peebo and Dagwood

Four decades and a double lung transplant later, the duo are facing their greatest battle yet with doctors telling them their latest health conditions are inoperable.

David, or Dagwood, was rushed to the ICU in an ambulance on Monday night with liver complications, while Peter, or Peebo, is battling liver cancer.

“Because of failing kidneys and their rejection and a lung transplant they [the doctors] aren’t able to offer me any chemo,” Peter told his followers in an update on Facebook.

Video: Peter shares an update on his condition from hospital (Supplied: Facebook)

(ABC News)

In an emotional interview from his hospital bed, Peter told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Rebecca Levingston they needed a miracle to survive.

“We’re [both] facing issues with the liver. Two weeks ago they discovered a couple of extra spots on the liver and … they can’t do anything for us,” Peter said.

“The kidneys are at a point where they can’t tolerate anything anymore … it’s pretty challenging when you hear that sort of news but we fight for life, we fight for every breath.

“We had that lesson for our 46 years on this planet, and when they say it’s inoperable and they can’t give you the treatment that you need you know you’ve run your race.”

‘Dad are you fixable?’

Peter said the pair were putting up the good fight having received stents earlier this week, but felt they were fighting a losing battle.

External Link:

Peebo: At the hospital with daughter Millie

“For us personally it’s a big mountain to climb and I can’t see anything coming out of it,” Peter said.

“We just want to make each day count. You don’t want to count your days but you’ve got to make them count.

He said the toughest part has been explaining his deteriorating condition to his 11-year-old daughter Millie.

“When she says ‘Dad are you fixable?’ … I say the medical team is working really hard to fix daddy,” he said, battling tears.

“I know her life will continue fine when mine doesn’t.

“Along the way we’ve had some marvellous medical teams, doctors surrounding us and nurses, medicines. And that’s bought us time.

“I guess that’s what it is, buying time.

“Me personally, I’m at that point where I’m not sure they can buy me anymore time.”

‘Suck the guts’ out of life

Despite their health hurdles, the much-loved and well-known entertainers have been bringing joy to Queenslanders for over two decades.

“I’ve never been one to focus on crossing the bridge until it comes … and it’s coming pretty fast. But we just try and paint a bigger smile on that face,” Peter said.

“We’ve had an awesome opportunity in our lifetime to create something beautiful with our clown characters Peebo and Dagwood.


Dagwood performing at a children’s birthday party in Brisbane. (Supplied: Dagwood and Peebo)

“[They’re] a couple of clowns who have allowed us to engage in a lot people’s lives and allow them to get around their worries and put smiles on people’s faces.

“I guess that’s what we love doing the best.”

It’s a craft that has stemmed from their many years spent in hospital wards, with David previously telling the ABC they learnt to be clowns while being in-patients as children.

“We have a lot to do with the oncology ward at the Royal Brisbane Hospital as we know first hand what it is like being a child in hospital,” David said in 2014.

Recalling their many hospital stays, Peter told Rebecca Levingston they had “always been defying the odds”.

“When we were born they only expected one and I was the afterbirth. We weren’t even supposed to survive the first night,” Peter said.

Video: Peebo and Dagwood spoke to Australian Story almost two decades ago.

(ABC News)

“So from that very first day back on August 19, 1973, we’ve been doing miracles every single day.

“Even the prognosis back then was ‘you’re lucky to pass toddler age’ and ‘you’re lucky to pass teenage-hood’.”

He said their struggle had taught them their most important life lesson, to “live life, love life and laugh and make everyday count and suck the guts out of it”.

“You may only know someone for five minutes in your lifetime, but you can put a smile on their face. And that’s what our clowning does for us,” Peter said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Massive blow to Queensland’s dairy industry’: Workers to lose jobs as Lactalis factory shuts

Maleny 4552

In what is being seen as another nail in the coffin for Queensland milk suppliers, a French-owned dairy business is shutting its Rockhampton factory at the end of the month, sacking all 47 of its workers.

Key points:

  • The closure comes after Lactalis carried out an analysis of its Queensland manufacturing division
  • Lactalis Australia says the Rockhampton factory has been running only three or four days a week
  • Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has written a letter to the company, saying “this is not good enough”

Lactalis Australia said it would also scale back yoghurt production at its South Brisbane site, citing changes to milk supply within Queensland.

The timing is questionable, with the international company winning a tender to supply milk products to the Metro North Hospital and Health Service just weeks ago.

That contract was awarded to the French company, despite local company Maleny Dairies also vying for the lucrative contract.

Maleny Dairies was supported by 11 South East Queensland farms and in recent years it invested more than $9 million in factory improvements, including robotic production facilities.

But Maleny Dairies maintained it was snubbed by the State Government because it made its decision on who could deliver the cheapest milk, ignoring its own “Buy Queensland” policy.

At the time, the State Government was accused of “complete hypocrisy” by Maleny Dairies manager Peter Falcongreen.

Factory operated in Rockhampton for 30 years

The closure in Rockhampton comes after Lactalis Australia carried out a complete analysis of its Queensland manufacturing division.

