University researchers score $11m

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JOHN MAYNARDTHE University of Newcastle has been awarded almost $11million in Australian Research Council funding for projects ranging from psychology and Aboriginal history to domestic violence.
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The outcome, which places the university ninth in Australia, will deliver funding to support 27 research projects.

Professor Daichao Sheng, of the school of engineering, secured the university’s largest grant, receiving almost $800,000 to undertake a study on the mechanics of hard soils and soft rocks and their influence on the stability and serviceability of buildings.

Professor Simon Dennis, head of the university’s school of psychology, was awarded $750,000 for a project to develop a model of episodic memory, the category of memory that allows people to recall specific experiences, events and times.

The project will apply the model to both adult and child development data, enhancing understanding of when episodic memory develops.

Indigenous historian Professor John Maynard from the university’s Wollotuka Institute attracted $600,000 to examine the history of the NSW Aborigines Protection/Welfare Board in 1883-1969. It will support understanding of the impact of the board, the legacy of which remains relevant.

Conjoint Professor Lyndall Ryan, of the school of humanities and social science, received $500,000 to generate insights into how intimacy and violence affected the development of colonial settler cultures, and the legacy of these cultures.

Dr Brett Turner received $570,000 for a project exploring the potential impact of climate change and sea-level rise on Australia.

Deputy vice-chancellor research and innovation Kevin Hall said the research funding was an excellent result given the strong competition.

“Today’s announcement … is testament to the exceptional quality and breadth of research at the University of Newcastle, and the excellence of our researchers,” Professor Hall said.

Racing critics told to get off high horses

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ANIMAL LOVER: Willow Park Stud owner Glenn Burrows. Picture: Simone De PeakTHE backlash over the death of Melbourne Cup horses Admire Rakti and Araldo has shaken the Upper Hunter horse industry.
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Willow Park Stud owner Glenn Burrows – a horseman of almost 35 years who lives and breathes thoroughbreds – has sympathised with the shattered teams who cared for the horses, and gone into bat for the industry saying that ‘‘no one wanted to see anything bad happen to them’’.

Cup favourite Admire Rakti ran last in the race and died afterwards in her stall of acute heart failure.

Araldo was spooked by a punter waving an Australian flag and became entangled in a fence, shattering his pastern bone.

Mr Burrows is ‘‘disgusted with the attitude of some people’’ who are lashing out at the industry and claiming that it is full of cruelty and animals that are mistreated.

He said the negative comments on social media showed the people who wrote them obviously ‘‘knew so little about the whole industry’’.

‘‘They are just blindly having these radical comments without any foundation,’’ Mr Burrows said.

‘‘If they fully understood the industry, then fine, have an opinion. But until such time, shut up.

‘‘The horse industry is not a job, it’s a lifestyle – because so much time and effort goes into it.

‘‘A lot of the staff I’ve got here are on very average money and they’re doing it for the love of the animals.’’

ANIMAL LOVER: Willow Park Stud owner Glenn Burrows. Picture: Simone De Peak

Mr Burrows left school at 16 to work in the industry after becoming ‘‘besotted with horses’’ and said he would love to live the life of a racehorse.

‘‘If I died and got the chance to come back, I’d love to come back as a thoroughbred racehorse because we care and love them so much 24 hours a day, seven days a week,’’ he said.

Australian Racing Board chief executive Peter McGauran agreed the tragic deaths ‘‘understandably raised questions in the wider community’’. But assuming the annual death rate was 125, as claimed by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, the fatality ratio was only 0.07per cent out of 189,259 starters in 19,511 races.

He said the fatalities were ‘‘unpredictable despite the care of stable veterinarians and regulatory veterinarians on duty at every race meeting in Australia’’.

And most autopsies found there was ‘‘no detectable pre-existing condition’’.

He said the industry was ‘‘amongst the most regulated and accountable industries’’ in the country and the board was ‘‘proud of our animal welfare standards’’.

The coalition protested at Flemington after the deaths, saying the industry had extensive animal welfare problems.

It has launched a ‘‘Horse Racing Kills Campaign’’ to highlight its position and called for two-year-old racing and whip use to be banned.

It reminded punters that the two deaths on Tuesday followed that of Melbourne Cup runner Verema, who died after last year’s race.

Newcastle rail: Conspiracy theorists remaining on track

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How serious is Labor when its says it wants to stop “greedy developers”?► Rail corridor bill looks set to fail
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►Planning hearing to open

I’M yet to hear of a more sensible measure to placate concerns about the truncation of Newcastle’s rail line emerging from the recent corruption inquiry into political donations – and to silence conspiracy theorists.

But Greg Piper’s bill to prevent development of the rail corridor for uses other than passive recreation, cafes and community spaces seems destined to go without the support it needs to become law.

One would think if removing the heavy rail and installing light rail along part of the corridor was not an elaborate ruse for handing over the rest of the land to developers to erect soaring apartment towers, then the Baird government would just back the independent MP’s bill.

And if Labor was serious about stopping the “greedy developers”, why not lend its support?

But in state politics, commonsense rarely applies.

Governments typically don’t like private members’ bills, as they tend to look foolish for not coming up with the idea in the first place.

And Labor, still campaigning against the removal of the rail, won’t want to lose one of its key arguments – that the government is cosying up to developers after a number of them filled the Liberal Party’s coffers with illegal donations ahead of the last election.

The ALP would also be reluctant to help Piper when it still hopes to take back his seat some day, even if his bill is aimed at protecting the community’s interests.

