Concerns have been raised about the true number of COVID-19 cases in Western Australia’s mining hub because of the way the Government collects data.
- The WA Government says a heat map showing COVID-19 cases shows a person’s address rather than their physical location
- This sparked confusion in Carnarvon, but it turned out the resident was in Perth — a fact that in turn has raised concerns about FIFO workers’ data
- The AMA says the only way to improve the accuracy of data is to gather more of it, and is urging private pathology firms to get involved
The Pilbara region’s thousands-strong force of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers has been deemed essential in order to keep the economy moving.
But a red flag was raised last week when WA Health released a heat map revealing local government areas where COVID-19 cases were located.
The data showed a previously unreported case in the Gascoyne town of Carnarvon, sparking panic and demands for more information from the Shire of Carnarvon.
“The Shire is aware of the map showing a possible case in Carnarvon, however we have no more information than the general public,” it said in a post on social media.
“We are requesting for the Department of Health to provide further information for the public to calm any fears, but no additional information has been received.”
Carnarvon resident in Perth hospital
When the Government clarified the details around the case, it was revealed the person had listed their home address as being in Carnarvon, but had not physically been back in the region since returning from overseas.
They were isolated and receiving treatment in Perth.
The confusion sparked concern the data had not reflected the true number of the cases in the Pilbara, because of the high number of FIFO workers with addresses elsewhere, including interstate.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook acknowledged some data was skewed.
“There’s a range of criteria that goes into actually identifying the location of the particular virus — sometimes we will utilise the residential address, sometimes it will be the location,” he said.
“There are clear protocols that are really driven by the World Health Organisation in terms of how we report these numbers.
“One of the issues that we have in Western Australia is that we have to report the numbers from the cruise ship Artania, even though none of them are actually Western Australians or contracted the disease in Western Australia.
“These are sometimes just the skewing that you get with the numbers and it’s just a matter for us sitting inside those protocols so there’s a consistent way we report those numbers right across the nation.”
‘It’s not about a heads-up’
Mr Cook acknowledged people wanted to know if there were more cases in their communities, but said they should trust the Government was protecting their health.
“I’ve had a number of enquiries saying, ‘Well, we should know where these people live so we can protect ourselves,'” he said.
“Obviously we provide the community with all the information they need to make sure they understand we are protecting their public health.
“I understand the cases are aggregated across the regions to the regional centres.
“For the purposes of the Kimberley, it presents the [Halls Creek] cases as occurring in Broome, and obviously there are other cases around the place.
“I’ve asked the department to refine the map so that we make sure we are presenting a truer case of the situation.
“These [heat map] arrangements are really in place simply for the community to understand how the spread of the disease is starting to progress.
“It’s not about providing people with a heads-up so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves.”
Growth in known cases in key countries, on a logarithmic scale
This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and what we can learn from countries that have slowed the spread.
More testing needed, AMA says
Australian Medical Association (WA) president Andrew Miller said more testing was needed to get a clearer picture of the disease’s spread, and noted that current figures reflect an uneven spread of monitoring across the state.
Dr Miller said the ratio of positive tests returned from the Kimberley — where 14 cases had been confirmed — was much higher than in other parts of the state.
“There seems to be a roughly 4.8 per cent positive rate in the Kimberley as opposed to a 2.5 per cent positive rate in the rest of the state,” he said.
“Which suggests we’re just not getting enough testing done in the regions.
“We know that we need more testing done in the Kimberley, and we need more testing everywhere to make sure we haven’t got a whole bunch of spread that’s going on behind our backs at the moment.
“What we all know is that we can’t fight a war without the information about knowing where the enemy is.
“If the information is inaccurate because the information about a FIFO worker is recorded as their home base rather than where they actually are, or their address is recorded as a region and they’re actually in the metro area, then that makes it very difficult for us to keep a track of this enemy, which only can get carried around by people.”
Dr Miller said more testing was the only way to ensure accurate data and that private pathology labs should be involved in processing the results.
“We need to be testing as many people as we can,” he said.
“The answer to Carnarvon is to not worry too much about whether that individual is there, or are they not, but to test as many people as you can in Carnarvon.
“That gives you a much clearer picture of what the disease is doing.
“The World Health Organisation is very clear: the greatest tool we have at this stage is to test, test, test so let’s get on with it.”
Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?
- People who have EITHER a fever of 38 degrees Celsius OR acute respiratory infection
- Symptoms to look out for include fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat
- Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.
Major clinics have been set up at Perth hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In Southern WA a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
In Northern WA a clinic is operating at Broome Hospital from 8:30am–4:00pm daily.
Outside these areas, people with symptoms should present to their local hospital.
For more information go to the Health Department website.
As of Tuesday WA had conducted more than 19,000 tests, with 18,731 people returning negative results, 3,787 of whom were from regional areas.
Of those, 302 were in the Pilbara, which has had five positive results.
What you need to know about coronavirus:
Western Australia will significantly increase coronavirus testing starting from tomorrow, with anyone who has had a fever or acute respiratory infection in recent days now eligible to be checked for the virus.
- Anyone with a fever or respiratory infection can be tested from tomorrow
- There are now 481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in WA, an increase of 11
- Random community testing has so far not detected any cases
Health Minister Roger Cook made the announcement as he confirmed WA had recorded 11 new cases of the virus, taking the state’s total number of infections to 481.
WA’s COVID-19 death toll remains at six, following two fatalities yesterday.
Mr Cook said the expanded testing criteria meant from tomorrow any person with a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher — or who had one in recent days — or an acute respiratory infection would be eligible to be tested.
That would include anybody with symptoms such as a shortness of breath, cough or sore throat.
“This is a significant change and means we will capture a much wider proportion of the public,” he said.
“This will ensure we are able to find new cases, protect the vulnerable and ensure we track the movement of the virus in the community.
“If you have symptoms, then please go to the clinics and be tested.”
Second testing change in last week
The revamped testing rules is the second time testing criteria has been expanded in barely a week, with previous restrictions eased after concerns over a shortage of testing chemicals dissipated.
Until just a week ago, only people who had recently returned from travel or who had come into contact with a confirmed case of the virus was able to be tested.
WA COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 517
- Deaths: 6
- Tested negative: 22,601
Anyone who meets those criteria will still be eligible for testing at one of WA’s nine COVID clinics — seven of which are in Perth, with one in Bunbury and another in the Kimberley.
Patients in other regions can be tested through hospitals.
WA has already been conducting random examination of testing samples of people being checked for respiratory infections, but that process is yet to pick up a single case of COVID-19.
More than one-third of WA cases linked to cruises
One of the new infections today is in the Kimberley, taking the total in that region to 15.
Mr Cook said the latest Kimberley case was a close contact of a person previously identified as infected, but was not a healthcare worker.
“We are very encouraged by the numbers … but at the moment we need to keep our foot down on the break,” Mr Cook said.
“These are early days and we are not going to see a quick fix for this.”
But significant concerns remain about cruise ships, which are responsible for 176 — or 37 per cent — of WA’s cases, after seven new cases stemming from those vessels.
Premier Mark McGowan confirmed Commonwealth health authorities had reboarded the Artania, which remained docked at Fremantle, to assess 18 crew members.
Thirteen of those assessed have now been removed from the ship and taken into quarantine on shore.