In a statement, Lactalis Australia said the operation had been at full production — running only three or four days a week — “for a number of years”.

It said it was sorry to see the shutdown in such a tight-knit community.

“The Rockhampton factory has been part of the Lactalis/Pauls family for 30 years,” the statement said.

“The welfare of the 47 Lactalis Australia employees at the Rockhampton factory is our top priority, and we will be working closely with everyone who is affected by the closure.

“All forms of support will be available to our employees throughout this transition time.

“This will include looking for opportunities where we can redeploy our staff to different Lactalis locations.”

Brisbane operation may also lose jobs

Lactalis Australia said it would continue to be a big part of the Queensland community through its two other major factories in Nambour and Brisbane.

“We will continue to purchase milk from our dairy farmers in the Rockhampton region and redirect it to Nambour and Brisbane,” the statement said.

“Queensland fresh milk will continue to be produced in our Queensland factories, with Queensland employees, using the milk from Queensland family-owned farmers.”

Lactalis Australia blamed the scaling back of production at the South Brisbane Pauls factory next year on a lack of milk supply from Queensland producers, maintaining the factory had relied on transporting milk from other states to meet demand.

“Yoghurt manufacture will transition to other Lactalis factories in Victoria and Tasmania, which will reduce transportation requirements of milk between the states,” the company said.

It said the welfare of its employees in Brisbane was also important and the company hoped to save jobs there.


The Lactalis group headquarters in Laval, western France. (AP: David Vincent, file photo)

Lactalis Australia owns major brands Pauls, Ice Break, Vaalia and Breaka — iconic Australian products that date back to the 1930s.

It said it would continue to be the largest buyer of milk from Queensland farms, purchasing more than 150 million litres of milk from 114 Queensland dairy farmers each year.

It said despite job losses, it would still employ more than 600 people.

External Link:

Tweet: @AnnastaciaMP This is not good enough. I have written to Lactalis urging them to reverse their decision and support Queensland jobs

Maleny Dairies was not officially commenting on the news of the Lactalis Australia closure but the ABC has been told it is shocked by the move.

Late this afternoon, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk posted on Twitter a letter she wrote to the company expressing her disappointment in the decision.

“This is not good enough — I have written to Lactalis urging them to reverse their decision and support Queensland jobs,” she wrote in a tweet.

Ms Palaszczuk said in her letter that her Government had dealt with the company “in good faith, in the interest of providing as many good secure jobs to Queenslanders as possible”.

Her letter was entitled: “Support Queensland Jobs”.

“Please be aware that I have asked my director-general, Mr Dave Stewart, to examine how the Queensland Government engages with Lactalis into the future,” Ms Palaszczuk wrote.

She urged the company to “immediately review these decisions and continue to support Queensland dairy farmers and workers”.

‘Massive blow to Queensland’s dairy industry’

Queensland Opposition agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett condemned the move by the French-owned food giant.

He said the State Government also had questions to answer over whether it knew the company was going to scale back production.

“Good due diligence would suggest that they look at all these things and through the awarding of that contract one would think they would make certain that the continuity of supply was there,” Mr Perrett said.

Mr Perrett said Lactalis should have been upfront about its plans to close the Rockhampton facility.

“They need to be fair dinkum in the first instance, and I don’t think they have been,” Mr Perrett said.

“Remember they’re a multi-national company and they have processing facilities around the world.

“But in this case they’ve tendered and said they can supply, yet at the same time a few weeks later they’re now closing a facility and scaling back production — that’s unacceptable.

“The foreign company that the Palaszczuk Labor Government backed over a Queensland-owned business is now cutting and running from this state.”

Mr Perrett said Lactalis was “putting the profits of its foreign owners ahead of the jobs of Queensland workers and dairy farmers”.

“This is a massive blow to Queensland’s dairy industry and means more milk and dairy products from other states and overseas will be sold in our state,” he said.

The LNP had tabled a motion in State Parliament demanding that Labor review its decision to choose Lactalis over Maleny Dairies and that it award at least part of the contract to a Queensland-owned business.

“It is now more important than ever than Labor reviews this flawed contract decision and back a Queensland-owned business that backs local jobs,” Mr Perrett said.


Maleny Dairies is not officially commenting on the Lactalis Australia closure. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘No consequences’: Calls for urgent action as Territorians go without food, power during mobile blackouts

Darwin 0800

For 10 days already this year, the Arnhem Land community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island has languished without mobile phone coverage.

Key points:

  • Telstra says a technician arrived on the NT mainland on Wednesday to attempt to fix the issues on the island
  • The island experienced another outage for several days in the middle of January
  • Community members have been left dismayed at constant outages on the island

Two major blackouts in January have wrought major disruption on the island, with residents unable to buy food and fuel, contact medical services, access health records or operate businesses.

The latest outage in Galiwin’ku coincided with other widespread Telstra outages in several remote communities in Central Australia that shut down stores, left people without food and, according to local health services, “put lives at risk”.

The local MLA for the area, Yingiya Mark Guyula, flew to Galiwin’ku on Wednesday morning to see the impact of the latest Telstra outage.