If the government won’t back the bill, we need it to explain what will happen to the corridor land, before it closes the heavy rail in less than two months.

And before we start listening to the conspiracies.

Newcastle’s Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei hungry to fight on

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KNOCKOUT: Newcastle’s Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei will fight in Sydney on Saturday. Picture: Getty ImagesHAVING a change of opponent just three weeks from fight night causes chaos for most fighters, given they’ve spent months scouting their opposition, tailoring training to work on a specific fight plan.
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But Newcastle-born Soa “The Hulk” Palelei is so focused he’s only concerned with the things in his control, and given the shape he’s in, whoever steps into the UFC Octagon at Allphones Arena in Sydney will be hard pressed to stop him.

Originally scheduled to fight tough Daniel Omielanczuk from Poland, he’ll now face American Walt Harris at UFC Fight Night 55.

Speaking to Palelei from Thailand, where he’s preparing, you can tell he’s all business.

“I’m here to train and focus on training. All you do here is wake up, train, go home, sleep, eat, wake up, train . . . so there’s no distraction.”

The 36-year-old, who was raised in Mayfield, is training at the Thai arm of the famed A.K.A. – home to current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and light-heavyweight title contender Daniel Cormier – and “The Hulk” is in career-best shape.

Today, November 8, he meets a man who he knows will be desperate.

Harris was cut from the UFC after tasting consecutive defeats to Jared Rosholt and Nikita Krylov. But an injury to Omielanczuk saw Harris granted a reprieve – something Palelei knows a thing or two about.

Palelei had his first taste of the UFC in 2007 when he arrived in the promotion with much fanfare before suffering a disappointing third-round TKO defeat to Eddie Sanchez.

The loss saw the UFC send Palelei packing at a time when the Australian was going through a turbulent period of his life.

But it was a loss that changed everything.

“A lot of things happened in 2007, just with family and things like that,” he said. “After that fight, I went back to Perth and sat on the couch for a couple of years and I woke up one day and thought, I don’t want to be 50 years old and thinking to myself, ‘I should have given it another shot’.

“That’s when I started pushing and training hard, and here I am.”

The long climb back to the UFC began, with the fighter splitting his time between several local promotions, before 10 wins in 11 fights saw Palelei given his chance at redemption.

His second stint in the promotion began well, with a TKO victory over Nikita Krylov, a man who has previously vanquished his UFC Fight Night 55 opponent Harris.

He followed that win with a first-round demolition of Pat Barry, repeating the dose in his next bout with Ruan Potts.

But in June this year, the plan came unstuck. Jared Rosholt brought Palelei’s climb up the rankings to a halt with a unanimous points victory. It ended Palelei’s 11-fight win streak.

But it won’t derail his dream: “It’s not really a setback; you just have to keep going forward. If you lose, you lose. You just have to get back on the horse and that’s what I’ve done.

“You’re going to lose, everyone has their losses, and it’s a wake-up call. After that fight it made me not want to lose again and that’s why I’m in Thailand. A lot of my camps were done in Australia but I’ve changed everything now and made the move over to Thailand and we’ll see what happens on November 8.”

For now, Palelei’s aim is to continue to climb the UFC heavyweight rankings to his MMA dreams, with defeats ensuring his UFC contract hangs in the balance.

“I want to make the top 10. I want to get the gold strap, but I want to keep pushing and keep improving and I’m excited for this fight, especially being in Sydney.”

Brosque to face late fitness test

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Wanderers bring fresh legs for NZ tripAdelaide City v Sydney FC: The lowdownWellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers: The lowdown
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Sydney FC star Alex Brosque will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness for Friday night’s clash with Adelaide United at Hindmarsh, after badly rolling his ankle in last week’s win over Central Coast.

Brosque suffered the injury in the final few minutes of the 2-0 victory and grimaced in pain as he headed for the bench. The expectation was the left-sided forward would miss one or even two weeks.

However, he was quickly cleared of any serious damage and after some light work on the training ground this week, coach Graham Arnold said he was not ruling Brosque out just yet.

“He’ll travel down with us and have a late fitness test,” Arnold said at training on Thursday. “His ankle is not as bad as first thought and then we’ll take it from there. I’d say he’s 50-50 at this stage. He’s done some work in the pool. He’s moving around. He’s much better than what he was. Everyone else is good.”

Unbeaten after four rounds and equal top of the table, the Sky Blues are positive about their prospects of going to Hindmarsh and taking on one of the league’s other in-form teams.

“The mood is good and everyone is always happy when you’re winning, but it’s only round four,” Arnold said. “We’ve had a good start to the season but Adelaide away is a tough test. Everybody is talking about them being one of the favourites this year. We have the experience of playing against them a couple of weeks ago in the FFA Cup, so hopefully we learn from lessons from that game and we look forward to tomorrow night.”

The experience of stifling Brisbane Roar – another possession-oriented team – at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago holds Sydney in good stead to repeat the dose against the Reds.

“We need to make sure we play to the game plan and make sure we make it difficult for Adelaide,” Arnold said. “There’s going to be big crowd and it’s a wonderful stadium to play at.

“We’ve shown this year we’ve got two or three ways of playing. You saw against Brisbane we pressed the hell out of them up there and we forced their turnovers up high in the first half against the Mariners. But we’re also capable of dropping off, defending in our own half and hitting teams on the counter.

“Whichever way will come up tomorrow, we always come up with plan A, B, and C. Whichever plan we need to win the game, we’ll use.”