“Clearly the Artania continues to be an issue,” Mr McGowan said of the ship, which still has about 400 crew members on board.
Thirty-four passengers from the crew remain in WA hospitals, with many more in quarantine.
Six more cruise ships heading to WA
The State Government is also concerned about six cruise ships heading into WA waters, having departed from Sydney or Melbourne.
Mr McGowan said between them, they had 6,000 crew members on board but all had been directed to return to their home ports.
“We don’t want those cruise ships coming here because it would be very difficult for us to deal with,” the Premier said.
“It is obviously a matter of some concern.”
Meanwhile, Mr Cook defended the handling of a case where a man with COVID-19 was denied permission to visit his wife in intensive care before she died of the virus.
“These protocols are in place to make sure we can protect the public, other patients in the hospital and healthcare workers,” he said.
“We don’t want to have people who are COVID-positive coming into ICU unless they are the patient.”
Mr McGowan described the situation as “shocking and awful”, saying he had raised it with Health Department director general David Russell-Weisz.
“He committed to me that there would be a review of the protocols around that and I look forward to that review taking place,” Mr McGowan said.
What you need to know about coronavirus:
There have been just nine new cases of coronavirus recorded in Western Australia over the past 24 hours.
- WA Health Minister Roger Cook called the result “incredibly encouraging”
- It continues a downward trend in new WA cases over the past few days
- Mr Cook said the state was still “sailing into this storm, not out of it”
The new cases bring the state’s total to 364.
WA’s death toll remains at two.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook labelled the new numbers “incredibly encouraging”, but said it was no time for the state to let its guard down.
“To have single digits at any point in time in terms of the corona pandemic is amazing. To have them at this point in the cycle … is particularly encouraging,” he said.
“But we’re not out of the woods. We are sailing into this storm not out of it.
“We need to continue to be vigilant. We can’t be complacent.”
WA COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 422
- Deaths: 3
- Tested negative: 16,022
Mr Cook urged the community to continue following the guidelines in place to help slow the spread of the virus.
“I just emphasise to everyone that we need to make sure that we continue to practise good physical distancing, good personal hygiene and ensure that we listen to medical authorities,” he said.
“And [follow] all the guides from the Government to ensure that we can actually flatten the curve and push this pandemic out as far as possible.”
Seven-year-old child tests positive
All nine new cases are from Perth’s metropolitan area, including five females and four males.
Mr Cook said four of them had travelled from overseas and three were close contacts of those people.
Two of the cases remain under investigation.
The ages of the latest patients range from seven to 77.
“So we have another small child,” Mr Cook said.
“I understand that child is currently isolated with his or her family.”
Mr Cook said there were only eight people out of the total number of diagnosed cases whose infection origin remained unknown.
Seven Artania patients in intensive care
The Minister said 54 COVID-19 patients remained in hospitals across WA, with 12 of them in intensive care units (ICU)— including seven people from the Artania cruise ship and two from the Ruby Princess.
A total of 30 patients from the Artania have now been admitted to Joondalup Health Campus after being transferred from the vessel while it was docked in Fremantle.
Mr Cook said three were in intensive care and 27 were in a stable condition, while another four Artania patients remained in intensive care at Fiona Stanley Hospital.
The two Ruby Princess patients are also being cared for in Joondalup’s ICU.
“The patients in ICU are very sick and our thoughts go out to them,” Mr Cook said.
“We wish them all the very best in their struggles and the challenges that they have.”
The Artania cruise ship remains at Fremantle Port but the Australian Border Force has issued a directive for the ship to leave Australian waters.
“I hope to see it leave as soon as possible, there is no reason why it should remain in Western Australia,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
- Download the ABC News app and subscribe to our range of news alerts for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the world
- You can also get up-to-date information on the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store, Google Play and the Government’s WhatsApp channel.
Regional borders to close from midnight
Of the total number of confirmed cases, 34 are from regional WA.
The State Government’s ban on intrastate travel comes into effect at midnight on Wednesday in an effort to limit the virus’s spread across the state.
From Wednesday, all non-essential travel will be prohibited between the state’s regions.
WA police will set up checkpoints and mobile patrols to ensure people are adhering to the restrictions.
People have been urged to carry employment documentation with them if they travel for work.
The construction and freight industries will continue to operate despite the bans as they have been deemed essential services.
Hundreds of new ventilators, ICU beds ordered
The Government has ordered more than $15 million worth of additional medical equipment to help the health system cope with the pandemic.
The new equipment includes 301 ventilators, 201 humidifiers and 200 ICU beds.
Mr Cook said health authorities were working day and night to ensure the system was prepared.
“This equipment is being sourced from a range of global suppliers and will arrive in batches. The first is due in the coming weeks,” he said.
The Government has also begun what it called a “major capacity building program”, creating hundreds of new beds in public hospitals across the state.
“[That] will enable us to significantly expand our services, commissioning literally hundreds of beds across out hospital system,” Mr Cook said.
“Our system is now actually starting to realise significant capacity and I am very pleased to say that we’ll be able to support all the patients that come forward.”
The Government also wants COVID-19 patients to have access to cutting edge treatments on trial around the world.
It had planned to introduce legislation into Parliament on Tuesday to allow guardians or next of kin to consent to medical research and experimental treatments.
Currently, guardians or next of kin can only make decisions regarding medical treatment, not participation in medical research.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and should I worry about my cough or sore throat?
- Who is eligible for free child care?
- Can I get unpaid pandemic leave or annual leave at half-pay if I am self-isolating?
School attendance plummets
Meanwhile, WA Education Minister Sue Ellery said public schools had on average experienced a drop of between 70–90 per cent in attendance this week.
Parents were last week asked to keep children at home if possible, where they could learn from online education resources.
Ms Ellery said the education sector was now working tirelessly to prepare for term two.
“People are working on that very hard now, on establishing essentially a virtual school,” Ms Ellery said.
“I appreciate it’s a bit confronting for parents this week, but I remind them there is access to learning online.
“We are not asking parents to become teacher. We are just asking for their assistance.”
Program launched to help homeless
The WA Government has also introduced a pilot program to help some of Perth’s homeless population, as circumstances meant many could not self-isolate or follow social distancing measures.
A total of 20 people experiencing homelessness will be moved into Perth’s Pan Pacific hotel.
“The State Government recognises that there are a number of cohorts in our community that are more vulnerable to COVID-19,” Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said.
“The Hotels with Heart pilot learns from similar initiatives happening interstate and around the world, including in the United Kingdom, America and Canada.
“With the help of community service organisations, this initiative will take the pressure off the health system in Western Australia and potentially help to flatten the curve as the state fights to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The program could be scaled up if the trial was deemed a success.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
- Cruise ships have been directed to leave Australian waters but enforcing that will prove difficult
- April is a dangerous month for workers, with JobKeeper payments not arriving until May
Western Australia’s Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, has reversed his decision to quit politics at next year’s state election, citing the coronavirus pandemic as his motivation.
- WA’s coronavirus outbreak struck after Ben Wyatt announced plans to quit
- The Treasurer now says he wants to serve his state in its time of need
- He says WA is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis
Mr Wyatt announced a month ago that he would not continue in State Parliament beyond 2021, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
But in a statement, he said WA was facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis because of the coronavirus outbreak.