The Member for Nhulunbuy is now calling on government to provide more assistance when remote communities are rendered helpless due to outages.

“I am very concerned … people could not use eftpos machines, basic cards, the ATM, or top up their power for houses,” he said.


Residents say the communications failures are happening far too often. (ABC News)

“People could not buy fuel or contact emergency services. Nurses in homelands and visiting community had no ability to check medical records and contact the clinics.”

Mr Guyula said the problems were symptomatic of “failing” infrastructure in remote communities that is going largely ignored.

“I want to know what the NT Government is doing to work with the Commonwealth Government and Telstra to improve the situation for remote communities,” he said.

“We need a better response from Telstra and more mobile towers in the region.”

Mr Guyula said the lack of government response was startling given more than 2,000 people were without power and food through blackouts in January.

“If this was happening in Darwin, we would see a much more urgent response,” he said.


Mr Guyula says infrastructure in remote communities is failing. (ABC News: Matt Garrick)

‘Residents feel no one is listening to them’

The latest failure, which lasted four days and ended on Wednesday, is yet another test of residents’ patience with Telstra, which they say is treating remote communities like “second-class citizens”.

Nadyezhda Dilipuma Pozzana, a Galiwin’ku community member, said Telstra’s failures were repeatedly putting vulnerable residents at risk.

Remote communities empty as Telstra outages shut down essential services
Widespread Telstra outages in several Aboriginal communities in a remote area of Central Australia are shutting down stores, putting lives at risk and preventing people from accessing their money, according to community members.

“We’ve got some vulnerable people on the island, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, that you could imagine can’t access their bank account, can’t purchase food,” she said.

“It has an impact on the people who are vulnerable in the community to access those services that are vital for them to survive in this world.”

With ATM services down and cashless Basics Cards rendered useless due to the outages, Ms Pozzana said “people are starving because what they’ve purchased a week ago has ran out and they can’t get food from any other sources.”

Ms Pozzana told the ABC one local resident walked 15 minutes to the medical clinic with an assault injury on Monday because he couldn’t phone for medical or police help.

“[Residents] are feeling frustrated, they’re feeling that no one is listening to them. They’re feeling like second-class citizens,” she said.

As communications failures, and their associated costs, continue to mount, Ms Pozzana said residents have no confidence Telstra will improve its service to small communities like Galiwin’ku.

“These are human beings … people are starving, people are sick, people need medication. Do something,” she said.

“You are a big corporation. You have millions of dollars. Go out there and fix the lines so people can get back to their lives without being depressed, having anxiety and don’t know what to do.”


Landlines are scarce on the island, meaning many businesses are unable to operate when mobile coverage fails. (ABC News: Duane Preston)

‘They don’t have consequences’

Another resident, Faith Makwanya, said a lack of communication from Telstra during blackouts was due to its monopoly in remote communities, which means the company faces little commercial consequence for poor service.

External Link:

Milingimbi Art Centre Insta

“They wouldn’t be able to do stuff like that in a big city. This goes on for days on end,” she said.

“It needs to be fair. It’s not like people are using the service for free. People actually pay for it. They need to treat Aboriginal communities the same as in big cities.

“I think they feel like they don’t have consequences because they don’t have competition. They’re the only ones with network in remote communities.”

Telstra, however, claimed it was providing regular progress updates to the office of the local MP during the failures.

Telstra also told the ABC the island’s landline telephone services, ADSL internet services and NBN Sky Muster satellite service were still operational during the outage. Many residents, however, said they rely on mobile coverage for their business activities.

“Different technologies are used to provide mobile, fixed line and NBN satellite services,” the Telstra spokesman said.

“For any future mobile outages, residents are encouraged to use a landline or internet service to contact Telstra to report a fault or track the progress of the network restoration.”

Failures take ‘far too long to fix’: Government

Telstra said its technicians flew to a site on the NT mainland on Wednesday morning to fix the problem, and issued an apology to residents after it restored services to the island community.

“Telstra apologises to local residents for any inconvenience caused during this time and will continue to closely monitor the site’s operation over coming days,” the company said in a statement.

NT Information Services Minister Eva Lawler took aim at Telstra after the failure, saying the Government had “made it clear to Telstra that often the outages are taking far too long to fix.”

“We work very hard to get Telstra to address outages as quickly as possible because we know that communities rely on these services not only to stay connected but to buy food and fuel,” she said.

Ms Lawler would not say if the Government was allocating resources to help communities during times of communication failure.

“The Government will also continue to advocate with the Australian Government, which has responsibility for telecommunications, to ensure Territorians can access reliable communications,” she said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

V-Line train hits wagons after freight train derails in north-east Victoria

Albury 2640

A V-Line train has collided with a wagon from a derailed freight train in north-east Victoria, but no injuries have been reported.

Key points:

  • Several of the freight train’s wagons caught alight during the derailment
  • Services on the Albury-Melbourne line were disrupted and the Hume Freeway was partially closed
  • The site has been quarantined for investigators

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) statement said the northbound freight train derailed south of Wodonga between Chiltern and Barnawartha about 5:40pm.

