‘I really thought I was going to lay there and die’: Wombat mauls woman walking dogs in Canberra

Banks woman Kerry Evans was attacked by a wombat while walking dogs Murphy and Pirate (pictured) in the suburban street of Tom Roberts Avenue in Banks, ACT. Photo: Karleen Minney One of the bites Banks woman Kerry Evans sustained when she was attacked by a wombat. Photo: Dave Evans

Wombats have a reputation for being cute and cuddly but a woman mauled by one in Canberra has warned others to stay away from the marsupials.

Kerry Evans suffered more than 20 bites and lacerations across her body after she was attacked by a large wombat while walking her dogs in a suburban street in Banks, in south Canberra, on Monday night.

She toldFairfax Media she was taking her two English springer spaniels along their usual route on Tom Roberts Avenue about 7.30pm when she saw what appeared to be a “large boulder” ahead in a front yard.

“I thought ‘I don’t remember seeing this before’ and I got quite close to it and I saw it move and all of a sudden it dawned on me what it was,” Mrs Evans said.

The wombat charged her dog, Murphy, which began yelping and tried to flee.

In the chaos, Mrs Evans became tangled in the leads and was knocked to the ground.

That’s when the wombat turned on her, she said.

“I was laying screaming for help, I couldn’t get away from it, every time I managed to get up it attacked me and bit me and knocked me to the ground,” she said.

“I really thought I was going to lay there and die that night because I just couldn’t see how I was going to get way from it, it just wasn’t stopping its attack.”

A neighbour and nearby driver were able to intervene, an act Mrs Evans said may have saved her life.

“One woman screamed ‘let go of the dogs’ and I wouldn’t because my dogs were terrified, I was scared of them running off in the dark so both ladies approached from different angles and grabbed the dogs off me and got away pretty quickly because they were scared of being attacked themselves,” she said.

“Then I managed to get to my feet and get away to the lady who was screaming ‘come here, come here’ and the wombat just disappeared.”

Paramedics were called and Mrs Evans was taken to hospital. An ACT Health spokeswoman confirmed she was treated at Canberra Hospital on Monday night.

Three of the large, slit-like bites from the wombat’s “buck teeth” required stitches, but Mrs Evans said the real problem was the potential for infection.

“When I was in hospital I had to have quite a few bags of IV because they don’t know enough about the risk of infection from wombats,” she said.

“They even had to go and make sure I didn’t have rabies. I know that sounds silly in Australia but the doctor actually had to go and check on that.”

Mrs Evans reported the attack to ACT Parks and Conservation but rangers were unable to find the wombat, she said.

“The ranger I spoke to said he’d actually contacted a wombat carer and she said to him although she hadn’t heard of attacks, she’d seen them attack other wombats and that they could be very vicious,” Mrs Evans said.

“So she could imagine my description how it could have happened because once they start attacking, they just keep attacking and they don’t stop.”

While rare, wombat attacks on humans are not unheard of.

In 2010, a Victorian man was hospitalised after a ferocious encounter in which the animal repeatedly bit, scratched and knocked over the Black Saturday survivor.

An ACT Parks and Conservation spokesman said it was the first wombat attack they were aware of in Canberra.

“Without knowing the full details of what happened it is likely that the presence of dogs meant that the wombat felt threatened,” he said.

However, Mrs Evans said neither she nor the dogs approached the animal.

“I certainly know the dogs didn’t threaten it but whether it felt threatened I don’t know, who knows what a wombat thinks,” she said.

“The ranger did actually say to me it was really unusual because most wild wombats would get away.

“They wouldn’t let anyone get as close to it as what I did, so whether or not it was sick with mange or had been injured or was an aggressive wombat or whether it was a female with a joey in its pouch, I don’t know.”

Her message to others?

“If you see a wombat, turn around and go the other way. Do not approach it in any shape or form,” Ms Evans said.

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Queensland earthquake: Aftershocks will be felt for ‘weeks’

The location of an earthquake that struck off Bowen early on Friday morning. Photo: Geioscience AustraliaThe aftershocks from Thursday’s earthquake off the Queensland coast will be felt for “weeks”, a seismologist says, after a smaller earthquake hit near Airlie Beach on Friday.

Thursday’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake was recorded about 70 kilometres off the coast, north-east of Bowen, caused six aftershocks, including a magnitude 4, in the following hours.

Three schools and Cairns airport were shut down temporarily, while several buildings in Townsville’s CBD were evacuated.

On Friday, residents and tourists at Airlie Beach woke to a magnitude three earthquake that occurred nearby at 7.37am.

Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Jonathan Bathgate said the aftershocks would continue for weeks.

“We would expect the aftershock sequence from yesterday to continue for a while, a few weeks at least, but apart from that we really can’t predict if there is going to be another sequence somewhere along the coast,” he said.

Mr Bathgate said the aftershocks were the result of fault lines readjusting back to equilibrium.

“You get the main shock that is a really big movement of the faults and the period after that is the fault readjusting itself back to equilibrium state,” he said.

“If you move something really quickly and then let it go it takes a bit of time to reach an equilibrium state so these are all just small adjustments to get it into a point where the fault will start again to build up some stress on that fault and lock together until it goes again some time in future.”

Earthquakes occur in Queensland due to the Australian plate moving northward, about seven centimetres a year, and colliding with the Pacific plate.

This causes stress to build up, which is released by earthquakes that Mr Bathgate said could not be predicted.

“It is something we don’t know, we can’t predict where it is going to occur or when so at the moment it is just a matter of monitoring the area,” he said.

“We are sending out some extra monitoring equipment over the next week to deploy on some of the islands and along the coast line to get a better idea of where the activity is occurring and get a better idea of what is causing it.”