There have been 140 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state so far, with businesses across WA closing yesterday and thousands of people left unemployed as a result of shutdown measures.
WA COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 231
- Deaths: 2
- Tested negative: 11,288
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to reflect on my decision last month, to not stand as a candidate at the 2021 election,” Mr Wyatt said.
“The world has changed dramatically in just one month. As the Premier has warned, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are going to be dire.
“I know the recovery is going to be a significant task, one of which I am determined to be a part of.
“I want to serve my state in its time of need.
“It is for this reason that I will no longer be stepping down at the next election.”
Economy set to take hit after return to surplus
Mr Wyatt steered the WA economy back into the black for the first time in five years last year, with the mid-year review later revealing the Government was eyeing off a $2.6 billion surplus for the 2019–20 financial term.
But the coronavirus crisis is sure to leave its mark on the state’s finances.
Speaking to ABC Radio Perth this morning about his decision to stay on, Mr Wyatt said did not want to leave the state during major changes to the economy.
He said the next few budgets would be “how we go about recovering out of this”.
“I think it’s important for the stability of the Government, stability of the Premier’s leadership as he goes about having this conversation with Western Australians, that I don’t leave that hole at this time,” he said.
“When you see the rapid changes to the economy and the finances and to health, I think it wouldn’t be right to leave in that environment.
“I didn’t want to hand that over to somebody else, that would be unfair.”
The Treasurer thanked Premier Mark McGowan and his Labor Party colleagues for their understanding, and also acknowledged his family for what he described as their continued sacrifices.
Mr Wyatt said while he was confident in his decision to reverse his resignation, it was a little embarrassing given the warm farewells he had received.
“It was like reading your obituary whilst still having breakfast,” he said.
“And that was flattering, but hopefully that means that people have some confidence the decision that I’ve just made.”
The first Indigenous treasurer of any Australian parliament, Mr Wyatt was a 31-year-old lawyer when he was elected as the MP for Victoria Park in 2006 in a by-election triggered by the sudden resignation of then-premier Geoff Gallop.
He made an ill-fated tilt at the leadership of the WA Labor Party in 2011, mounting an unsuccessful challenge to then-opposition leader Eric Ripper.
Hannah Beazley, the daughter of WA Governor and former federal opposition leader Kim Beazley, had been pre-selected to succeed Mr Wyatt as Labor’s candidate in Victoria Park.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
- What happens when someone gets coronavirus, what are the symptoms as it gets worse and how it can kill
- Tips on how to keep your home clean and free from coronavirus
The WA Government’s latest push to ban radar detectors is facing a backlash amid warnings proposed changes to road traffic laws would give authorities sweeping new powers to ban a wide range of devices in vehicles.
- The proposed laws allow police to prohibit any device from vehicles
- WA has repeatedly attempted to ban radar detectors without success
- The Police Minister says the state needs to keep up with new technology
The proposed legislation would also give officers the power to ban any other devices either from being attached to a car or used within a vehicle, with no restrictions on what those prohibited “devices” could include.
It has led to warnings from driving groups that the powers could also be used to ban a vast array of technology, such as mobile phone apps that warn users of speed cameras.
Those changes could be made without the prior approval of State Parliament, although Upper House MPs would be able to veto them subsequently.
Police Minister Michelle Roberts has promised the powers would be used responsibly, but said they were necessary to ensure the proposed radar detector ban could keep up with emerging technology.
But Glenn Secco from the Australian Drivers Rights Association, who has contacted most Upper House MPs encouraging them to block the Government’s plans, said the proposal was legislation by stealth.
“This legislation could affect all drivers by granting the power to WA Police and Office of Road Safety to decide what devices on vehicles could be banned in WA,” he said.
“This bypasses the usual legislative scrutiny.”
The bill is currently before the Upper House, with a final vote on it expected at some point this year.
Phone apps, cameras could be banned, MP says
Liberal Democrats MP Aaron Stonehouse, who opposes a radar detector ban, is seeking support from parliamentary colleagues to have the legislation scaled back.
“These are broad powers that would allow them to ban basically any device they like,” he said.
“They could ban bull bars, cameras on motorcycles, using a phone as a GPS device.”
But Ms Roberts hosed down suggestions the power would be used broadly, labelling those claims a “phoney opposition” to a radar detector ban.
“Anyone that is opposed to this regulation-making power is just trying to appease those people who for decades have wanted to keep a radar detector in their car,” she said.
“They are trying to curry some favour with people who want to be able to speed and get away with it.
“Every other state has done this [banned radar detectors], so this is something that is long overdue.”
WA lags other states
While Upper House MPs could overturn regulations made under powers like those proposed for the radar detector ban, successful disallowances were relatively rare.
The legislation is the latest attempt to ban radar detectors in WA, a measure that has been repeatedly proposed but never implemented.
Plans to outlaw the devices first emerged three decades ago but have never eventuated.
WA is the only state in the country yet to ban radar detectors, but jammers, which are designed to interfere with speed cameras, were banned in 2017.
Ms Roberts said she would only push ahead with a radar detector ban if she could get assurances from the Opposition they would not seek to overturn it in the Upper House.
An Exmouth woman is demanding action after she witnessed a pack of wild dogs savage her pet at a popular beach in Western Australia’s north west.
- An Exmouth woman needed six stitches for intervening when wild dogs attacked her dog on a local beach
- Her Maltese-Jack Russell cross was mauled by the dogs, and later died
- The incident comes as Exmouth gears up for its whale shark season starting in April
Asha Haegel said residents had complained for two years about the wild dogs, and she now intended to sue the Shire of Exmouth for failing to act.
Warning: This story contains images that may disturb some readers.
“I want that beach closed until those dogs — or dingoes, or whatever they are — are dealt with,” she said.
“There have been complaints about this for at least two years [and] the shire has sat on its [hands].”
Exmouth Shire president Matthew Niikkula posted a warning on social media on Saturday and said the council had implemented increased ranger patrols following the incident.
Ms Haegel was walking her Maltese-Jack Russell cross, Mickey, with her partner on Saturday when the wild dogs appeared.
“[We] were down at the beach, it’s the main beach that all the pet owners take their dogs to for walks, and my little one would have been 5 or 10 metres behind us,” she said.
“And he was just having a scratch around.
“I looked [at him], I looked back at the ocean, and the next thing I heard was a little yip.
“I looked back at him and there were three wild dogs basically pulling him apart like a rag doll.
“We both charged at them screaming as loud as we could to intimidate them and they just weren’t afraid of us at all.”
Wild dogs fearless of humans
Ms Haegel said the wild dogs were not deterred as she and her partner got “in amongst them” and tried to rescue Mickey.
She received a large cut to her lip, which required six stitches, a tetanus needle, and a strong course of antibiotics.
She said it was only when her other pet dog came to the aid of them that the pack was eventually scared off.
“Thankfully our other dog, a red heeler, he got to them before we did and he scared them off,” she said.
Ms Haegel rushed Mickey to the vet, but he later died.
She said she met with a ranger from the Shire of Exmouth, but said she was disappointed with the response.
“I met with the ranger this morning and made a formal statement,” she said.
“They’ve done nothing. There were no signs [and] no warnings.
“Hundreds of people go there every day.”
Shire of Exmouth chief executive Cameron Woods told the ABC wild dogs had been relocated or destroyed in the past, depending on circumstances.