The 5:20pm V-Line Albury-to-Melbourne service travelling south on the adjacent track subsequently struck one of the freight train’s wagons.

Police at the scene said it appeared the goods train had decoupled and those carriages ran unchecked before colliding with the rear of the passenger train.


A V-Line train collided with wagons from a derailed freight train at Barnawartha this afternoon. (ABC News: Mikaela Ortolan)

Police said an investigation was underway to try and determine how the wagons became unhooked.

External Link:

Mark Jesser @MarkJesser "Freight train collides with @VLine passenger train at #Barnawartha"

A CFA spokesperson said a number of the wagons were alight when emergency services arrived, and the flames sparked a grassfire.

The spokesperson said no dangerous goods were on board either of the trains and the fire was quickly brought under control.

Ambulance Victoria said paramedics were called to the scene but no-one was transported to hospital.

“Paramedics assessed 19 patients,” a statement said. “There were no injuries.”

Police said traffic on the Hume Freeway was partially closed during the incident.

All services on the train line have been suspended and the site has been quarantined for independent safety regulators and incident investigations.


CFA and SES extinguished a grass fire sparked by the derailment. (ABC News: Mikaela Ortolan)

“Our priority at this stage is to ensure the safety of the persons involved and assisting attending emergency authorities,” the ARTC statement said.

“We will be providing further updates as they become available.”

Police said it was “really, really lucky” that no-one was injured.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘It’s too scary’: Students return to school as active fires burn nearby

Bobin 2429

Students affected by the bushfires in New South Wales have returned to school for the first time since this season’s devastating fires.

Key points:

  • Bobin Public School and Wytaliba Public School in northern NSW have been rebuilt with new demountable buildings following extensive bushfire damage
  • Parents at Bermagui Public School attended a meeting on the first day of term to discuss the school’s fire plan and evacuation procedure as a nearby fire remains uncontained
  • Preschool teachers in bushfire-affected towns on the south coast have been provided with trauma counselling in preparation for their students’ return

The tiny Bobin Public School on the NSW Mid North coast was destroyed by fire three months ago and Wytaliba Public School on the Northern Tablelands was extensively damaged by the deadly bushfires in November last year.

With the schools rebuilt they were operational from day one of the new school year.

Glen Innes Severn Mayor Carol Sparks said it would be a special day for the children at the Wytaliba school and the entire community.

“We’re still recovering,” she said.

“The children are of the most importance and it’s very good that the Education Department has been building over Christmas and has the school ready for the children to have some sort of normality in their lives.”


Bushfire destroyed the historic Bobin Public School, which dates back to 1883. (ABC News)

School’s reconstruction a ‘symbol’ for village

The Bobin Public School, north-west of Taree, lost all of its buildings but the library in the Rumba Dump fire three months ago.

Since then work has been underway to clear the remains of the asbestos-riddled buildings, bring in three demountable buildings, rebuild pathways and shelters, and restore communications.

Acting Principal Sarah Parker was expecting a big first day for the school’s 15 students.

“The whole community is watching this reconstruction. It’s a symbol for the reconstruction of our village in a way,” she said.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing the children’s faces when they come in,” she said.

“It’ll be a really big surprise for them to see that it’s actually looking beautiful again, not just rebuilt, but actually beautiful again.”

Ms Parker said the whole community in Bobin had been invested in the school.

“Everybody feels they own a bit of the school,” she said.

“You’ve either been to the school, or you’ve had your children go to the school, and so it’s in our hearts.

“To see it rebuilt has been a really important part of our initial recovery process.”


Rebuilding the school in Bobin near Taree on the NSW Mid North Coast. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)

Schools in active fire areas

On the state’s Far South Coast, Frances Matters said she was nervous about leaving her children at Bermagui Public School and Narooma High School while there were still active fires very close to both towns.

“I’m okay with the primary school being the fact that it is in Bermagui and I work in Bermagui,” she said.

She attended a community meeting at the school on the first day where she said the principal spoke about their fire plan and evacuation procedure.

“We are allowed to go pick the kids up, which is a huge thing, because when the events happen you really need your kids with you,” Ms Matters said.

“It’s too scary to not have them so I’m feeling alright about the [location of the] primary school.”

Calls for more fire preparedness support for people with disabilities
When Lynn Armington’s house caught fire, she managed to get her husband, who is blind and in a wheelchair, to safety, but the couple lost everything else.

However, Ms Matters said she did not feel as comfortable about sending her step-son, who has started Year 9, to Narooma High School which is about half an hour away.

“Narooma has a lot of active fire around it. They haven’t had the force of fire that Bermagui has had,” she said.

Ms Matters said despite the knowledge that the army and the Rural Fire Service would defend the school she was concerned about its bushland surroundings.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that [school] bus is nearly empty going to Narooma on the day that there’s a north-wester,” she said.

“We have had so many road closures. So many times we’ve been cut off from civilisation, [when] there’s no communication, no power and I don’t want him stuck in Narooma for days and [then] we’re hit [by a fire].