Asked if there was any “revenge factor” after being knocked out of the FFA Cup by Adelaide a few weeks ago, Arnold said: “No, not at all. You can’t get revenge on referees, can you?”

The coach said he had done something that night he “would never have done” in the league – switching to a back three late as they chased the win, despite being down to 10 men after Nikola Petkovic’s dismissal.

“When he got sent off I went man-on-man at the back because it’s all about trying to get a result in a Cup competition,” he said. “In a normal league game, I’d have brought on another central defender and kept a back four. They ended up getting us in extra time, but that’s Cup football. They capitalised on that night, but it’s up to us to change that on Friday.”

Meanwhile, the Sky Blues have also been celebrating a huge week for Terry Antonis. After being called up to the national team on Wednesday for this month’s friendly with Japan, he was named as October’s young footballer of the month on Thursday.

Arnold hailed the youngster as “outstanding”.

“I think Terry’s got all the qualities to be an international footballer,” Arnold said. “Technically he’s outstanding, physically he’s getting better, tactically he’s still got things to learn. “But the best thing about Terry is he’s very open-minded and willing to learn. He’s always asking for more information and looking for players to model himself on.”

Nikita Rukavytsya and Seyi Adeleke poised for Western Sydney debuts

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“It’s obviously not nice when you don’t play and just train but I’m excited now”: Nikita Rukavytsya. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
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“It’s obviously not nice when you don’t play and just train but I’m excited now”: Nikita Rukavytsya. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

“It’s obviously not nice when you don’t play and just train but I’m excited now”: Nikita Rukavytsya. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

“It’s obviously not nice when you don’t play and just train but I’m excited now”: Nikita Rukavytsya. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

The Western Sydney Wanderers could welcome two new faces to their line-up against Wellington on Friday night, with Nikita Rukavytsya and Seyi Adeleke a chance of making their club debuts.

Rukavytsya and Adeleke boarded a flight to New Zealand with their Wanderers teammates on Thursday night, poised to make their first appearance for Western Sydney five days after the club’s Asian Champions League triumph.

Rukavytsya may even start up front for Tony Popovic, with Brendon Santalab due to undergo surgery on the shoulder he injured in the first leg of the ACL final at Parramatta Stadium.

“Everything is good,” Rukavytsya said.

“I couldn’t play last game because of registrations stuff but finally I can play. I don’t know if I’m in the team. It’s obviously not nice when you don’t play and just train but I’m excited now. I couldn’t do anything but it was still nice to get more training with a few of the boys. I’ve been very impressed with the team, the boys and the coaching staff.”

Vitor Saba is out through suspension after he copped a red card in the Sydney derby in round two, which will likely see Mark Bridge in the middle, Labinot Haliti on the left edge and Romeo Castelen on the right.

It is believed Shannon Cole and Kwabena Appiah didn’t travel with the team to New Zealand, which could allow for Adeleke to make his first appearance in the red and black.

The Nigerian signed with the Wanderers in August but was unable to travel to Australia until his visa application was approved due to strict immigration quarantine measures relating to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Wanderers might still be flying high after being crowned the kings of Asia, but back home they have their work cut out for them trying to kick-start their A-League campaign.

They are glued to the bottom of the ladder after failing to pick up a point in their first two matches against Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC.

Their cross-town rivals are having no such difficulty, enjoying an unbeaten start to the season, and will take on Adelaide United away from home in a top-of-the-table showdown at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

Sydney FC, Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory are all equal on top of the ladder with 10 points from four games, winning three and drawing one of their first four matches.

The Wanderers have two games in hand but have a difficult week to follow after their long trek to Saudi Arabia last week.

They had only three days to recover before flying out to Wellington on Thursday night, and will next week have a tough trip for their Saturday night clash against Perth Glory on the other side of the country.

Those two away games will be followed by four consecutive matches at home, before they fly to Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup.

“We concentrated on Champions League but now that it’s finished, we’re back concentrating on the league,” Rukavytsya said.

“Only two games is not a big deal. It is a long season and we still have time. We are really concentrating on this game tomorrow. It should be good.”

Set Square repays trainer Ciaron Maher’s faith with Victoria Oaks triumph

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Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing
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Ciaron Maher, with those unmistakable long curly locks and sunglasses straight out of a highway patrol officer’s console, is never going to be missed in a crowd.

As unconventional as he looks, some will say it is nothing compared with the unfashionable horseflesh which thrives under his care. Stayers, jumpers, anything he can patch together and he get over some sort of trip is the Maher forte.

But cuddling a horse from a Donald maiden in September to win a Victoria Oaks over a gruelling 2500 metres at just her fourth start, surely that is about as funky as it can get?

“She’s been one out of the box,” Maher said, with more than a hint of understatement after nabbing his second group 1 win seven years after his first. “I didn’t actually think she would get to the races this time around, because as she started getting into her preparation she started to lighten off a little bit.”

As Maher tells the story, he was close to pulling the plug on Set Square’s maiden preparation without even booking a float to take her to the races.

“I told that to [part-owner] Ken King and as soon as I did she just thrived,” Maher said. “It’s unbelievable.”

And what is even more unbelievable is how the least experienced filly, in an Oaks field brimming with depth if the main protagonists were to be believed, just kept on running away from her rivals on Thursday.

So meteoric has been the rise of Set Square, Maher had not even bothered to pay up for the Oaks and later had historians scrambling for the record books. But after the daughter of Reset streaked away with the Ethereal Stakes last start, he thought they better fork out the $55,000 for the late-entry fee.