Mr Woods said the shire was now looking at numerous options including erecting signage at the location and dealing with the worrisome pack.
“It’s not as easy as turning up tomorrow at a particular time and hoping the three dogs wander out and deciding whether you’re going to shoot them,” he said.
“People need to also realise if they have been sighted there, if you’re going to walk your dogs [then] walk your dogs on leads. Try not to be alone with your dogs.
“Don’t have small children outside of the car and leave them unattended.
“Some common sense [is needed] around living in a remote, rural area that has dingoes for a start.”
Mr Woods said when wild dogs become aggressive or stalk people the shire would act.
He added his staff were now trying to ascertain whether part of the land where the pack has been sighted belongs to the Australian Defence Force.
If so, that would ascertain which agency would deal with the matter.
Dogs or dingos?
The incident has ignited debate over whether the dogs were dingoes or whether they were wild dogs. However Ms Haegel told the ABC one of the dogs was black in colour.
Reports of another incident in Exmouth on the same day were posted on social media, with a woman stating she was with a friend when she encountered a pack of three dogs that were scared off by another person who was in their car nearby.
“We didn’t have our phones on us so we would have been stuck if it wasn’t for other crew on the beach,” the post read.
The incident comes as Exmouth ramps up for its busiest time of the year, which kicks off in April with the beginning of the whale shark tourism season.
According to Tourism WA statistics, more than 151,000 visitors make their way to Exmouth each year.
Not just a problem for Exmouth
Further inland, the community of Tom Price has also been dealing with numerous reports of wild dog encounters.
Ashburton Shire president Kerry White said, in the past two weeks, there had been five reports of dog attacks in the shire.
“Pets are being taken and we are very frightened that they might attack people if they are out walking late at night,” she said.
“We’ve had this problem once before. In the past, rangers have trapped them and dealt with the situation, which we are expecting to happen this time as well.
“The rangers have caught some … They are onto it in collaboration with the police, so there is not a lot we can do until we eradicate them again.”
In 2018, a 58-year-old woman was attacked by a pair of dingoes at a Pilbara mine site.
Three rules for dealing with dingoes:
Victim Deborah Rundle required surgery for deep wounds after she said one dingo took her phone as she was having lunch.
“I stepped forward to pick up my phone but saw the dingoes looking at me,” she said.
“I started to back away, facing them, when they attacked me.
“They grabbed at my arms and legs while I screamed for help.”
Her case against Newcrest Mining remained before the District Court.
The Shire of Exmouth was contacted for comment.
The shire’s website stated that dog attacks were taken very seriously.
Long before coronavirus, a disease kept millions of people like Denese Griffin isolated from the world
Denese Griffin’s teenage years were far from normal after being struck down by a rare infectious disease that meant she could only see her parents once a week.
- Denese Griffin was one of 1,400 Indigenous people who lived in a WA leprosarium
- She spent five years as a teen living in isolation, but still has happy memories
- Leprosarium artefacts will feature in Perth’s new museum opening in November
From the age of 15, she spent almost five years living in a quarantined hospital facility for people with leprosy — now known as Hansen’s disease — in northern WA.
The stigma that was long attached to the sickness means that, 45 years on, it still makes Ms Griffin uncomfortable to talk about.
“It was sad to be there because we were essentially locked up,” Ms Griffin said.
She was one of at least 1,400 Indigenous Australians who lived at the Bungarun Leprosarium in Derby throughout its 50 years in operation, until a cure was found for the condition and it closed in 1986.
But despite spending a significant part of her teenage years living in isolation, Ms Griffin still has plenty of fond memories to look back on.
“I didn’t want to be there, obviously, but my memories sustain me,” she said.
“I can’t say that I never want to remember because there was a lot of happy times.”
Music brought joy to patients
Ms Griffin was part of the social orchestra at Bungarun where she learnt to sing and play the piano.
“I think music was something that just rippled right through Bungarun,” she said.
Decades later the melodica, an instrument she kept from Bungarun, still brings a smile to her face.
Many of the instruments used in the orchestra were tossed away when the facility closed.
But a violin and a microscope were kept and preserved by The Sisters Of St John Of God at the Heritage Centre in Broome.
They help tell the complex story of Bungarun — one of sickness and sadness, and of recovery and joy.
“While we were all there because we were unwell, and there was rigorous testing and everything like that, we had, at the end of the day, music,” Ms Griffin said.
“The orchestra … was an opportunity for people to practice using their hands,” Helen Mary Martin from the Broome Gallery said.
“The microscope was the thing that put people in there and kept people in there,” she said.
Leprosarium artefacts sent to new Perth museum
The artefacts are part of a small collection being sent to Perth’s new museum ahead of its opening in November.
Some Bungarun residents like Ms Griffin have shied away from sharing their stories for years.
“Even with my work colleagues I haven’t shared it,” she said.
But the new exhibition in Perth will shed light on the leprosarium and its residents.
“Because the disease was so stigmatised and such a feared thing it was hard for them to talk about and it’s only now that a lot of people are being able to talk about it to their families,” Ms Martin said.
“It’s never had the attention that it deserves.”
The daughter of a woman feared dead in WA’s outback says her family’s worst-case scenario has been realised, with authorities unable to find her five years after her disappearance.
- Raymond Kehlet died and his wife vanished on a WA prospecting trip
- A coroner has been examining what happened on the fateful journey
- The ordeal has had an immeasurable impact on the couple’s family
Kelly Keegans read an emotional statement at an inquest examining the death of her stepfather Raymond Kehlet, 47, and the suspected death of her mother, Jennie Kehlet, 47, during a prospecting trip to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth, in March 2015.
The couple’s disappearance sparked the most expensive search in WA’s history, which ended after Mr Kehlet’s body was found down an abandoned mine shaft.
The inquest has heard his cause of death could not be ascertained.
No trace has ever been found of Mrs Kehlet.
Ms Keegans broke down as she read a statement to the court saying her mother had been full of life.
“She created warmth and she was the tightest hug,” Ms Keegans said.
“When this all started our worst-case scenario was that mum would never come home at all.
“They deserve so much more than the death they’ve been reduced to in the eyes of the world.”
Daughters learnt of stepfather’s death through the media
Ms Keegans said she and her sisters learnt of the discovery of Mr Kehlet’s body through the media.
“No one checked to see if we had been told,” she said.
“It’s a terrible, sick feeling when I think of him down the bottom of that mine shaft.
“He should be here with us.”
She also described her family’s pain at learning the bank had foreclosed on the pair’s house in Beverley, in the Wheatbelt, before a death certificate had been issued for her mother.
Family has hopes for justice
Mr Kehlet’s brother Malcolm also addressed the inquest, saying the impact the couple’s deaths had on his family was immeasurable.
“Ray and Jennie were always together and an inseparable pair,” Mr Kehlet said.
“These years have taken a heavy toll on our family and friends.”
He said he hoped there would ultimately be justice for his brother and that Ms Kehlet could eventually be found and laid to rest.
Last month, a man named by police as a suspect in the case gave evidence at the inquest.
Graham Milne had accompanied the Kehlets on the prospecting trip to help them search for gold.
During his testimony Mr Milne told the inquest the last time he saw the couple alive was on Saturday March 21, two days after they arrived and set up camp.