“Every mother I’ve spoken to in Bermagui is concerned about sending their kids to Narooma for school.”

On Thursday Ms Matters said there was an active fire that was close to Bermagui which came within 150 metres on the northern side of the town.

“My daughter did have a breakdown on Thursday when the fire was big,” she said.

“You need your kids with you — that’s priority.

“I gathered the kids around and then I was fine, the anxiety just went.

“Even though there was this massive bushfire coming towards us, I was a lot calmer knowing that the kids were there.

“I’m more worried about the aftermath, when it does all settle down and the adrenaline high goes, because I feel like everyone in Bermagui is on this adrenaline high constantly at the moment.”

The school has brought in full-time counsellors to provide support to students.

‘I’m seeing traumatised people’

Moruya-based relationships counsellor, Jan Ryan, has specialised in trauma, grief and loss.

As part of her work with Relationships Australia she has been visiting preschools in bushfire-affected communities to assist teachers and staff to be emotionally ready when parents and children return to the classroom.


“My 8-year old son found his footy in the debris — now his only possession in the world,” writes Arlo Ireland from Jeremadra. (Facebook: Arlo Ireland)

“What I am seeing is traumatised people trying to support traumatised people,” Ms Ryan said.

“I’ve spoken to staff who’ve lost property, who’ve nearly died trying to save properties, who have found bodies — horrible stories.

“Whether it’s preschool or primary school or high school, the whole community’s been exposed to what’s happening and it’s not like the fire has passed through and gone — it’s a present danger.”

Ms Ryan said it was important for parents to reassure their children that school was a safe place.

“I encourage parents not to want to hang on to their children and keep them home,” she said.

“Even if the child is anxious, don’t let your anxiety be contagious.”

School saved, breakfast and lunch provided

In total more than 800 homes have been destroyed by bushfire on the Far South Coast since December.

Behind the statistics are families who have lost their homes and fled fires, others who spent their school holidays in evacuation centres, and parents and carers who have done their best to help children feel safe and supported.

In the small community of Mogo, south of Batemans Bay, over 40 homes were lost when the Clyde Mountain fire impacted on New Year’s Eve but to the relief of many, the town’s public school was saved.


The school in Mogo was saved when fire tore through the village on the South Coast. (ABC News)

“We like to say that we’ve been scorched but we’re still standing,” said Lyndall Schuchmann, the relieving principal of Mogo Public School.

“We’ve lost our outdoor learning centre, our students made a gunyah on the grounds — that’s gone — and the beautiful bush around the school is very charred and scarred.

“We are very lucky that no other buildings have been impacted.”

The school would provide routine and structure for its students and their families, who have all been affected by the fire, Ms Schuchmann said.

“Parents can help their children by getting them here on time, so they have time for a play before they go into class, and by listening to them when they get home,” she said.

“If their homes aren’t the way that they used to be, it’s all about maintaining that routine for them here at school.”

Breakfast and lunch would be provided for the students for the first two weeks of the school term to ease the pressure on parents, and an additional counsellor has been placed at the school every day for the first four weeks.

Part of their role would be to make recommendations for ongoing support throughout the term, particularly for students who were not able to open up and talk about their experiences straight away.

Demountables built to safer standard

The Glen Innes Severn Council said the new Wytaliba Public School had been rebuilt to better fire safety standards.

Ms Sparks said a lot of work had been done to get the school ready.

“They’ve had to level the site,” she said.

“Over the years there’s been demountables put there on structures, so that’s how the fire got in underneath, so we’ve tried to make it safe for the future.”


The students of Wytaliba witnessed first-hand the savage blaze that destroyed their school. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)

At Bobin Public School there had not been any discussion as to whether permanent buildings would be built.

“I think we’ll have demountables on the site for the foreseeable future,” Ms Parker said.

She said it has not just been the students who have benefitted from the rebuilding works at the school.

“The assets management unit actually employed all local contractors and they have been working so hard in really hot conditions, long hours and they all look so happy to be here,” Ms Parker said.

“They’ve put in such an effort and that’s why it’s come together, the whole asset management unit on the Mid North Coast has pulled together this miracle, really … we’re so grateful to them.”

Ms Matters said despite her concerns about the uncontained fires she still believed sending children back to school was good for them.

“Getting back into routine is really important so I’m all for that when the weather’s okay,” she said.

“I know going back to work certainly helped everybody in town to start to feel normal again.

“My daughter couldn’t wait, she was dressed and ready at 7 o’clock this morning to go back to school.”

External Link:

ABC embed: Tell us your bushfire questions

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

NT Chief Minister to undergo surgery after heart attack

Darwin 0800

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner will undergo heart surgery after suffering a heart attack — originally described as a “minor heart scare” — earlier this month.

Key points:

  • Mr Gunner experienced a heart attack on Saturday, January 18, and has been off work since
  • He says he will be back to work on Monday
  • He says a blood clot was responsible for the heart attack and he will have corrective surgery to stop it from happening again

In a post on Facebook on Wednesday morning, Mr Gunner, 44, confirmed he suffered a heart attack while at home with his wife.