How that looks like chicken feed compared with the $600,000 bounty in the bank on Friday morning.

“We obviously didn’t enter her and we thought if she could win the Ethereal Stakes [we might], but the way she won that race and the way she came on from there [made it an easy decision],” Maher said. “Every time we put a saddle on her she just seems to get better.”

The win capped a Flemington roller-coaster for jockey Hugh Bowman, who chalked up his second Victoria Oaks win after Samantha Miss sizzled in 2008.

Bowman was set to miss most of the most important week of the year after being outed for improper riding on the Maher-trained Moonovermanhattan in the Caulfield Classic. He appealed and had the ban reduced.

It did not prevent him from losing the Victoria Derby-winning ride on Preferment, but Nick Hall’s decision to abandon Set Square in favour of eventual Oaks favourite Lumosty was small compensation.

“Racing is a funny game and you’ve got to keep putting yourself in the positions and it’s an honour to get the opportunity,” Bowman said. “I’ve had limited opportunities this week, but I thought I had some nice rides today. I thought she was a really good chance and she delivered.”

Opting to settle his filly well back in the field, Bowman weaved a passage when the tiring leaders turned for home at the top of the straight.

Hall looked to have a lapful of horse underneath him with Lumosty, but once she got to the lead could not let down. It allowed Bowman and Set Square to pounce, eventually sinking John Sargent’s bid for back-to-back Oaks with Wakeful Stakes winner Thunder Lady.

She was 1-1/2 lengths away in second, while Robbie Laing’s Golconda snuck up the inside to be a further neck back in third.

“There was no question at all [she would stay],” Maher said of the winner. “I train a lot of stayers and jumpers … and she always had a good constitution. She breathed [well] and had that real staying type action. There was never any question with the trip, it was whether she had the experience to win a race like this.”

As for Smerdon’s highly spruiked trio, led home by a tiring Lumosty in sixth, in front of more than 64,000 racegoers?

“It was clear Lumosty didn’t stay, but we can’t forget she had very good two-year-old form and we’ll look forward to the autumn trying her at 1600-metre events,” Smerdon said.

“And you can’t forget she raced through the end of the winter into the spring, so she’s done a good job and so has Crafty. She, too, has had a long campaign and just felt the ground today. But she will go to Sydney for the Oaks and there’s always the likelihood of a bit of cut in the track, which will help her no end.”

Meanwhile, Damien Oliver’s week took a turn for the worse after he was banned for 10 meetings for careless riding after his winning ride on Onemorezeta in the third at Flemington on Thursday.

Oliver, who had a group 1 double on Derby day and also booted home Vain Queen on Oaks day, will miss the Sandown Cup meeting next week. He will be able to return for the stand-alone Ballarat Cup meeting.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

Trevor Chappell adds fielding expertise to NSW Blues

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New South Wales have turned to the youngest of the cricketing Chappell brothers in an effort to hone their fielding skills in the defence of their Sheffield Shield title.
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Trevor Chappell’s career was unfortunately overshadowed by one of the game’s greatest controversies – the underarm delivery he bowled against New Zealand more than 30 years ago, at the instruction of his brother and captain Greg – but the former Australian all-rounder was also a brilliant fieldsman.

It is a skill that let Australia down in the past fortnight in the United Arab Emirates – they dropped 11 catches in their 2-0 series hammering by Pakistan – and Chappell hopes his fielding expertise can rub off on the Blues.

“It doesn’t help when you’re dropping catches as well,” said the 62-year-old, who joined the NSW squad at training on Thursday at the request of acting head coach Geoff Lawson. “If the bowlers are struggling to get wickets, they need all the help they can get.

“I think it’s one of those things – when you’re under pressure, the fielding can lapse as well and when every wicket is important the fielders are under a bit more pressure.

“It’s great to be involved at this level again.”

A former national coach of Bangladesh, and fielding coach with Sri Lanka, Chappell’s fielding process was honed playing baseball, a game his decorated brothers Ian and Greg also loved before going on to captain Australia.

“I really enjoyed fielding myself,” Chappell said. “We all used to play baseball as well, up until they changed it to a summer game in the late 60s and that aspect of baseball I loved too, the fielding.

“It’s a vital part of cricket … and with the shorter versions of the game now you just can’t hide anybody anywhere. You can’t afford to have a weak link in the field really. Baseball has always been like that. You couldn’t have a weak second baseman or shortstop – you’ll keep letting people get on base. The same has probably always applied in cricket, but probably the last 30 years the importance of it has been shown. And the shorter the game gets, the more important the fielding gets.”

Bowraville murders: inquiry recommends crime law review

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At left from top: Murder victims Evelyn Greenup, Colleen Walker-Craig and Clinton Speedy-Duroux. Main Picture, from left: Barbara Greenup-Davis who is an aunt to Evelyn, who ws one of the children murdered. Stacey Kelly-Greenup cousin of Evelyn and Patricia Carriage, another aunty to Evelyn. Pictured outside the gates of Parliament, holding the report findings on Thursday. Photo: Peter RaeAUTHORITIES failed the families of three Aboriginal children murdered in Bowraville 24 years ago and crime laws should be reviewed to bring an “evil” serial killer to justice, according to a NSW parliamentary inquiry that brought many MPs to tears.
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No one has ever been convicted for the murders of Colleen Walker-Craig, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, in the early 1990s, despite police, legal experts and the victims’ families saying they know who was responsible.

A parliamentary report has unanimously recommended that the government review a disputed technicality in the Crimes Act which has prevented the murder cases from going to retrial.