That day he had gone out prospecting on his own, before returning in the early hours of the next morning, packing up his things and leaving the campsite without saying goodbye.
He denied having anything to do with the pair’s disappearance.
Coroner Ros Fogliani will hand down her findings at a later date but today indicated they would include a conclusion that Ms Kehlet was no longer alive.
Former Tropical Cyclone Damien has been downgraded to a tropical low after the storm — which brought destructive winds and torrential rainfall to Western Australian’s north — weakened to below cyclone intensity
- Former tropical cyclone Damien has weakened below cyclone intensity
- The system is still producing heavy rainfall over the Gascoyne region
- The cyclone brought winds of up to 195 kilometres per hour
In their latest advice at 5:00am AWST on Monday, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said ex-Tropical Cyclone Damien was continuing to move southwards and was over the north-east Gascoyne.
All communities, including Tom Price to Nullagine and Marble Bar have now been given the all-clear.
The system is still producing heavy rainfall over the north-east Gascoyne, with conditions expected to moving into the south-east Gascoyne and northern Goldfields by the afternoon.
Strong and squally winds are also possible and there is still the risk of flooding in coming days.
The storm crossed over the coast as a category three system about 3:30pm on Saturday, bringing severe, destructive winds, torrential rainfall and storm surges.
A Karratha man says he was forced to shelter under his kitchen table with his cat while it peeled the roof off his house as it tore through Western Australia’s Pilbara region on Saturday night.
Karratha resident Beau Corps, who has lived in the town since 1985, was forced to crawl under a table with his cat, called Gary, as the storm hit.
“There was a big crash and I could see, through the vents in the roof, the light coming through and I realised my roof had peeled off,” Mr Corps said.
“I grabbed the cat and went to run outside but it was really, really strong obviously and I knew the tree was blocking a hole, a gap in the fence to my brother’s house.
“We were hunkered under the table. My brother rang and just asked where I was and I told him I was under the table. He said ‘just stay there’.”
Mr Corps said he ended up sheltering at his other brother’s house, who had phoned and told him it was safe to run across.
Fridge among debris caught on camera
Renae Moss and Ryley Hinchcliffe filmed a fridge surfing down a street in the Karratha suburb of Nickol.
Ms Moss said she tried to warn authorities for days about the empty public housing home next door as preparations were made in the lead-up to Cyclone Damien.
But she said nothing was done about the large items lying in the yard.
A spokesman for the Housing Authority said the property had been recently vacated.
“The Department attempted to schedule works however, due to the short time frame, this was unable to be completed ahead of the cyclone,” the statement said.
“The property will be assessed for damage as soon as it is safe to do so, as will be the case for all reports of cyclone damage to our properties.”
‘Our house was shaking like a leaf’
Stuart Otto, who has lived in Karratha for more than three decades, said the “horrendous” cyclone was the worst he had experienced.
“My house is 50 years old and at the end of the day, it held up well,” Mr Otto said.
“My brother lives four doors down and he’s got a brick house, but his verandah out the back is absolutely decimated (with) three fences down, I haven’t seen a direct hit like this before.
“Right up to the eye it was bad, and then you go okay, she’ll be fine dropping off the other side, but after the eye it was worse.
“Our house was shaking like a leaf.”
Cyclone downgraded but caution urged
The BOM said the system had weakened as it moved inland, and by 9:00am AWST on Sunday had been downgraded to a category one system.
Karratha was given the all-clear about 11:20am on Sunday.
Mr Blackshaw said the DFES had received more than 100 calls for assistance, but he expected that figure to “increase significantly”.
Most requests for help through St John Ambulance were dealt with “relatively quickly” and no significant calls were made overnight on Saturday.
Cyclone Damien moves inland
Karratha recorded 235.2mm of rain by 9:00am Sunday, while Roebourne saw 234.8mm.
DFES incident controller Mr Blackshaw warned flooding would be the next big risk to the Pilbara and he reminded people not to drive onto flooded roads.
Power outage hits thousands
About 10,000 customers were affected by power outages on Saturday night and some suffered intermittent phone reception issues.
The water level is rising at Paraburdoo, a mining town about 390 kilometres inland form the coast, and south of Karratha where the cyclone is heading. (Supplied: Peter Tooby and Charity Schoen)
Horizon Power spokeswoman Michelle South said crews had successfully restored power to a number of Karratha suburbs on Sunday morning.
“Network patrols will continue in daylight hours to assess further damage and restore power to any remaining areas,” she said.
“The process of complete restoration and repairs will likely take some time and we thank customers for their patience and understanding as we work through this process.”
The loss of power also caused issues with the wastewater network in Karratha, Wickham and Roebourne.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said problems caused by flooding were still to play out.
“When the rainfall’s quite close to the coast, the water gets out to sea quite quickly so you don’t have a flooding issue,” he said.
“It’s more the rainfall that falls further inland that can cause issues and that will play out over the next day or so.
“A lot of it is damage to trees and the like and then the damage of that, those trees onto structures, I will say it’s early days yet in terms of exactly what the extent of the damage is, but certainly vegetation impacting sheds and houses and the like is where we’re at right now.”
BOM forecaster Neil Bennett said the area would not have experienced such severe winds since 1989.
“For many people in Karratha, even though they’re long-term residents there, this will be the first time they’ve lived through a direct hit with a severe tropical cyclone, and I think it’s a sobering experience for many of them.”
A rare sea fog has moved over Western Australia’s south-west coast, prompting a warning for people on the water to take extra care.
Boaters have been urged to be aware of the conditions as the thick fog moves past Rottnest Island and south off Perth’s coast.
“We’ll definitely see some fairly reduced visibility over the coastal waters during today, which is potentially quite hazardous for boats out there,” Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) duty forecaster Max Strack said.
The fog emerged off the coast of Geraldton last night and gradually developed south.
Ms Strack said the fog was caused by a low pressure trough drawing warm, moist air from the north.
“It usually occurs when we get a really warm and moist air mass that moves over some cooler water and that’s precisely what happened last night,” she said.
Sea fog is only seen off WA’s coast a couple of times a year, with the current conditions likely to last into the afternoon.
“It is a moderately unusual event to have such a broad event of sea fog off the coast of WA,” Ms Strack said.
The BOM said fog formed the same way as clouds and happened when the air temperature cooled to the dew-point temperature, which is when condensation occurs.
Fremantle Port said while the fog had been pronounced at the port, it had not disrupted its operations in any way.
Google chief’s ship carrying Neverending Story-themed tech sets sail to explore mysterious deep sea canyon
Bremer Bay 6338
Details of what lives in the depths of a unique deep-sea canyon are set to be uncovered in an expedition underway on the south coast of Western Australia.
- A state-of-the-art research vessel is set to probe uncharted territory off the WA coast
- Australian scientists are excited at the chance to use technology they normally cannot access
- The Bremer Bay Canyon is a hotspot for marine life, but no one knows what lives in its depths
The Research Vessel Falkor, which is owned by the Schmidt Ocean Institute — founded by former Google chief executive Eric Shmidt and his wife, Wendy — set sail for the Bremer Bay canyon on Sunday.
Among those on board is seasoned Italian researcher and co-chief scientist, Paolo Montagna, who said the depths of the canyon remain a mystery.