Mr Bathgate said the region near Bowen had been quite active over the last 18 months.

“In terms of what we have recorded, it has been active over the last 18 months, the area does have a history of activity, but it has not been as frequent as it has,” he said.

“We know the area gets earthquakes but they are generally not that common.”

The Bowen area was also hit in 2011 with a magnitude 5.3 earthquake that was significantly closer to the coast than yesterday’s incident.

Queensland’s largest recorded earthquake was a magnitude 6 in 1918 that originated near Lady Elliott Island and was felt from Mackay to Grafton.

The state’s second largest was Thursday’s earthquake, followed closely by a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in 2015 that was recorded east of Fraser Island.

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Eagles and Hawks’ reaction to ruck losses part of the riddle

Rohan Connolly will be here blogging live from midday on Monday. Jump in now to leave your question early or come back at noon to join the conversation.

It seems like every year for a long time we’ve continued to debate the importance or otherwise of ruckmen to modern football. Perhaps 2016 will be the season that settles the argument.

Certainly, in terms of that discussion, there’s been no more critical five minutes this season than the period during the third quarter at Domain Stadium on Friday night in which both West Coast’s Nic Naitanui and Hawthorn’s Jonathon Ceglar seriously injured knees.

The Eagles played arguably their best football of the season, but the mood in their rooms post-match when West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis was interviewed was sombre indeed, even before scans had confirmed Naitanui would require a reconstruction.

Ceglar, in contrast, might be a blip on the AFL profile radar compared to “Nic Nat”, but Hawthorn at least would instantly have been aware of the potential ramifications of his loss, too.

The critics haven’t held back on that front, either, several commentators immediately pronouncing both teams’ premiership aspirations finished off the back of the injuries.

A day later, almost rubbing it in for the Eagles and Hawks, Sydney were getting the job done against North Melbourne with Kurt Tippett back in harness after more than two months out with a hamstring injury. He made a pretty good fist of his ruck responsibilities with Sam Naismith, and his work up forward was good.

Here, also, was some interesting evidence for the ruck debate, the Swans’ ruck pair up against reigning All-Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein, and having the better of him in the hit-outs and, as a tandem, around the ground.

Goldstein hasn’t been nearly the same force since injuring his knee against Sydney first time around this season in round 10. Is it merely coincidence that the Roos have lost nine of their 12 games since that injury?

But then, if you’re looking for evidence that ruckmen don’t necessarily have to provide the answer to this season’s premiership puzzle, the Western Bulldogs are happy to help you out.

Their most technically adept ruckman, Will Minson, can’t even get a spot in the 22, playing just one game this season. Instead, the Dogs have gone essentially with pinch-hitters in Jordan Roughead and a combination of Tom Campbell and, more recently, Tom Boyd.

In pure hitout terms, the Dogs average fewer than all bar two other clubs. But the Dogs’ young goers have a capacity to physically grind down their ruck opponents and reduce their effectiveness. Testament to the strategy is clearance numbers which have the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 on the differentials.

So does the loss of Naitanui and Ceglar have to prove fatal for West Coast and Hawthorn? Interestingly, when West Coast were without Naitanui from rounds 13-19, they nevertheless won five of those six games. How good those wins were, however, is debatable.

They smashed stragglers Brisbane and Essendon, had an impressive home victory against North Melbourne, scraped home against Carlton and Melbourne, and lost to Collingwood.,

In every one of those games bar one, they lost both the hitouts and clearances. Intriguingly, the one exception was the Eagles winning the stoppages against Melbourne in round 18. Up against the AFL’s best in Max Gawn, West Coast, for the only time in that period, went with a double-pronged ruck set-up with Scott Lycett and Jonathan Giles.

The Eagles were only narrowly beaten for hitouts (44-46) and won the clearances (42-38). That may be a pointer to what is to come, with a potential pinch-hitter in Jeremy McGovern badly needed in defence, particularly this week against Adelaide’s forward height.

The longer-term indicators, though, aren’t good. West Coast were ranked No.1 for hitouts and fifth for clearances in 12 games before Naitanui hurt his Achilles, and 17th and 18th respectively when he was absent.

They’ve also depended heavily upon stoppage work for their scoring, ranked third in the AFL on differentials for scoring from clearances.

Ceglar and Hawthorn? Well, he and Ben McEvoy form not only a ruck pairing, but have also been important contributors up forward. Ceglar had booted 14 goals in his 19 games, and like McEvoy when off the ball, at the least help create a contest.

And yet, in that sense, the Hawks do at least have options in back-up ruckmen Jack Fitzpatrick, who has had four games back at VFL level after missing six weeks with concussion, and the far-less-experienced Marc Pittonet.

They also have another forward option in Ryan Schoenmakers, who has played two VFL games after returning from a groin injury. The Hawks could conceivably bring in both a ruckman and the forward.

And while lack of senior game time might be an issue, there’s at least some comfort in knowing that Hawthorn create the vast bulk of their scores from pressure turnovers rather than stoppage work, the Hawks ranking only 13th for scores from stoppages.

That’s a different approach to West Coast, whose modus operandi is different again from Sydney, Adelaide and the Shane Mumford-led ruck presence of Greater Western Sydney. All totally different from the Bulldogs, who continue to prosper despite in traditional ruck terms, not having a lot.

And it seems pretty likely that whichever team ends up prevailing this finals series will also go a long way to resolving the perennial ruck debate. Photo: Michael Dodge

So we’ve been denied that last round fight for a spot in the final eight, Melbourne failing to keep their end of the bargain, losing to Carlton and rendering North Melbourne safe. Like St Kilda, the Demons fall just short. Yet, in the cold light of day, like the Saints, missing out may actually have done Melbourne a favour. When you’ve been as deprived of finals action for as long as the Demons, falling into a spot in the eight can be viewed more favourably than perhaps it should. Who knows whether either club’s younger brigade might have sub-consciously been too satisfied with that minor achievement? Now, at least, there’s no false economy, and no excuse for either St Kilda or Melbourne not to attack next pre-season with everything.