Mr Gunner has been on sick leave since it was first reported he experienced chest pains on Saturday, January 18.

External Link:

Michael Gunner FB

The Chief Minister said he was yesterday informed by his cardiologist the chest pains were in fact symptoms of a serious cardiac episode.

“Yesterday I met with my cardiologist and we now know a lot more than we did a week ago,” Mr Gunner wrote.

“The doctors have now told me that what I experienced was a heart attack.”

On the day of the heart attack, Mr Gunner said he and his wife took his chest pain seriously, racing straight to the hospital to receive medical attention.

“And thank God we did,” he wrote.

“It came from nowhere, there were no warning signs.”

Mr Gunner said he did not have any risk factors for heart disease, and said doctors suspected a blood clot was responsible for the heart attack.

“[It’s] a freak thing that could have happened to anyone, and this time it happened to me,” he wrote.


Mr Gunner says he will miss a week’s work after undergoing surgery. (ABC News: Alan Dowler)

Mr Gunner said he was confident he would make a full recovery after surgery.

“As a precaution, doctors are going to do corrective surgery to plug a tiny hole in my heart so there is no risk of a future problem,” he wrote.

“A lot of people have these tiny holes and there is no issue — but I’m just making extra sure that it can’t happen again.

“After [surgery] I will need a week of recovery, then I’ll be as good as new and can get stuck into work again,” he wrote.

Mr Gunner did not say when he was likely to undergo the procedure.

In another health scare in October last year, Mr Gunner was treated at the Borroloola health clinic for an undisclosed matter. At the time, he said: “Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes. Back at it today.”

Treasurer Nicole Manison, who will continue as Acting Chief Minister in Mr Gunner’s absence, said it was “great news” he would be back at work next week.

Ms Manison added that the corrective surgery would be done “as soon as possible”.

“He’ll have a very quick recovery after that and he’ll be back at work at full strength,” she said.

“This is only requiring a very, very minor piece of surgery and he’ll be back at work a week later, so he’s going to be absolutely all good, fighting fit and he’ll be back in the chair on Monday.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Tennis greats call for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Melbourne 3000

Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have earned a rebuke from Tennis Australia (TA) for an on-court protest at the Australian Open calling for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed after Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Key points:

  • Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe were on an outside court when they unveiled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena”
  • Navratilova wrote a open letter saying it would be fitting if Margaret Court Arena was renamed after the seven-time major singles champion
  • Tennis Australia held a ceremony at the Australian Open to mark 50 years since Court completed her singles Grand Slam

Navratilova and McEnroe have been critics of Margaret Court — who holds the record for most major singles titles with 24 — because of her views on race, homosexuality and the transgender community.

TA has previously ignored calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed, while it held a ceremony on Monday evening to mark 50 years since she won all four major tournaments in the same year to complete the Grand Slam.

TA said the ceremony was a recognition of her sporting achievements only and has moved to distance itself from her views.

Navratilova and McEnroe were on an outside court at Melbourne Park when they unveiled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena”.

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@MtTimCallanan: "John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova staged a mini protest on Margaret Court Arena this morning unfurling this banner"

Navratilova, who had been playing a legends’ doubles match on the court, reportedly attempted to make a speech via the microphone on the unoccupied umpire’s chair, only for the live video feed to be cut soon after she began talking.

TA released a statement, saying the pair had breached protocols.

“We embrace diversity, inclusion and the right for people to have a view, as well as their right to voice that view,” the statement read.

“But the Australian Open has regulations and protocols with respect to how any fan, player or guest can use our facility, the event and the global stage it provides. This is to ensure the integrity of our event.

“Two high-profile guests have breached these protocols and we are working through this with them.”


Martina Navratilova wants Melbourne Park’s Margaret Court Arena renamed. (AAP: Scott Barbour)

Tennis.com also published a letter penned by Navratilova, in which she expressed her view that Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.

“Nobody disputes her achievements on the tennis court, and her place in the sport’s history remains as distinguished as it gets,” Navratilova wrote.

“Nobody wants to take away or diminish her career, least of all me. Margaret, Billie Jean [King] and Rod [Laver] were my childhood heroes. I wanted to be like them.

“So, it pains me to say this, but Margaret Court Arena must be renamed.

“As a worthy replacement, my vote goes to Evonne Goolagong. Evonne is the embodiment of what a role model or hero truly is.

“Her heritage, her success against the odds, her Hall of Fame career and her exemplary life off-court, in which she has given so much of herself to so many causes, are all attributes we can celebrate wholeheartedly.”


Evonne Goolagong Cawley was among the best players in the world during the 1970s and early 1980s. (AAP: Lukas Coch)

Navratilova said it would be fitting if the stadium was named after Goolagong Cawley, who won seven major singles titles and was ranked number one during her decorated career.

“Why not pick someone whom every child can look up to and want to emulate — a champion who inspires and motivates young and old to do their best and be their best every day?” Navratilova wrote.

“For me, that person is Evonne Goolagong.”