Colleen Walker-Craig’s body has never been found.

It also called for any new retrial application to be considered by an independent assessor, such as a retired senior judge, in the hope that “this will bring the families one step closer to their ultimate aim, justice”.

The children disappeared from the same road in the northern NSW town over a five-month period from September 1990.

Jay Hart, a white man who was close to the indigenous community and whonow lives at Lake Macquarie, was tried for two of the crimes but acquitted.

He was also a suspect in Colleen’s murder, but her body has never been found.

Clinton Speedy-Duroux was 16 years old.

MPs paid tribute to the grieving families of the murdered children, who have fought tirelessly against perceived failings in the legal system for more than two decades. The families packed the public gallery of the NSW upper house on Thursday.

MPs delivered emotional addresses to the chamber, including Greens MP David Shoebridge, who instigated the inquiry, and the committee’s chair, Liberal MP David Clarke.

“A killer whose crimes constitute evil at its very darkest and most depraved is still free,” Mr Clarke said.

“Justice demands that the killer of these three children whose lives were brutally cut short … should be brought to account.”

Many MPs spoke of how the inquiry had united colleagues of all political stripes. Nationals MP Sarah Mitchell spoke of sobbing after having heard evidence from the children’s families, and described the inquiry as “life-changing”.

Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, who has worked on the case since 1996, had told the inquiry the families “have been let down by the justice system”.

“I have been investigating crimes for 20 years and I am still shocked by the lack of interest that has been shown in this matter,” he said in evidence.

“We know who is responsible for the serial killing of three children but that person has not been brought to justice.”

Supporters of a retrial had claimed critical leads were not explored by police in the initial investigation, and have not been heard by a court. Police, who initially claimed Evelyn had “gone walkabout”, have been accused of racism and incompetence.

Detective Inspector Jubelin says subsequent investigations have uncovered significant coincidences that link all three murders and tie them to Mr Hart, who has changed his name.

In 2012, the children’s families asked then attorney-general Greg Smith to apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal for a new trial, which would lead to all three murder cases being heard together.

Mr Smith refused the application. Among the reasons, he cited advice that an acquitted person can be retried only if there is fresh and compelling evidence which has not already been “adduced” in court.

It was widely believed that debate over the meaning of the word “adduced” – and whether it means “presented” or “admitted” to a court – was preventing the case from going to retrial. The inquiry said the government should clarify the definition of “adduced” as soon as possible.

The report acknowledged the families’ experience of the initial police investigation, trials and appeal process “has been largely ill-fated to date”.

“We have met with the families on several occasions throughout this inquiry, and can attest that even though these crimes occurred 23 years ago, the pain and suffering that they have endured remains very alive today, having been exacerbated by their experience of the justice system,” it said.

The committee formally acknowledged the families’ grief, adding that this had been “significantly and unnecessarily contributed to” by the system’s failings.

The report also called for improvements to police policies and procedures, and Aboriginal cultural awareness training for legal practitioners, MPs and parliamentary staff.

It also called for improvements to the way juries are directed to hear Aboriginal evidence, taking into account cultural and linguistic factors. Mental health services in Bowraville and Tenterfield should be examined and funding assistance provided to beautify and maintain memorials dedicated to the children, it said.

SIMON WALKER: The trick is to just loosen up

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Not everyone loves Halloween, but to polar bears, natives of the northern hemisphere, it’s a cultural thing. SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive
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JEEPERS Creepers, Herald reader Kent Gray’s letter last week about hating Halloween really got the social media pumpkin rolling.

In terms of issues that spark online venting, this was right up there with kids at cafes, banning the burqa and anything to do with dogs.

Kent, to summarise, basically can’t stand kids coming round to his house uninvited looking for lollies on Halloween.

He reckons it’s an abuse of his privacy, un-Australian, a ploy by business to fleece the “sheeple” and bad parenting that puts kids at risk of something nasty, possibly wearing a “Scream” mask and wielding a cleaver.

And I have to say, I sympathise with Kent, because I’m no real Halloween fan either.

One code-breaker in the cyber community suggested Kent’s name was actually a word-play wind-up – Kent being a variety of pumpkin and gray being, well, a colour, possibly of some pumpkins.

But Kent is a real person and certainly wound up as he responded robustly online to all the “social creative” types who concurred, almost to an avatar, that he was a Grinch.

Got to love diversity of opinion on the internet.

But again, I have to say I agreed wholeheartedly with Kent last Friday when I drove home from work.

I was hot, I was bothered and I was not looking forward to Halloween. In fact, I forgot it was on. I was looking forward to beer.

And so, as I wove through an army of what looked like mini-Harry Potters in my street, I thought “who was that middle- age blonde waving to me out the front of Deidre’s house?” (Names have been changed to protect the innocents in my street, whom I nearly ran over.)

Then it dawned. Halloween.

Alas, as fate would have it, HSC ended that week in our house too, and a party to end all parties (or begin, depending on how you look at finishing the HSC) was planned in town that night, which my daughter and half the student cohort of the region would be attending, with me the designated delivery and possible retrieval man.

Like Halloween, I’d forgotten about that too.

The moment I arrived home my eldest demanded we drive immediately to someone’s house to pick up shoes and a hair straightener for the colossal letting down of HSC straight hair.

The only upside to this delay in getting beer seemed I wouldn’t have to hide in the house away from the Halloweeners.

Like Kent, I don’t dig having to answer the door and be nice, particularly on a Friday afternoon tonguing for a coldie. And not just because I don’t have any lollies ready. Although that may have helped.