Intent scrutiny: Umpires turned mind-readers during the St Kilda Richmond clash. Photo: Adam Trafford/AFL Media

There’s barely been a week this season that hasn’t featured either controversy or at least some spirited debate about the harsher interpretation of the deliberate out-of- bounds rule, umpires having to become mind-readers about players’ intent, players more than occasionally penalised simply because of a crooked bounce. There were several more examples at the weekend, and a good point, too, raised by Fox Footy commentator Brad Johnson at the Richmond-St Kilda game as a kick which could have been kept alive was allowed to dribble out in the hope of drawing a free kick. If the spirit of the rule is about keeping the ball in play, how is allowing it to cross the boundary line when there’s plenty of time to pick it up any less deliberate?


Faint praise: David Mundy’s banner ‘celebrating’ his 250th game. Photo: Fremantle Dockers/Twitter

We know cheer squads love their clubs and work hard to offer them support. We know making the run-throughs takes time and effort. But to say Fremantle damned their captain David Mundy with faint praise on the occasion of his 250 th AFL game would be an understatement. “Well done David Mundy 250 solid games” might have been underselling the Dockers’ skipper a tad given he’s now behind only Matthew Pavlich on Freo’s all-time games list, leads the club, and is a best and fairest winner and an All-Australian. If that’s merely solid, Freo fans certainly have high expectations. It makes you wonder what Pavlich can expect in his farewell game next weekend. We hope it’s something a little more enthusiastic than his successor as captain got for a significant milestone.


Want-away forward Hayden Ballantyne looks on as coach Ross Lyon addresses the team. Photo: Paul Kane

While we’re on the subject of Freo, another week, another insipid performance. We’ve written it several times already, but even allowing for injuries, the Dockers’ 2016 has been little short of disgraceful. Let’s recap. From a preliminary final, to 10 successive losses, just three wins, and now another eight straight losses, the last four by a ridiculous average of 75 points. And again, Saturday’s pathetic 92-point belting at the hands of GWS featured a team containing 14 of those same players who lined up against Hawthorn last September for a spot in a grand final. Coach Ross Lyon can dress it up anyway he wants, but no team as well-performed as the Dockers were one season ago should be as hopeless as they are now.

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Welfare groups plead with PM: keep $4 a week payment for poorest Australians

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, labelled the government’s budget approach “harsh and one-sided”. Photo: Jessica HromasA coalition of Australia’s leading welfare groups has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pleading for the preservation of a social security supplement worth between $4.40 and $7.05 per week and paid to some of Australia’s poorest people.

The energy supplement – originally introduced in 2013 as carbon tax compensation for people on the Newstart allowance, pensions and family payments – is included in the $6.5 billion of cuts that the government has urged Labor to support after previously backing or promising to consider them.

The Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Carers Australia, Jobs Australia, National Welfare Rights Network, The National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, People with Disability Australia and Welfare Rights Centre have called the move “alarming”.

“Denying the energy supplement to new social security claimants will cut payments to 2.2 million people on the lowest incomes, including pensioners, sole parents, single-income families, family carers and Newstart recipients,” the groups wrote in their letters to the leaders, dated August 19.

“Its removal will mean a loss of $4 a week to the $38-per-day Newstart allowance, which is well below the poverty line and has not otherwise been increased in real terms since 1994.”

The groups assert that a broad range of unions, business groups and political leaders have supported increasing Newstart and that this budget measure contrasts with the government’s decision to retain tax cuts given to wage earners as compensation under the carbon tax package.

They also argue that it is “unconscionable” to pursue this cut for new welfare recipients, saving the budget $1.3 billion over four years, while cutting company taxes and income tax for people earning over $80,000, costing $9 billion in total.

“Australia cannot afford such tax cuts when the government is moving to cut the incomes of people struggling to survive on the lowest incomes in Australia, living in poverty,” they wrote.

If this budget saving is successful, new welfare recipients will actually be worse off than if the supplement had never been introduced because the boost took into account the regular CPI-linked increase.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie labelled the government’s budget approach “harsh and one-sided”, noting the compromises being made to the proposed crackdown on high-end superannuation concessions.

“Whatever the original purpose of the energy supplement, neither Labor nor any other party with a commitment to a decent social safety net could support slashing payments to people living below the poverty line,” Dr Goldie said.

The government says the funds saved supplement cut are being directed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Labor included the measure in its costings released shortly before the election.

Bonnie Millen, acting president of People with Disability Australia, has said the transfer of this expenditure is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and that “we should not be making trade-offs and false economies between specialist disability support and income support”.

The intervention from the welfare groups comes as the Inclusive Prosperity Commission of the Chifley Research Centre, Labor’s think tank, releases modelling saying that the increase in Australian inequality between 2011-12 and 2013-14 will cost individuals $500 a year by 2019-20 thanks to dampened economic growth.

The report, which says the cost of inequality will grow to 3 per cent of GDP over the next 25 years, is evidence that Australia is “paying the price for increased inequality”, according to executive director Michael Cooney.

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Son calls police after allegedly killing mother in Central West NSW

Not long after a 59-year-old woman was allegedly bashed to death in her home, police received a concerning phone call.

It was from the woman’s son, made from a pay phone not far from his mother’s home in Central West NSW.

He allegedly told the triple 0 operator that he had just killed someone.

Now that 28-year-old is being questioned by police over the alleged murder of his mother in the early hours of Friday morning.