McEnroe slams Court’s ‘offensive views’

McEnroe, in a video released on Monday, described Court as Australia’s “crazy aunt”.

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@Eurosport_UK "Please win two more Grand Slams so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where she belongs" John McEnroe aka the Commissioner of Tennis is back and he's got a request for @SerenaWilliams

He urged Serena Williams, who has claimed 23 major singles titles, to win two more majors this year so “we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where they both belong”.

In the latest of his regular, light-hearted “Commissioner of Tennis” videos for Eurosport UK, McEnroe also criticised TA’s decision to recognise Court’s tennis achievements.

“The air quality in Melbourne is not the only nightmare Tennis Australia is having, Margaret Court is another one,” McEnroe said in the video posted to Twitter by the broadcaster.

Court is the pastor of the Victory Life Centre, a Christian church in Perth.

In an interview on ABC Radio Perth last week, she said she initially had to push for the 50th anniversary events.

She said her religious views should not affect what she achieved in tennis.

“I teach what the Bible says about things and you get persecuted for it,” she said.


Court was recognised for her tennis achievements on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night. (AAP: Scott Barbour)

Court attracted criticism in 2017 when she wrote an open letter stating she would boycott Qantas over its support of same-sex marriage.

That kicked off a push for the arena to be renamed in honour of Goolagong, to the point that Google Maps briefly mistakenly renamed it.

In 2013, Court wrote a letter to the editor in a newspaper lamenting the birth of Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua’s child in a same-sex relationship.

“It is with sadness that I see that this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father,” Court wrote.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Another heatwave is set to sweep across Australia. Here’s where it will be felt first

Adelaide 5000

Brace yourselves Australia: there is yet another heatwave on the way. If you were beginning to think this summer was over, think again.

A pool of heat that has been brewing over inland Western Australia is about to make its way south and east as a lingering high pressure system slowly makes its way across the south of the country this week.

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Heatwave GIF January 2020

By mid-week heatwave conditions are expected to reach from coast to coast, with severe heatwave conditions for South Australia.

By the end of the week the heat is expected to focus on the south east and extreme heatwave conditions are expected for Canberra, eastern Victoria, south-eastern New South Wales as well as eastern Tasmania.

A heatwave is defined by the Bureau of Meteorology as “three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that is unusual for that location”.

Under extreme heatwave conditions even healthy people are at risk and need to moderate their behaviour accordingly.

Categorising heatwavesHeatwave severityLow-intensityThe level of heat expected is unusual, but injury to people is not generally expected unless inappropriate activities are conducted or sensible precautions are not undertakenSevereVulnerable people are at risk of injuryExtremeLikely to cause impact across multiple areas such as infrastructure, transport, energy, agriculture and both healthy and vulnerable people are at risk of injurySource: Bureau of Meteorology

What’s the forecast?

In the rough order of how the heat will pass from west to east:

Much of inland Western Australia has been impacted by severe heatwave conditions over the past few days. The heat will move west across the Nullarbor, while a patch of heatwave conditions is expected to remain inland of Broome for the rest of the week.

Adelaide is forecast to hit 37 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, 40C on Thursday, and 39C on Friday.

Melbourne should see the worst of the heat Friday at 41C before possible storms and 36C on Saturday.

Be prepared for the heat
Heatwaves kill far more people than other natural disasters. ABC Emergency has a checklist of things you can do to be ready.

Canberra is expected to be above 35C for the whole of the next seven-day forecast, with the heat peaking at 40C on Friday and 41C on Saturday — reaching extreme heatwave conditions for the end of the week.

It was only last week when the capital was blanketed in hail. If you kept any in the freezer it could make for handy ice packs.

Hobart is forecast to reach a maximum of 38C on Friday, with temperatures in the low 30s and high 20s in the lead-up, which constitutes an extreme heatwave for Hobart.

Most of the Tasmanian east coast is expected to experience extreme heatwave conditions for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the majority of the rest of the state experiencing severe heatwave conditions.

The city of Sydney is forecast to be relatively mild, peaking with 36C on Sunday. But Penrith, just to the west, is expected to be 36C on Thursday, 40C on Friday, 44C Saturday, and 40C Sunday.

A slow moving high pressure system is forecast to move across the south of the country as a low pressure system and trough continue to bring rain to northern Australia.
(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

The daytime temperatures are impressive but when it comes to heatwaves it is the prolonged heat and lack of overnight relief that makes them deadly.

Adelaide is forecast to remain above 22C between Thursday and Saturday, with a minimum of 28C on Friday.

Canberra is forecast to remain above 22C on Saturday and Sunday.

Fire danger

With the heightened temperatures the fire danger would also be expected to rise, despite the recent rain.

It is still a long way out for a fire forecast but South Australia will be the first in the firing line after the heat makes its way across the Nullarbor.

The current forecast is for severe fire danger in the Lower Eyre Peninsula, Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, and the Lower South East on Friday.

There may be a bit of rain in the wake of the heatwave expected over the coming days.
(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology )

As the high moves west it is followed by a trough and frontal system, which is forecast to bring rain in a belt down from the tropics. But the current forecast is for far less rain than has been flooding the north of Queensland over the past few days.