Door to door salesmen, Mormons or Jehovahs get the same reception. Talk to the hand.

Anyhow, without further ado I was back out in Friday afternoon traffic, consoled by the fact I wasn’t at home sneering at kids allegedly having fun, but behind a wheel doing so.

Kent is indeed right that someone is making money out of the adoption, right or wrong, of this tradition – American, Celtic or otherwise. Probably the confectionary and daggy costumes business.

There was a lot of talk online about where Halloween originated and whether we should ban similar foreign cultural incursions like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and KFC. For the record, I’m partial to the idea of brushing Christmas come November. I’m a little less stressed about it by February.

But Australia is open for business, right?

And I’m open to Australia. So long as it doesn’t block my path back to the house for beer after picking up hair straighteners. Which happened at least once on Friday.

I swear Halloween this year was the biggest manifestation I’ve witnessed yet. Kids and parents everywhere.

Australia is obviously embracing it.

But did it mean I had to? No, it meant I had to drop one of my kids off to the big party in town, and then go pick up another from, of all things, a Halloween party.

Yes, my youngest, like so many, recognises there is nothing to hate about getting dressed up and door knocking for lollies.

She also realises that time marches on and next year she may well be mistaken for a parent. So she took up the offer to hit the streets with her mates.

Regardless of whether I liked Halloween or not, I helped perpetrate it.

And when I got to the designated pick-up house, it was clear that everyone who had participated in the event had had a great time too.

Even the hoons that yelled offensive things at my daughter’s gang.

So, suitably enlightened, I accepted an offer to have that beer on the designated pick-up parents’ back verandah and ponder how it doesn’t hurt to loosen up.

It’s a funny old world when you can’t tell the diff between a trick and a treat, but in the end the trick about Halloween is to treat it for what it is, a bit of fun, until someone gets a sugar headache.

Growing our own

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SELF-SUFFICIENT: Paul Luscombe, of Newcastle Backyard Farms, far left, and Mark Brown and Kate Beveridge, of Purple Pear Farm, below. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll and Peter StoopIT’S not a new idea – being directly responsible for what we eat.
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Our forebears got by largely on what they produced themselves, but somehow, over the past 100 years, we have – en masse – handed our food security over to big business.

From about 1900 onwards, fruit trees, chicken coops and vegetable gardens gradually began to disappear from the urban landscape – possibly as blocks got smaller and women traded duties at home for increasing hours in the workplace.

That trend accelerated, along with automation of the home, after World War II.

Across the land, an accepting public shopped happily in the high streets and big malls, rather heading out the back door to pull a carrot or two from the kitchen garden.

But scroll forward 70 years and now we have entered a new era – where questions on just what we are eating have become a growing concern.

This stream of social consciousness is being borne out at every farmers’ market and in every cafe around the country – the dialogue about where food is produced and sourced. Whether it is ethically and environmentally good for both us as well as the producers and animals in the supply chain. How many kilometres it is trucked and how long it is stored before it reaches us, the consumers?

Many wish they had the ability to opt out of the food supply chain. Others are just giving it a go.

The trend to “grow your own” led to a renaissance in the 1970s when permaculture pioneers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren identified a way of growing food based on an integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.

Since then “permies”, as they are known, have often been stereotyped as “mung bean-eating hippies” – a little on the wild side.

But in recent times, as the notion of sustainability has crept back into the minds of the public, permaculture has again come to the fore.

As a movement, permaculture has attracted more interest internationally than it has on Australian soil.

The reasons why are a no-brainer if you take the time to understand the science.

Modern farming methods are based on monoculture – growing just one crop in the same place, year after year – an approach which permies say leaves the farmer open to a range of problems such as soil erosion, pest plagues and disease.

By contrast, permaculture emulates how nature grows – mixing it up year on year with fewer problems and no interference.

Broadly, permaculturists aim for a balanced closed-loop system where every element influences the other in a positive way.

African website Never Ending Food (neverendingfood上海龙凤论坛) defines the four basic principles thus:

– Working with nature rather than against it.

– Thoughtful observation rather than thoughtless labour.

– Each element should perform many functions rather than one.

– Everything is connected to everything else.

Permaculture consultant, designer and teacher, Geoff Lawton, who is based in The Channon in northern NSW, has worked in 35 countries teaching people how to live and eat in a sustainable way, even in arid desert environments such as Jordan.

His online videos talk about the unnecessary disconnect that exists for many people and their personal food security and just how easy it is instead to create food and in turn, lifestyle abundance.

One case study – Lessons from the Rustbelt – profiles the systemic failure of US industrialised cities such as Holyoke in Massachusetts.

Once regarded as the industrial heartland of the US, the Rustbelt nurtured traditional manufacturing industries such as paper, cotton, steel and coal on a large scale, but it has suffered economic decline, population lows and urban decay since the mid-20th century.

Lawton believes Holyoke is a symbol of what could be our future in Australia.

The irony shouldn’t be lost on Novocastrians whose own economic history has ridden the tides of both coal and steel.

And it isn’t.

Just as Newcastle is undergoing a revitalisation in a development sense, so is consumer interest in food origins and seasonality.

Take a look at the Facebook page of restaurants such as Estabar at Newcastle Beach and you’ll know exactly where they source their eggs – from Papanui Open Range Eggs in the Hunter Valley, rather than an obscure label on a supermarket shelf.

Farmers’ markets too are well patronised now, more so than at any time for decades.