Fairfax Media has been told the 28-year-old allegedly pointed police to a crime scene at Underwood Street in Forbes just after 6am on Friday.

By the time officers arrived, the woman was already dead.

Her son was arrested at nearby Union Street and taken to Forbes police station, where he remained throughout the day.

As of Friday afternoon, no charges had been laid.

Tributes for the woman poured onto social media, with Forbes locals remembering the victim as a “caring and loving lady”.

“I am in shock what an awful thing and what a beautiful, kind, caring soul she was,” Angela Crowley wrote on Facebook.

“I will always remember her kind face and so down to earth,”

Another woman wrote: “this world is so cruel you will be missed…rest easy you wonderful ladie (sic).”

It is the third alleged murder of a woman in NSW this week.

Sabrina Bremer’s badly burned body was found on a roadside near Tweed Heads in far north NSW on Thursday morning. She had been reported missing in Queensland a day earlier.

On Wednesday morning, a 39-year-old woman was found dead in a home in Greenacre, in Sydney’s south-west.

A man was later charged with assault-related offences. */]]>

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Murder accused relieved his lover was having affair so he could leave her: court

Michael Quinn appears in Kiama Court in July 2013 charged with murder. Photo: Andy ZakeliA man accused of stabbing his lover to death in a jealous rage has testified that he was relieved to discover she was sleeping with someone else and was glad of the opportunity to end the volatile relationship.

Michael James Quinn was allegedly in a fury when he fatally stabbed his on-off girlfriend Cherie Vize, 25, in the neck, before turning the knife on himself outside the home he shared with his parents in Wollongong in July 2013.

Mr Quinn, who is a quadriplegic from the self-inflicted wounds, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

His defence team has argued that he stabbed Ms Vize accidentally and his mental state might have been substantially impaired at the time.

Giving evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Mr Quinn said he was not “upset in the slightest” and could not stop laughing after he found out Ms Vize was having sex with another man less than two weeks before she died.

The 27-year-old said he had wanted to break up with Ms Vize but “didn’t know how to reject her in such a way that she wouldn’t feel rejected” and her infidelity provided him with an “excuse” to do so.

“It was such a relief after all this time that I were able to break from a truly dysfunctional relationship and she had the opportunity to go and spend some time with another person,” Mr Quinn said.

Ms Vize mother and best friend have previously given evidence that Mr Quinn was obsessive towards Ms Vize, turning up at her house uninvited, telephoning her at all hours of the day, monitoring her mobile phone messages and Facebook page and threatening self harm if she left him.

But Mr Quinn painted a different portrait of their nearly three-year relationship, saying he struggled to find time to pursue his own interests and studies because of Ms Vize’s demands on him.

He said he had never monitored her online activities or mobile, and it was she who had previously “begged” him not to leave her.

“I would say I was never possessive of her. I never tried to stop her from doing anything she wanted to do. I only ever tried to facilitate it,” Mr Quinn said.

The court heard Mr Quinn tried to contact Mz Vize dozens of times in the days following their break-up, including calling her 41 times within a 12-hour period.

“To be objective, it would probably seem obsessive,” Mr Quinn said.

Mr Quinn has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and said some of the calls were part of a “morning and nightly ritual” that had replaced other repetitive behaviours.

On an occasion when he tried to contact her 21 times in eight hours, Mr Quinn said he had only wanted to speak to her about his sick grandfather.

“She’s the love of my life. She’s the only person who can ease any pain that’s in my head,” Mr Quinn said.

Forensic psychiatrists for both the Crown and defence have offered conflicting opinions on whether Mr Quinn would have been in control of his actions when Ms Vize was killed.

Mr Quinn told them that he had planned to kill himself, and Ms Vize was stabbed when she tried to wrest the knife from him.

Mr Quinn is due to continue giving evidence on Monday.

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After coal seam gas Gloucester braces for another battle, this time against coal

Residents (from left) Dimity Bowden, Bruce Gilbert, Helen Evans, Mick O’Brien and Denise Gilbert at the Gilbert’s home which overlooks the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine. Photo: Liam Driver Anti-mine signs on the side of a shed beside the road into Gloucester. Photo: Peter Hannam

Site of the planned open-cut coal mine near Gloucester. Photo: Peter Hannam

Former Gloucester mayor John Rosenbaum (right) with John Watts of Groundswell Gloucester near the proposed mine site. Photo: Peter Hannam

When Denise Gilbert joined anti-coal seam gas opponents at the “meeting place” near Gloucester’s art gallery last February to celebrate AGL’s sudden withdrawal from the industry, she found herself feeling surprisingly flat.

Ms Gilbert’s group, Groundswell Gloucester, had seen off the energy giant and its plan to pock-mark the bucolic valley on the mid-north coast of NSW with hundreds of CSG wells connected to a lattice of pipelines.

Instead, “I was devoid of emotion,” the resident of the satellite estate of Forbesdale said this week. “You just feel you’re fighting, fighting, fighting – and we’re all just a bit worn out.”

Ms Gilbert also feared it wouldn’t be long before a dormant proposal to mine for coal near the town would surface.

And sure enough, low-profile US-based AMCI – a privately-held mining group run by German Hans Mende – this week released its amended environmental impact statement for a mine that would encroach within about 900 metres of Forbesdale and a couple of kilometres of Gloucester.

“The coal mine was always the biggest source of concern for us,” Ms Gilbert said of her family. “We could live overlooking a CSG field but there’s no way we could live with an open-cut coal mine.”

Jeff Kyte, a retired hydrologist who exposed holes in AGL’s CSG groundwater models, takes no joy in having to take on another miner.

“Those few months in between were amazing,” he said. “We just can’t believe we have to go through this horrible process again.”