With neutral climate drivers currently in play and with more than a month of summer still to go, this is unlikely to be the last heatwave this season.

So it is time again to: call and check in on your nan, take it easy in the sun, and keep an eye out for those around you.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Life after the fires: The next challenge for RFS volunteers

St Albans 2775

The RFS volunteers of St Albans struggle to remember how many times in recent months they have had to beat back a blaze that has threatened their lives and property.

Key points:

  • The small town of St Albans, NSW, held a belated Christmas party for the community to help them begin the road to recovery
  • The town has been surrounded by fires since November, with almost have of residents having been on active duty with the RFS crew for three months
  • Now that things have calmed down, many residents are still processing the trauma of what they went through

The isolated community on Sydney’s outskirts has been under attack on all sides by bushfires since the first flare-up in November.

For many of the town’s 200 residents, it meant cancelling Christmas, spending New Year’s Eve on the fire ground and postponing annual gatherings.

Now the immediate threat has subsided, locals have their first opportunity to take a breath, but the come-down has been challenging.

Close calls

RFS St Albans captain Lilly Stepanovich has been leading from the front through more than 50 days of active service.

Over the weekend, she helped organise a community party so residents could begin the process of moving forward.


Almost half of St Albans’ residents have been on active duty with the RFS for three months. (Supplied: Stephen Brown)

The mother of three, whose husband and two sons also serve, said the past three months had been unlike any fire campaign she had experienced.

“We were basically surrounded,” she said.

She fought the Gospers Mountain mega blaze, as well as fires at Boree Track.

But her closest call came during the Three Mile fire in December.


Lilly Stepanovich says the community needs a chance to de-stress after a hectic few months. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

As 30-metre flames roared overhead, Ms Stepanovich’s teams were sent down remote tracks to try to head off the front, but the situation spiralled out of control.

“They talk about the beast — I’d never seen anything like it and we had to evacuate,” she said.

Sitting with her husband in a modified ute called a Cat 9, Ms Stepanovich remembers reaching for a lever to deploy the halo — a sprinkler system that shoots water over a vehicle about to be swallowed by fire.

The last-ditch safety measure is designed to shield occupants from temperatures that reach about 1,000 degrees Celsius and, as Ms Stepanovich put it, “stop us from cooking”.

“That was probably the closest my husband and I have come [to mortal danger],” she said.

Making sacrifices


Locals pay their respects to residents in other towns who have suffered devastation and the loss of lives. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

With crews required to work up to 15-hour days, maintaining a family routine was impossible.

Despite having two young children to look after, RFS member Kate Stuart was determined not to let her crew down.

“We’re one massive family at St Albans,” she said.

At the peak of the fires, Ms Stuart sent her children to Sydney to ensure their safety, but she remained on duty.

“They would always say: ‘Is Mummy coming home today?’ That was quite scary for them,” she said.

Overwhelming conditions

Leaving was never an option for farmer and RFS veteran Sherri McMahon.

The St Albans deputy-captain said the anxiety of watching the fire season approach while her land slowly disintegrated in the drought was almost overwhelming.

“It was unbelievable, it becomes insurmountable, [thinking], ‘What can I do, where can I start?’,” she said.

“You’re looking around for where to move your stock and you can’t. We found it hard to source fodder because everything was burning.”


St Albans RFS was able to prevent the loss of life and major structural damage. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

Ms McMahon and her partner resorted to rotating 12-hour shifts between firefighting and caring for the farm.

“We would be stood down only to be called four hours later because fire had blown up somewhere else,” she said.

Life after fires

If you or anyone you know needs help:

With the help of external crews, St Albans RFS managed to prevent the loss of life and major structures that many less fortunate towns suffered.

But the prolonged stress and physical exertion has taken its toll.

Many residents are now beginning to deal with the come-down.

“We ran on adrenalin,” Ms McMahon said.

“That’s why, when it all ended, I’d say we were suffering depression.

“Everything just went flat and things that we were able to laugh off during the fires started to become serious.”


Some RFS volunteers say they have found it difficult to get back to normal life. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

It is a situation deputy group captain Malcolm Bobridge has frequently witnessed as the person responsible for directing RFS strike teams across the Hawkesbury.

“They don’t know what to do, they’ve been doing fire for three or four months and it has all stopped,” he said.

“[Conversations with crews around trauma] have always been because they’ve had a nasty fire with a death but now it is that they don’t know where they’re going next, and I’ve never [experienced] that.”

Mr Bobridge believes it is “quite possible” this could be a sign of post-traumatic stress among volunteers.

Time to heal


The community party is being seen as the first step in a long recovery process. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

The recovery process for firefighters is expected to take some time, but Ms Stepanovich said the community party was the first step.

“How do you heal unless you let it out?” she said.

“This is part of the healing process because, for us, this is a thank you to the community.”

As they continue to readjust, residents are hoping tourists will soon return to rural towns like St Albans to help with the recovery.

External Link:

ABC embed: Tell us your bushfire questions

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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