But, rather than a fleeting trend, those at the coalface of permaculture are optimistic that the attitudinal change towards home-grown, local, fresh and organic is permanent.

Two local farms doing what they can to plant these small seeds of change into our social fabric, through both education and practical application, are Newcastle Backyard Farms and Purple Pear Farm.

Newcastle Backyard Farms has a focus on helping locals grow food in their backyards.

Owned by Paul Luscombe, it specialises in urban permaculture and design, and its services include gardening advice and consultations through to the complete design and build of a sustainable, edible garden.

Luscombe, a graduate of Lawton’s Permaculture Design Course, is busy transforming a large urban garden in Cardiff into a food paradise, which will not only sustain its owner, but potentially provide farm-gate products such as jams and chutneys into the future.

When complete, the 1500-square-metre block will be filled with bird and bee-attracting natives, an orchard, a tropical pleasure garden, chickens, bees and a massive kitchen garden in a succession of wicking beds.

The essential permaculture principle – self-sustainability – is key and so the garden also includes privacy screening plants such as clumping bamboo and sugar cane which will also produce mulch for the gardens.

Weeds too have their place, given their propensity to flower profusely and provide forage for the bees.

Ground not planted to produce is left to its own devices, a principle most purveyors of “lawn culture” will struggle with.

But Luscombe suggests the sceptics give consideration to the lunacy of growing a crop just for walking on.

“Growing lawn is a lot of effort for very little return in contrast to a vegetable garden which is low on input, both financially and in ongoing maintenance, and it yields tangible returns in the form of highly nutritious food.”

Luscombe too cites cities in the US such as Detroit, where large areas have been left abandoned in the fallout of the global financial crisis.

“The urban farming movement has grown in leaps and bounds out of necessity.

“The residents there have been left without the supply chains that we all rely on in developed countries and so have had to provide for themselves,” he says.

“Now those derelict areas have thriving market gardens springing up on vacant land helping to sustain the residents left there.

“Some would argue this turn of events has seen those people’s diets take on a marked improvement thanks to the establishment of the gardens, not to mention the social capital gained by bringing people together for a mutually beneficial activity like growing food,” Luscombe says.

Food insecurity seems a world away from Australia.

But it is reality for a growing number here too. Figures released last month from FoodBank – Australia’s largest hunger relief charity – tell the story.

In 2014, low-income working families made up the largest group seeking assistance in the form of food donations.

They are followed by single-parent families and the unemployed.

The Foodbank Hunger Report 2014 reveals that it provides food relief for more than half a million Australians every month, more than a third of whom are children.

Foodbank Australia chief executive Jason Hincks says 60,000 a month are turned away, including 24,000 children.

“No child should have to worry about where their next meal will come from, yet a shocking number of Aussie kids are in this position every year,” Hincks says.

It’s an unsettling notion when one considers the sheer amount of what could be food-producing land that Australians devote to lawn-clad sporting fields, parks and street verges.

Some people are reticent about planting food on the nature strip but Luscombe said US urban permaculture practitioners were finding that once a front yard was converted to food production, they got more work in that street after people saw their neighbours harvesting food instead of mowing and hedging.

He acknowledged though that some who had tried verge gardens in Australia had had to do battle with local councils, either before or after the fact.

In some cases, good reasons did exist for saying no.

Luscombe said that in Newcastle permaculture was a tough sell because of the firmly entrenched low-maintenance “lawn culture”.

One reason could be a lack of education. Though growing food may be an ancient practice, it is one that many profess to having little knowledge of and even less confidence to try.

PURPLE Pear Farm offers courses in food production at a fully functional permaculture farm at Anambah, on the outskirts of Maitland.

Driving onto the property, visitors are greeted by a flock of noisy geese, jokingly referred to as “the doorbell” by the farmers.

Pigs, cows, chickens, a dog and guinea pigs make up Purple Pear’s menagerie, all playing their part in the farm’s production cycle.

Run by Kate Beveridge and Mark Brown, Purple Pear Farm was cultivated on arid, acidic land “to see if it was possible to make it usable”.

It was, and now Purple Pear produces all kinds of fruit and vegetables in its mandala system, a group of smaller garden beds functioning in a cyclical manner.

While one bed is ready to harvest, one is half-grown, another is newly sown, another is being eaten and turned by chickens and yet another is ready to be planted.

Broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, rhubarb, beetroot, and a huge range of fruit trees are scattered throughout the property.

Whatever is ripe and seasonal is used by the family and the surplus is sold to regular customers – 20 local families – by the box.

The emphasis is on eating what is fresh and available.

So the farm might not be able to provide strawberries in winter, but that’s because they are not in season.

Beveridge says sometimes customers complained there was too much in the boxes so she also provides tips on how to use the produce.

The service is already fully subscribed.

The farm’s ideals centre largely around self-sufficiency and reducing the environmental impact of food growth through low food miles.

At an average of five kilometres a box, the farm is contributing to its mantra of eating and growing locally.

Farm tours and meetings are welcomed and encouraged, and Brown says the farm often attracted the interest of mothers with new babies, who were starting to really look at what went into modern food production.

Dedicated to teaching others about permaculture, Purple Pear offers all sorts of classes and experiences including a permaculture design course, introduction to permaculture, lessons on mandalas, classes on sourdough and preserving, cheese and yoghurt making, worm farming, composting and propagation, urban food production, grafting and biodynamics.

The farm even offers children’s birthday parties and gift vouchers.