The resistance includes reopening the “war room” in the home of former Gloucester mayor and Groundswell chairwoman Julie Lyford, to compose yet another submission, this time against the proposed Rocky Hill mine.

Brian Clifford, chief operating officer of AMCI’s local subsidiary Gloucester Resources Ltd, said the modified proposal would see coking coal trucked to Yancoal’s Stratford mine to the south. Night-time operations would be avoided.

“We have made important changes to the project to reduce impacts while bringing much needed jobs for some 20 years and local community infrastructure to Gloucester,” he said.

The Rocky Hill mine would produce 21 million tonnes of coking coal over its 16-year life, with no more than 2 million tonnes in its peak year.

The company would pay $63 million in royalties and $60 million in federal taxes, in current dollars, and aims to recruit locals for 75 per cent of its jobs by the third year.

Stewart Carruthers, president of Gloucester’s Chamber of Commerce, said business is quiet and the town could do with more jobs and industry.

“The trouble is, it’s so close to the town,” he said, noting the region’s predominant southerly winds would dump the dust on residents.

Others worry that GRL’s other licences (see EL 6523 in GRL’s map below), could see the pit abut the town itself.

Mr Carruthers, a nephew of Jimmy Carruthers – Australia’s bantamweight world champion boxer from the 1950s – said CSG divided Gloucester and there’s no appetite to go back in the ring against coal.

“The town is just starting to recover,” he said. “Now we’ve walked into another firestorm.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Planning said other changes made since the mine’s first EIA three years ago included the reduction of three open-cut puts instead of four, and the proposal to have no evening hours of work during the project’s first three years.

“All applications are assessed under strict NSW government rules and policies,” she said. “Social and environmental factors are considered equally alongside economic factors.”

John Rosenbaum, a former mayor of Gloucester, said the expected dust, noise from blasts, night lights, and heavy traffic from the mine were severe enough for the council to unanimously oppose it in 2012.

“The impact will be far greater than the benefit it would bring to the community,” said Mr Rosenbaum, who was mayor until May when the government’s forced council amalgamation summarily stripped him of the role.

Local opposition to the mine was more than 80 per cent according to early surveys and public meetings drew crowds of as many as 1000, he said.

“Whether the town is so supportive [of resistance to the mine] after the AGL debacle is hard to say,” he said.

With the EIS under public exhibition and a verdict by the Planning Assessment Commission not due for at least a year, the town’s state of limbo is far from over.

Ms Gilbert said she and her Forbesdale neighbours have seen their property values slide over the last six years amid the uncertainty cast by the CSG project and now the mine.

“We’ve got people who are going to die here while they wait to find out whether the mine will go ahead.”

Follow Peter Hannam on Twitter and Facebook.

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Mums & Co brings mumpreneurs together

Florist Sarah Edwards spends “precious” time with children, Abigail, 3, and William, five months, by running her business from home. Photo: Janie BarrettDawn is still hours away when Sarah Edwards wakes to feed her baby.

Instead of going back to bed, the florist goes to work. Sometimes she takes five-month-old William with her to the flower market in Flemington, arriving at 5am. She arranges bouquets at home in Camperdown or in her parents’ garage before making deliveries to customers.

Ms Edwards used to be a primary school teacher. She started her business, Flowerboss, in 2014, when her daughter Abigail was one.

Running her business from home “works well for our family”, she said. “It’s keeping my brain stimulated, allowing me to work but also be with the kids. I think these years are really precious with kids; you don’t get them back again.”

It’s five years since the word “mumpreneur” entered English dictionaries. While mothers are often pushed into self-employment by the lack of childcare options or workplace flexibility, others are choosing to launch their own businesses as a way to balance work with caring for a young family.

The number of female business operators has risen 46 per cent over the past 20 years. Mothers of young children are up to three times more likely to be self-employed than other working women, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Family Studies shows.

Female business operators are more likely to have dependent children than anyone else in employment, according to a 2015 ABS report for the Office for Women – 47 per cent of the 668,670 women running small businesses having dependent kids at home.

Carrie Kwan, the entrepreneur behind lifestyle website Daily Addict, knows what it’s like to juggle work and family commitments. As she prepared for the birth of her second child –  he arrived last week, six days after her eldest son’s second birthday – she was also nurturing her “digital baby”, the networking hub Mums & Co.

Ms Kwan, the co-founder, said the online hub was designed to make life easier for women as they expanded their businesses and managed family life. Mothers often took considerable risks when starting their own business without the resources taken for granted in a corporate environment, she said. “They’re drawing on social media networks for support and advice.”

Backed by the insurer IAG, Mums & Co offers support and services such as financial planning, legal advice and emergency childcare, as well as a forum to pool resources and share knowledge and expertise.

“We’re creating a community of like-minded women that are very inspired and able to share their collective wisdom,” Ms Kwan said.

“More women are becoming entrepreneurs because the conditions and the infrastructure are improving in terms of things like access to capital, start-up incubators and accelerators.

“E-commerce has opened up a new flood of ways to do business. But it’s tough to succeed and it can be isolating.”

Ms Edwards agreed. “When you run your own business from home and you’ve got kids, you don’t always have the support or the face-to-face interactions that you would through an office or workplace,” she said.

“In your 20s, everyone would go and have Friday work drinks and chat about the week, make connections. Mums and Co is your equivalent to that online.”

Ms Edwards said the network “is really fantastic because you are establishing that community, you can engage with other people who are doing the same thing.

“On Friday night you trade the heels for your pyjamas and sit with a glass of wine and read about things that will help your business grow.”