“We know the shallow part of the Bremer canyon,” Dr Montagna said.
“We know this is a biodiversity hotspot and a unique place for killer whales and other whales.
“But we don’t know much about the intermediate and deep water, so it would be really an adventure, a true discovery actually.
“We have discovered new species also using the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and other research vessels, but we don’t know anything about this part of the ocean.”
SuBastian on board
The RV Falkor comes equipped with a Remotely Operated Vehicle capable of diving to 4,500 metres.
The ROV SuBastian was named after the character, Bastian, from the German fantasy novel The Neverending Story. Falkor is also a character from the book.
Co-lead researcher Julie Trotter, who works at the University of WA, said using the ROV technology is particularly special for the Australian scientists on the mission.
“We have a very rare opportunity as Australian researchers to be able to utilize Remotely Operated Vehicle technology, because this deep-sea submersible is not available for scientific research in this country,” she said.
“We will be capturing the first images of the deep-water canyon systems and inhabitants, and we will then be collecting some of those samples to do analyses back in the lab.
“Our main goal for collecting those samples is to try and reconstruct environmental conditions.
“We’re going to be targeting live organisms, and we’ll presumably come across dead samples and potentially fossil samples as well.”
The canyon is the first stop on the RV Falkor’s twelve-month tour of Australia, but its visit is not the only international attention Bremer Bay is receiving.
In the coming months, Japanese public broadcaster NHK will be creating a documentary on the area, spearheaded by filmmaker Dave Riggs.
“It’s a pretty amazing development to have the Falkor turn up and be pushing right down to the sea floor,” Mr Riggs said.
“They’re live streaming so anyone can watch it … I’ve been really fascinated by what could be down there.
“There’s a lot of killer whales, a lot of sharks, seabirds — a lot of life out there, and that’s a lot of mouths.
“There’s something feeding it and it’s a really special place.”
The Falkor’s expedition is set to last for 32 days and include two more canyons on the west coast.
The owners of Esperance’s Stonehenge replica will keep the unique tourist attraction on Western Australia’s south-east coast open as they continue to seek a suitable buyer.
- The full-sized Stonehenge replica was built in 2011 on a cattle farm 18km from Esperance
- The replica consists of 137 stones of granite, some weighing up to 50 tonnes, that were quarried less than 1km from the site
- Esperance Stonehenge was built to align with the summer and winter solstices, when the sun’s rays align with the station stones and shine through to the altar stone
Kim and Jillian Beale are retiring to Bridgetown where they grew up before moving to farm near Esperance, 700 kilometres south-east of Perth, as newlyweds 48 years ago.
The couple built the replica of the prehistoric English monument in 2011 after a millionaire’s plans to build it near Margaret River fell over due to financial problems.
The property has been on the market for nearly six years, initially advertised for $5 million in 2014.
But after a sub-division sold off large sections of the cattle farm last year, 87 hectares — which includes the Stonehenge replica and an adjacent three-bedroom house — is now listed for offers above $2.1 million.
The Beales will make the move on February 4, with two full-time staff to keep the tourist attraction open five days a week.
They claim it continues to grow in popularity.
“Esperance really does need some more tourist attractions rather than just talking about beaches all the time,” Mr Beale said.
“There were about 8,000 people in the first year [after their Stonehenge opened].
“Every year there seems to be more and more, and last year it was around 16,000.
“Sometimes you think they’ve got to be crazier than the bloke who built it when they’re coming from the other side of the world.”
‘Interest’ from potential buyers
Mr Beale did not say if there have been any formal offers but said there has been significant interest from potential buyers.
Instagram Stonehenge comparison
“It’s obviously a bit flat [the market] at the moment, but we have got interest at present,” he said.
“We’ve got huge numbers of people who would love to buy it but they’d have to win lotto first.
“I just really hope whoever takes it on can see the potential … because if you want to be in the game of tourism the potential here is massive.
“You could put in a lot of different infrastructure here to accommodate tourists.”
The couple believe there needs to be either a cafe, accommodation, brewery, or some other reception venue for Esperance Stonehenge to reach its full potential.
Mrs Beale said prospective buyers could take the concept to the next level.
“This was originally just our home but now it’s a tourism precinct,” she said.
“I think you could do a lot more than just a cafe.
“It depends on what you want to do. There’s certainly a lot of meat on the bone.
“The Instagram generation do a lot of our PR for us, along with the grey nomads.”
No shortage of Stonehenge replicas
The website clonehenge.com lists 96 large, permanent replicas of Stonehenge around the world, including five in Washington State in the United States.
The owners of Esperance Stonehenge describe their creation as the only astronomically aligned, full-scale, “exact” replica of a pristine Stonehenge in natural stone granite.
Construction of the replica took about 10 months.
According to the charity English Heritage, construction of the original Stonehenge in the United Kingdom is believed to have begun more than 5,000 years ago.
The Wiltshire monument has been a World Heritage Site since 1986 and archaeologists still debate theories surrounding its use and meaning.
Today, nearly one million people visit Stonehenge every year.
How does replica compare to the real thing?
The ABC spoke with Kevin and Marion Simpson from Midlands in central England while they visited Esperance Stonehenge with their grandchildren.
“It’s something different, isn’t it,” Mrs Simpson said.
“We have been to the original in Wiltshire, it’s impressive and has the same feeling. It’s a spiritual feeling.
“It’s definitely the same [layout]. It’s just the stones look a bit more ancient [in England].”
Mr Simpson said the Esperance Stonehenge was worth the trip.
“There’s more of it. A lot of the original stone [at Stonehenge] is missing or put back where they think they were,” he said.
“There’s about 4,000 years of weathering on the original stone as well, so this looks quite new.”
Esperance tourism looks to new strategy
Tourism is the region’s second-largest industry behind agriculture, with more than 60 accommodation providers in Esperance.
The pristine white sands of Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park is one of the main attractions, with the park on track for record visitor numbers this year.
The Shire of Esperance closed tenders last week seeking submissions from consultancy groups to develop a new tourism strategy.
Mrs Beale said a new approach is desperately needed as the tourism industry is growing at a rapid rate.
“I think Esperance has to move forward in the tourism business,” she said.
“For many years we’ve been this sleepy little town with gorgeous beaches right at the corner of Western Australia.
“But with all the social media photographers coming here, it has opened up Esperance to a lot more people in the tourism world.
“We need to capture those people. You only have to look at the overflow we have here at Christmas when people think they can grab a caravan or camp site easily.
“It’s no longer like that, we are growing, and if you are going to captivate people and give them a really good experience you have to expand on what you’ve got.”
Grey nomads remain the largest tourist market, along with cruise ships which dock in the port town.
Tourism Esperance chairman Wayne Halliday said the Stonehenge replica would be a big part of future strategies.
“We’re very fortunate to have such a unique attraction,” he said.
“I think those things [extra attractions at Stonehenge] will evolve. I can see that area being used as a tourist precinct in the future.”
He said Stonehenge needs the right buyer.
“Of course it will sell,” he said.
“I’m no expert but you never know who’s in the wings. It might take an international visitor.”
A man who violently raped two backpackers in Broome appears likely to go unpunished for breaching an order meant to supervise his behaviour after his release from prison.