House of the week: Swansea

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House of the week: Swansea Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects
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Pacific Drive, Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects

Pacific Drive, Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects

Pacific Drive, Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects

Pacific Drive, Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects

Pacific Drive, Swansea home. Mark Lawler Architects

TweetFacebookTHERE’S something serene about waking up in a home that offers an vista across an ocean that winks back at you in the morning sunlight.

Those who can afford – or inherit – a beachside abode may have an enviable lifestyle from the footpath, but building on the coast requires an intensified consideration of two things: durability and privacy.

“Durability becomes a much bigger concern when building a home opposite the ocean,” Mark Lawler says.

“It can be beautiful in summer but we have to think about all seasons, so knowing where the wind and the weather is coming from and providing that weather protection, while opening up the views to the sun is important too,” he says. “It is also important to be considerate of privacy. It’s great to have a view, but you have to consider there will be people in the street and you don’t want to feel like your house is on exhibition.”

Lawler, director of Mark Lawler Architects, was approached by a client in March 2011 to design their new home off Swansea Heads.

The site formerly held a miner’s cottage that was being occasionally enjoyed as a holiday home and had already survived one transportation from the structure’s original place of birth – somewhere near Kurri.

After a swift bulldoze, Lawler and his team started from the ground up, completing an ultra-modern three-bedroom, two-bathroom home complete with double garage and rolling views across the water from both levels.

The exterior of the house enjoys an unusual asymmetrical facade constructed using Hebel’s PowerPanel- a lightweight, aerated concrete with a render and paint finish on top.

“It’s got excellent thermal and acoustic properties and the rendering gives it a tough skin, stops the wind and the sand eroding the home,” Lawler says.

The ground level of the home was elevated by one metre to maximise on the view while ensuring that privacy wasn’t compromised.

This level includes the combined living, dining and kitchen space, as well as a wing located at the exterior with two guest bedrooms and a guest bathroom.

The living space was designed with a seamless orientation towards the sea.

The clean, simplistic lines of the built-in shelving in the living area comfortably encase a sleek gas fireplace and a flat-screen television which is mounted into a tailor-made indent in the wall.

“While furniture is often cheaper, it doesn’t have the quality of the appearance of something built specifically for that wall and it doesn’t facilitate the exact arrangement of shelves,” Lawler explains.

“Built-in furniture looks much more sophisticated and well-fit to the space as opposed to chunky furnishings.”

The kitchen is contemporary and clean, with a generous floating island bench made of caesarstone and measuring 1200 millimetres wide.

One side hides storage, while the other is the perfect height for a smatter of modern bar stools tucked beneath the slab of sandy-coloured caesarstone.

Blackbutt floorboards are laid in a variety of shades.

“Most of our clients want a hard-wearing, durable surface in their living area,” Lawler says. “It loans the space that indoor-outdoor relationship. With beachside living in this instance, floorboards are unpretentious about sand, as well as just looking warmer.”

The master bedroom is located upstairs, alongside a second living area and study.

“When they initially approached me, they knew they really wanted to put their bedroom upstairs to get the benefit of the view,” Lawler says.

“They can see the dolphins and the whales from up there but bystanders can’t see the clients.”

Victoria’s desalination plant cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars despite delivery of no water

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State election full coverageLive blog: Victoria votes
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Victorian taxpayers have paid more than half a billion dollars to the loss-making operators of the state’s desalination plant, despite it producing no water in the year to June 30.

New accounts filed by the consortium in charge of the desalination plant, Aquasure Pty Ltd, show the state government paid $254.34 million in “operational water service revenue” during the 2014 financial year.

Operational water service revenue is a payment made by the government for simply having the desalination plant available, regardless of whether it is used, and the 2014 payment was substantially higher than the $133 million paid in the 2013 financial year.

The consortium also received $383 million in other fees during the 2014 financial year, which were described as “repayments” of a service concession.

The figures were revealed in documents filed to the corporate regulator in recent days, and suggest slightly more has been paid to Aquasure than the $630.4 million that was suggested earlier this year.

The desalination plant was commissioned at the height of the drought by the Bracks Labor government in 2007, and the final construction milestone was achieved later than scheduled in October 2013.

Improved rainfall and a change in government have ensured that the plant has never produced water for Melbourne, aside from test volumes that were pumped into Melbourne’s dams to prove the plant’s competence.

Despite the lucrative revenue stream from Victorian taxpayers and an income tax refund of $169.8 million, Aquasure slumped to a $396.2 million loss in the 2014 financial year.

Unisuper – the university superannuation fund – has the largest individual stake in Aquasure. Other major owners include Macquarie Bank, Japanese trading house Itochu, desalination builder Degremont and several Korean banks.

The owners remain confident that the desalination venture will be profitable in the longer term, given the contract lasts until September 2039.

At the end of the financial year, Aquasure re-evaluated the expected cash flows over the life of the contract and declared in its accounts that the current losses were “expected to be recovered in future periods”.

With Melbourne’s dam levels still at a very healthy 79.5 per cent of capacity, it could be some time before the desalination plant starts supplying significant amounts of water to Melbourne.

While the Coalition government appears keen to avoid using the plant if possible, it is unclear whether the election of a Labor government later this month would improve the chances of the asset being brought into use.

A spokesman for the Labor opposition declined to comment on Thursday.

Under the rules governing the project, the government must advise Aquasure each April of the amount of water required to be produced and pumped to city dams for the subsequent financial year.

Water Minister Peter Walsh introduced rules in August that require Melbourne Water to pay “all monies” that the state is liable for under the original desalination project deed.