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Macquarie Street revamp plan to unlock Sydney’s oldest public buildings

The proposal would see the court building behind the Mint demolished. Photo: Peter Rae The court building facing Hospital Road and the Domain is earmarked for demolition. Photo: Peter Rae

The Land and Property Information building could become a hotel under the plan. Photo: Peter Rae

The Hyde Park Barracks on Macquarie Street, with buildings to be demolished at rear. Photo: Peter Rae

Australia’s oldest public buildings will come under the spotlight in a multi-million dollar Baird government plan to transform Macquarie Street into a tourist-friendly cultural and heritage precinct, The Sun-Herald has learnt.

Despite boasting Governor Macquarie’s Rum Hospital, Australia’s first library and the UNESCO-listed convict site of Hyde Park Barracks, Macquarie Street is better known today for its doctors and politicians.

But a push by Sydney Living Museums (formerly the Historic Houses Trust) to boost the profile of the Museum of Sydney, and to better tell the story of colonial Sydney has prompted a rethink.

Public comment will be sought next month on a Macquarie Street precinct plan. It will canvas proposals to unlock access to the historic buildings and monuments stretching from the Mitchell Library to Queens Square, and encourage visitors to explore laneway links to the Domain.

Sydney Living Museums has submitted a business case to the government to move the Museum of Sydney to Macquarie Street, clearing space for a new cultural centre by demolishing two 1960s Supreme Court and State Records buildings behind the Mint and Hyde Park Barracks.

Two new buildings, connected by a glass structure and ground level cultural space, designed by architects FJMT, would replace them and house the new museum.

The project, called The Story of Sydney, would act as a pedestrian link between Macquarie Street and the Domain, and boost visitors to Hyde Park Barracks.

But Sydney Living Museums has also asked the government to sell the neighbouring sandstone Lands and Property Information building, potentially as a hotel, to fund the project.

According to consultants Corview, who developed the business case, “The project includes options which investigate a mixed-use precinct including cultural uses and commercial uses such as retail and food and beverage.”

Sydney Living Museums executive director Mark Goggin, the former marketing chief of the Powerhouse Museum, presented the plan to the NSW Heritage Council in May. Minutes of the meeting show the Heritage Council raised concerns about commercialisation and the “bulk and scale of new buildings”, but supported the activation of Hospital Road for pedestrians along the Domain.

The council agreed “the current MoS site is not working”.

The Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet, has provided two briefings on the government’s proposal for a cultural and heritage precinct to former prime minister Paul Keating, and sought his input.

Mr Keating in recent years has publicly condemned the commercialisation of the Domain, which he claimed resembled a “sad, deserted fairground”, and criticised a planned expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW as a “land grab”.

The public consultation will determine which parts of the museum’s proposal are accepted by the government, and which are amended to fit the new precinct plan.

Mr Perrottet is co-ordinating the Macquarie Street overhaul because of the large number of government buildings involved.

“Macquarie Street houses some of Sydney’s most important heritage and historical treasures, and I am always looking at ways to enhance that heritage and make precincts like this one more accessible for locals and tourists to enjoy,” he said.

A steering committee, involving all government agencies with heritage properties on Macquarie Street, and Sydney Living Museums, has met eight times since November.

It is understood the departments of health, heritage, justice and finance will need to agree to funding compromises that will see some agencies relinquish heritage buildings and trade-off maintenance costs with the potential for extra revenue.

The Macquarie Cultural and Heritage Precinct Plan is expected to be launched by the end of the year, with the redevelopment to be undertaken in stages.

The museum’s proposal to knock down two buildings will be seriously considered, sources said, but another option could be to leave the resulting site as open space. Closing Hospital Road to traffic is also likely to be canvassed.

With the Land and Property Information registry already earmarked for partial privatisation, the sale or redevelopment of the heritage building is likely – but it could potentially become an option for a museum.

Sydney Living Museums has told the Heritage Council the existing Museum of Sydney site, above the archaeological remains of Australia’s first Government House on Phillip Street, could become a national monument dedicated to First Contact and the nine Sydney governors who lived there.

Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, the museum’s acting executive director, said: “[It] is incredibly important in the history of Sydney and the early development of the colony, and we would like to focus much more attention on the exceptional cultural and heritage values it represents including for Aboriginal people and the first 60 years of the colony.”

She said the proposed Macquarie Street museum would “tell the expanded story of Sydney for tourists and Australians”.

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Teen stabbed in brawl at Guildford unit block

A teenage boy was chased to a unit block in Sydney’s south west and stabbed in the stomach in the stairwell, police believe.

Inspector Dan Richardson said it was believed the 16-year-old was involved in a fight near Guildford train station on Saturday night.

The boy, who had been with a friend, was then chased to a nearby unit block on Guildford Road and stabbed, before his attackers fled the scene.

Emergency services were called to the unit block just before 7.50pm.

The teen was found with a stab wound to his stomach and a cut to his head.

Paramedics treated him at the scene before he was taken to Westmead Hospital, where he was due to have surgery, in a stable condition.

Inspector Richardson said officers had not yet spoken to the boy, as he was set to undergo further surgery in hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Police have been canvassing the scene, obtaining the security footage from nearby shops.

The incident comes two weeks after a mass stabbing during a vicious brawl at an 18th birthday party in Ryde saw Aidan Smith, 16, fatally wounded.

Six other young people were also injured during the brawl that erupted at the house on Victoria Road in the early hours of Sunday August 7.

Jacob Lusted, 20, has been charged with affray, although the charges may be upgraded.

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Pornographic website targeting schoolgirls exposes ‘terrifying’ fears facing girls online

Full names and faces of hundreds of teenagers appeared on the wanted lists for nude images, with directives to “Go get her boys!” Photo: Erin Jonasson”Any wins on her?” asks an anonymous user of the school porn website, while ogling the photo of the 15-year-old girl. She’s staring at the camera and smiling, little suspecting her picture will soon sit among thousands of explicit images of students being shared and swapped and rated and traded as flippantly as football cards.