- Convicted rapist David Gundari breached a supervision order and went on the run from WA into the Northern Territory
- There is a warrant out in WA for Gundari’s arrest, but police say further action will only be taken if he returns to the state
- Concerns have been raised that under-resourcing is hampering the ability to enforce the orders
David Gundari served 12 years behind bars after bashing and raping the women in separate attacks in 2006 that terrified WA’s Kimberley community.
One of his victims suffered a fractured jaw, eye socket, and cheekbone, while the other had teeth knocked out and received cuts to her head.
Gundari was released from prison under a post-sentence supervision order (PSSO) in late 2018, despite significant concerns about his lack of effective treatment while in jail.
Introduced by WA’s then Liberal-National government in 2017, PSSOs are aimed at preventing re-offending and protecting the community.
The independent Prisoner Review Board makes the decision to place an offender on an order, which lasts for two years and imposes extended supervision beyond their served prison term.
The level of supervision is also determined by the board and offenders are subject to various conditions.
Management of offenders, based on their conditions, is the responsibility of Corrective Services Community Corrections Officers, and breaching an order can result in up to three years in jail.
Gundari, 45, was due before Wyndham Magistrate’s Court in October last year, accused of breaching his PSSO, but failed to appear.
A week later, he was arrested in the Northern Territory town of Katherine, where he was charged with new offences, including engaging in violent conduct.
Gundari was found guilty and jailed for nine weeks, before being released from prison in Darwin on January 17.
There were no public warnings issued by authorities during the time Gundari was on the run.
No active pursuit by WA Police
WA Police confirm there was a warrant out for Gundari’s arrest and he had been charged over the breach.
A spokesperson said the outstanding warrant meant an alert had been put on his name, but they would only deal with him if and when he crossed the border.
“As per normal warrant issues, if he enters Western Australia and police become aware of his whereabouts, he will be arrested,” the spokesperson said.
Murdoch University law lecturer Lorraine Finlay said all PSSO breaches needed to be treated seriously.
She said she wanted to see Gundari sentenced in WA.
“It is important that when these orders are breached there are consequences and it isn’t just swept away, due to either time elapsing or the person being in another jurisdiction,” she said.
“If we’re just going to ignore breaches of the orders, well, why bother having them.”
Community ‘has a right to be concerned’
Lorraine Finlay said what had happened with Gundari was an example of the PSSO system failing to deliver.
“We have a convicted violent rapist, who the Prisoner Review Board said was at medium to high risk of re-offending,” Ms Finlay said.
“He not only breached his post-sentence supervision order, but he went on the run.”
Ms Finlay acknowledged monitoring offenders was a complex undertaking, especially in remote areas, but argued the Gundari case highlighted enforcement issues due to insufficient resourcing.
“I don’t underestimate the challenges in this area, because we are dealing with people who have complex problems,” she said.
“People who are often difficult to manage and we’re dealing with a lack of resources in the area.
“It’s not good enough to simply have the law in place, you actually have to enforce the law.
“The community, I think, has a right to be concerned that a system that is in place to protect them doesn’t seem to be implemented properly and seems to be lacking.”
The latest available statistics, from mid-2019, show there are there 141 offenders on PSSOs in WA.
“That’s actually an increase of 70 per cent over the previous year,” Ms Finlay said.
“You actually need to put the resources behind them to make sure that people who are on these orders are properly supervised.”
The office of WA Minister for Corrective Services Fran Logan declined to provide a response.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said funding had been received to boost community corrections resources, including hiring 48 new officers.
Four of the new officers were located in the Kimberley region.
Rikki Hendon, branch secretary of the Community Public Sector Union and Civil Service Association, said the additional officers hired in 2019 were welcome but represented “a drop in the ocean.”
“Overall, our Community Corrections Officers are under-resourced,” she said.
“We have a department trying to monitor more people, many of whom have very complex histories of offending, with less staff.”
Ms Hendon said her organisation was concerned by the caseload facing Community Corrections Officers and that resignations occurring due to workload pressure were robbing the system of talent.
“This issue now requires additional funding to train up and retain officers who could supervise clients with confidence, attain the best rehabilitative outcomes and keep the community safe,” she said.
“Feedback from union members suggest amendments to the relevant PSSO legislation could improve the ability of Department of Justice staff to intervene with clients earlier.
“Any amendments which could encourage better collaboration within the Department of Justice and WA police could also improve the system.”
Legislative change underway
Proposed legislation currently before WA’s Upper House aims to close some constitutionally contentious areas of the PSSO regime.
It will also open up the provisions of the Dangerous Sexual Offenders Act to a wider range of offenders, including murderers, and establish a High-Risk Offenders Board to oversee them.
Ms Findlay says it will be interesting to see if the changes help the system work more effectively.
“Whether it works in practice remains to be seen,” she said.
A man named as a suspect in the case of two prospectors who disappeared in remote Western Australia has been compelled to answer questions at an inquest, after voicing concerns his evidence may “incriminate” him.
- Raymond and Jennie Kehlet travelled to remote WA with Graham Milne
- Both went missing, and Mr Kehlet’s body was later found down a mine shaft
- Mr Milne, the last person to see them alive, is still considered a suspect by police
Graham Milne is the last known person to have seen Raymond and Jennie Kehlet alive, when the three of them went on a prospecting trip to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth, in March 2015.
Mr Kehlet’s body was found down a mineshaft about three weeks later, but no trace has ever been found of Ms Kehlet.
On the first day of the inquest last week, police identified Mr Milne as a suspect in the case, testifying some of the information he told investigators was not supported by evidence.
The inquest was also told police had intended to charge him, but the move was rejected by state prosecutors.
Milne fearful of being charged: lawyer
At the start of proceedings on Wednesday, Mr Milne’s lawyer, Glenn Cridland, said his client wanted to “exercise his right not to answer questions” on the grounds “they may have the tendency to incriminate him”.
Mr Cridland said since the investigation first began, Mr Milne had fully cooperated with police.
He provided four written statements, allowed his property to be forensically searched and took part in two video recorded interviews — one of which lasted more than 12 hours.
But Mr Cridland said it was “starkly obvious” from the evidence of police that they had wanted his client to be charged and the answers he provided at the inquest could be an opportunity “to fill in the missing bits of a prosecution case”.
“One can see where the police case is going,” he said.
“If this matter was where he had refused to cooperate before, then it would be expedient for him to answer questions in a fact-finding exercise.
“It’s not expedient, it’s oppressive because of the cooperation which has been remarkable to date.”
Offer of immunity
WA coroner Ros Fogliani ruled that “for the ends of justice” Mr Milne should be compelled to answer questions, but said if she was satisfied he was truthful at the end of his evidence, she would consider granting him a certificate of immunity.
That would mean any answers Mr Milne gives to the inquest could not be used in any criminal prosecution of him.
When Mr Milne’s testimony proceeded he described Jennie and Ray Kehlet as “good friends” he met at the mine site where they all worked.
He described the couple as “being two peas in a pod” and said their friendship developed when Mr and Ms Kehlet showed an interest in prospecting and he agreed to train them.
Mr Milne has denied having anything to do with the couple’s disappearance and he has never been charged.
The inquest continues
A search and rescue expert has told an inquest into the mysterious disappearance of two prospectors in WA’s outback that it is possible they met their deaths after they chased their dog when it ran away from their campsite.