Amanda* recalls the shock of seeing her face among so many underage girls – some of them from her school in northern NSW. “It was terrifying,” she says. “Just to know that someone is out there looking for naked photos of me and doesn’t care how I feel is very intimidating.”

More than 2000 photos of students from at least 70 Australian schools were reportedly uploaded on the online chat forum, which was taken down on Friday by police. Some of the images exposed young girls engaged in sexual acts. The majority were nude selfies taken in the privacy of their bathrooms or bedrooms and shared by former partners, without the girls’ consent.

Amanda’s photo in a low-cut red top and make-up was stolen from her Facebook page and posted on the online chat forum one Tuesday morning in June, by someone scouring social media for something more explicit of her. Finding and sharing such private images was dubbed a “win” by the site’s users, who offered “bounties” – promises to release caches of pornographic pictures – to encourage young hunters.

The full names and faces of hundreds of teenagers appeared on the wanted lists for nude images, with directives to “Go get her boys!”

Amanda, now 16, says there aren’t any explicit images of her to find – she doesn’t post them because of the risk they might be shared and harm her future career prospects. But most of the schoolgirls exposed on the “Aussie sluts” site were not so fortunate. “It would be absolutely gutting and a horrible feeling to know that these people have this of you and that it can be held against you for the rest of your life,” she says.

“I guess the scariest part of it is that I don’t know who put my photo up there – it was probably a guy who had access to my Facebook and has access to me in real life, someone who goes to my school, someone I trust. I am insanely creeped out by the idea that they would go that far to see me naked.”

She didn’t ask for her image to be removed for fear the virtual abuse might evolve into real-life stalking or harassment. A young woman who did complain about the use of her naked image on the site was told it was her fault for behaving like a “slut”. “When women are this loose with their sexuality and lifestyle choices, this is just the fallout,” one user claimed. ‘The worrying thing is that you can’t control it’

“Where’s the moral compass gone for those young people posting these pictures?” asks Katie Acheson, chief executive of Youth Action, the peak body for young people and youth services in NSW. “Why do they think it’s OK?”

Such questions might be broken into two, in turn: Why do young people share naked images of themselves? And why do some people exploit and abuse those images so keenly?

Some users of the school porn site bragged about showing photos sent to them personally. Others issued orders for images of girls from specific schools or suburbs. “Who has nudes of this bitch? I hear she throws it around!” was one comment. But the problem goes beyond a single online chat forum. Two senior students at Brighton Grammar, in Melbourne, were recently expelled for setting up an Instagram account to “slut shame” girls as young as 11, while a student at nearby St Michael’s Grammar School reportedly created a Dropbox folder for sharing explicit images of teens.

Acheson says uploading explicit selfies is an expression of healthy sexual development for many teenagers. It’s the modern equivalent of taking nude Polaroids or filming sex tapes for the VCR.

But there’s a disconnect between making such images and understanding the risks at play, she says. “The act of sharing is something young people have always done. It is an obvious continuation of the fact that young people are very much living in the virtual world as part of their everyday,” she says. “The worrying thing is that you can’t control it. The ramifications are much greater than writing someone’s name on the toilet door at your school. It’s around the entire world and that is much more scary.”

David Vaile, co-convenor of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community at the University of NSW, says a culture of reckless sharing of information has been fostered by sites such as Facebook and online bulletin board 4Chan. “The idea is ‘Don’t think too much, don’t have any respect for your own information or security and don’t value anybody else’s’,” he says.

“Nobody wants to think twice and realise they may be hurting someone. You get this toxic environment of stalking and harassment, and people become desensitised to the reality of the person at the other end of the camera. There’s this competitive bragging and trading circle. The younger you are, the harder it is to join the dots and project the consequences.”

High school student Lily*, 17, from Lismore, in north-east NSW, says posting explicit photos or sex videos online is “pretty normal” behaviour among her peers. “I get asked for nudes all the time and give them out. It’s how people connect these days,” she says. “The girls take them to show to their boyfriends or to have some fun. Guys love to take pics of their dick.

“It’s how people show off what they’ve got to offer, like advertising. I know girls who will deliberately have sex in public places with boyfriends and then talk about it in the playground with their friends – no one talks about it as a bad thing.”

A two-year study of sexting among young people, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology last November, found 49 per cent of teenagers have sent a sexual picture or video of themselves to someone, while more than two-thirds have received such images. The teens surveyed gave several reasons for sending explicit images, including: to be “fun and flirty”, “as a sexy present”, to “feel sexy and confident” and “because I received one”.

Most sexting is done consensually and with only a few partners, the study found. But the researchers highlighted the gender double standards at play, with boys less likely to be shamed or humiliated by the circulation of such images.

Amanda says nude photos of girlfriends have been shared openly in her school playground – either as an act of revenge by ex-partners or to laugh about their “scores” with friends. “The girls get really harsh comments about their body and end up really scared about being intimate with people,” she says. “If someone is proud of their body and of a legal age to share it with a romantic partner, that’s fine. But when it goes to people who are not the target audience, then it becomes malicious and attacking.”

Some people she’s met on Facebook have pressured her to send nude selfies. She says such conversations usually start with a request to “send me something sexy” or “something with a little chest in it”, before demands for something more explicit. “It’s the same sort of pressure that makes girls start to dress in tighter clothing or to be more sexual,” she says.

“I think there’s a lot of violence in it, whether it’s intended as having power over women or whether it’s just a ‘bro’ mentality some guys have. It’s a culture where nudes are seen as something to be sold or traded. It’s just disgusting to think these people don’t see girls as anything more than what they show in their photos.”

Telling girls not to take such photos in the first place is blaming them for such behaviour, says Professor Catharine Lumby, a social media and gender expert at Macquarie University. “Young women should be free to explore their sexuality with consent, without being told they are bad people, let alone being publicly shamed for that,” she says.

“We need to put a lot more focus on the ethical responsibility of the young men doing it. A minority of young men have the attitude that any girl who shows her breasts or takes her kit off is up for it, not only to have her image shared but for misogynistic comments. The guys who do that are operating out of a combination of fear and desire – they desire attractive young women and at the same time they are terrified of them, and that makes them angry, and they show that by sharing these photos.”

Acheson says young people need to be taught how to share images safely online – like a contemporary form of sex education. “It comes back to teaching young men and women to value themselves and others. The first part is teaching them that if you are going to send a picture, you need to have a conversation about where it is going and who is allowed to share it,” she says.

“It’s about teaching young people how to keep themselves safe. Essentially, what we need is a condom for the iPhone.”

*Names have been changed

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Accused paedophile Peter Scully treating jail like a resort, says former attorney

Peter Gerard Scully. Peter Scully, who was arrested and jailed in the Philippines. Photo: Joey P. Nacalaban

The lawyer hired to defend Peter Scully, the Melbourne man Filipino authorities have accused of some of the worst child-sex crimes in memory, has quit in exasperation over the alleged paedophile’s incessant demands for special treatment in prison, Fairfax Media can exclusively reveal.

Alejandro Jose Pallugna said he bowed out after becoming “mightily sick” of the alleged child-porn kingpin’s demands for special food, a mobile phone and twice-weekly visits from his lawyer.

“I withdrew as his defence counsel last February as I can’t withstand his crazy and eccentric attitude and personality,” said Mr Pallugna, who is based in southern coastal Philippines city Cagayan de Oro.

Mr Pallugna said Mr Scully, who investigators have accused of running an online pay-per-view service showing the sexual torture of children, had acted like he was on holiday.

“He wants me to visit him at least twice a week,” Mr Pallugna said.

“He wants five kilos of fresh beef, pork, chicken, anything – like he lives in a resort.”

Mr Pallugna acknowledged it was unusual to withdraw from a case, but he described Mr Scully as a “crazy guy” and the most taxing client he had known.

“Demanding is an understatement,” he said.

Mr Scully is awaiting trial over the rape and trafficking of two teenage girls, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The 53-year-old, who fled Melbourne in 2011 while under investigation for fraud, has also been accused of a raft of other shocking offences against minors, including the rape of an 18-month-old infant and the murder of a 12-year-old girl whose skeletal remains were found under a house he rented.

Mr Pallugna, who was hired by Mr Scully’s family according to local media, also revealed that the twice-bankrupt businessman was convinced he would walk free.

Such an outcome has been seriously discussed in Filipino media since it was revealed last September that most of the physical evidence against him, including a computer, video camera and memory card, had been destroyed in a fire earlier in the year.

“If the new lawyer knows how to take advantage of this fact, then Scully could go free or get convicted of a lesser offence,” Mr Pallugna said.

Mr Pallugna first appeared in court with Mr Scully at a pre-trial hearing in June last year, telling a judge that his client was a “passive participant” in the abuse and that he planned to testify for the state against his teenage romantic partner and co-accused, Ann Alvarez.

The formal start date of the trial is unclear, although Mr Pallugna said it could begin next month.

Efforts by Fairfax Media to reach Mr Scully’s new lawyer or the Regional Prosecution Office in Cagayan de Oro were unsuccessful.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Manila did not respond to inquires about the status of the case.

The activities of Australian child-sex offenders abroad were thrown into the spotlight last week, when Fairfax Media revealed that 2767 convicted paedophiles, including 753 Victorians, attempted or succeeded in travelling overseas in the past five years.

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Champion distance jockey Bob Skelton dies, aged 81

Winning team: Bob Skelton and 1976 Melbourne Cup winner Van der Hum. Photo: Ray KennedyBob Skelton, known as one of Australasia’s most gifted distance riders and who endured deplorable conditions to win the 1976 Melbourne Cup on Van der Hum, has died at the age of 81.

Skelton came to Australia from New Zealand late in his career but was renowned for his superb balance and ability to ride stayers.

He was one of five brothers who were all jockeys in a famous NZ racing family.

That day in November 1976 is still believed to be have delivered the most atrocious conditions a Melbourne Cup has been run under.

Just hours before the race, Flemington was hit by a deluge of rain, making viewing nearly impossible.

But Skelton’s renowned ability on wet tracks helped Van der Hum plough through the mud to win Australia’s most important handicap.

Inducted into the NZ Sports Hall of Fame and NZ Racing Hall of Fame, Skelton was declared the most successful two-mile rider in the southern hemisphere. He won 2129 races during his decorated time in the saddle.

Skelton raced to prominence in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, winning nine jockeys premierships in NZ, five Wellington Cups, two Auckland Cups and three New Zealand Cups.

Skelton flew into Australia in 1976 to ride another grand stayer Sulieman in the Cup for trainer Bill Winder. However, after indifferent form in the early lead-up races that spring, the trainer advised Skelton to ride Van der Hum instead.

In 1963, Skelton had finished second in the Cup aboard Ilumquh and in 1986 he rode Rising Prince, who also finished second.

Skelton gave much back to the Australian racing industry.

Touring with the Melbourne Cup, he told the story across country of Australia’s finest horse race.

He believed that Great Sensation, a three-time Wellington Cup winner, was the finest horse he’d ridden.

He rode five winners in a day on more than two occasions in New Zealand.

Skelton is survived by his four children – Mark, Tracey, Craig and Jane.

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