- The Kehlets were reported missing on March 19, 2015
- They had been prospecting in a remote spot about 700km north-east of Perth
- Mr Kehlet’s body was found down a mineshaft, his wife remains missing
The inquest is examining the case of Raymond and Jennie Kehlet who were last seen alive in March 2015 while on a prospecting trip with a friend, Grahame Milne, to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth.
Concerns were first raised for their safety about 10 days after they left home, when their dog, a great dane called Ella, was found wandering in a caravan park in Sandstone.
The town was about 30 kilometres from the Kehlets’ campsite, which was found abandoned with clothes on the line, half-drunk cups of tea and a wasps nest inside one of their unlocked vehicles.
An extensive land and air search was conducted and Mr Kehlet’s body was found down an abandoned mineshaft, but no trace of Ms Kehlet has ever been found.
The inquest has been told Mr Milne, who claims he left the campsite to return to Perth three days into the trip, is a suspect in the case but he denies having anything to do with the Kehlets’ disappearance and has not been charged.
Quad bike points to dog search, expert says
Senior Sergeant Jim Whitehead, a search and rescue expert with Queensland Police, was asked to review the search operation undertaken by the WA authorities and provide a possible scenario for what happened.
On Friday, he testified that based on information he had been given and an examination of the scene, it was his opinion the Kehlets left their campsite hastily on their quad bike to look for their dog, which liked to chase animals.
He said at some stage he thought they had got off the quad bike, which was found about 300 metres away from the camp, and as Mr Kehlet was running up a rise leading to a mineshaft, he had tripped and fallen into it.
Sergeant Whitehead said the discovery of cigarette butts with Ms Kehlet’s DNA on them near the mouth of the shaft suggested she remained at the top of it for some time.
“She may have sat at the mouth of the shaft … hoping that he had just hit his head … and maybe that he would come to,” Sergeant Whitehead said.
“Partners tend to stay together and maybe she was hoping Ray would come to and they’d be able to work their way out of it.”
Sergeant Whitehead said darkness then may have fallen quickly and Ms Kehlet had tried to find her way back to the campsite, but she had got lost and perished.
He said his theory was purely from a search and rescue viewpoint, saying he was not a detective and had not addressed anything to do with the possibility of a third party being involved “at all”.
He said his scenario was also based on a number of assumptions, including that the dog ran away from the camp to chase animals.
“If that is incorrect, it could impact on the conclusions,” he said.
“It’s possible, if that’s incorrect, then everything that follows is incorrect.”
Original search failed to find body
The inquest later heard Mr Kehlet’s body was found down the mineshaft days after search teams had originally “cleared” it.
The body was discovered on April 8, 2015, by senior firefighter Ashley Gasmier, who testified he ended up going back to the mineshaft as part of an exercise to provide the media with footage of what searchers were doing.
He said that particular mineshaft was chosen for ease, because it was closest to where his team and equipment were, and they decided to do what was called a “quick and dirty descent” in a harness attached to a rope.
“I went about three quarters of the way down and thought I’m here I might as well look around. That’s when I located the body,” he said.
Mr Gasmier said the body could not be seen from the top, because it was located off to the side where the mineshaft widened at the bottom.
He described the position as “not common”, saying if a person had fallen down the shaft, he did not think that would be how their body would end up.
“If someone has fallen down a mineshaft … they would be located in view,” he said.
“If someone falls down it, they go straight to the bottom, the body doesn’t roll. If they’ve hurt themselves they move to a position to be located, to be seen from the top.”
He also said there was a red 20-litre jerry can on the other side of the shaft, which was positioned upright and “looked as if it had been placed there”.
The inquest continues next week when Mr Milne is expected to give evidence.
Every day, in the soft morning light, hardy souls venture out into the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe Beach.
- Cottesloe Beach installed a shark barrier in November last year to improve safety
- Mayor Philip Angers says there are more swimmers and beachgoers as a result
- Shark prevention measures are in focus following a fatal attack off Esperance
They stroke across the bay, regardless of wind or weather.
Many have wispy white hair and the kind of skin you get after a lifetime in the sun.
They remember vividly when Ken Crew was killed by a shark while swimming in knee-deep water at North Cottesloe in 2000 and the suspected fatal shark attack on Bryn Martin in 2011.
But this year, something is different. Their ranks have grown.
The Town of Cottesloe has put up a shark net and it has attracting ocean swimmers in their droves.
As he emerged from the surf, Chris Chalwell confirmed it was the net that had drawn him here — he was not game enough to swim at Cottesloe before it.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to Cottesloe Beach, I can come down here and I feel quite safe,” he said.
“It’s just fantastic to swim out there with that knowledge, or that hope, actually, that that barrier will work.”
Mr Chalwell said swimming in the shark net was the safest he could feel.
“I’ve actually been lucky enough to see a seal on the other side of the net, looking back at me, saying ‘how do I get onto your side’?” he said.
“So it gives you an idea or a feeling of safety.”
Nets dotted up and down the coast
Shark attacks were again front of mind in WA this week after Gary Johnson was killed on Sunday while diving off the coast of Esperance.
The search for Mr Johnson’s body was called off by police this morning, pending any new information being received.
In an all-too-familiar drill, the attack has left concerned community members calling for more action to protect ocean users, the WA Government restating the measures it is taking, and a grieving family calling for calm, saying their loved one knew the risks.
Until now, Chantal Barrett has only ever done distance swimming at Cottesloe in organised events.
“It almost creates a nice sea lane swimming pool, but you’re always feeling safe as well,” she said.
“It definitely gets everyone outside, being fit, happy, active. I definitely see a lot more people swimming and training down here.”
Other shark nets are dotted along the WA coastline, including at Sorrento in Perth’s northern suburbs, Coogee near Fremantle and in the regional towns of Dunsborough and Albany.
Des Lord, who swims in the nets at Coogee and Dunsborough, was impressed with Cottesloe’s barrier.
“If you see the size of the mesh of the net, you’d probably get some small wobbegong-type sharks through, but nothing more than that,” he said.
The beach nets are part of a range of measures different levels of government have employed across WA to help mitigate as much as possible the risk of shark attacks.
Since February 2019 a smart drumline trial off Gracetown has caught and tagged two great white sharks.
In 2017, the State Government introduced a $200 rebate on shark deterrent devices to make them more accessible to divers and swimmers.
Enhanced monitoring has also been installed at beaches including Gracetown and a SharkSmart app has been launched to better track shark activity.
According to WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley, there are an estimated 1,600 endangered white pointer sharks between WA and Victoria.
Tourists think Australia is ‘full of sharks’
Cottesloe Mayor Philip Angers said he welcomed the positive response to the net.
“We’re now getting very strong crowds very early in the morning, like 5:30am, where people would never swim before, mainly because that’s the dusk and dawn period and people are a bit scared,” he said.
“That goes through until about 7:30am, quarter to eight, and then after that we tend to get a lot of tourists and just ordinary beachgoers, who probably don’t want to do laps for the Rottnest Swim but they just enjoy the beach.”
The perceived boost to tourism and local businesses, in particular, has pleased Mr Angers.
“I looked the other day when I was here and I went past so many hire cars,” he said.
“Tourists tend to think Australia is just full of sharks.
“In reality the risk of a shark attack is very low, but I think it’s in your mind and the net or barrier takes that away.”