CFA Chief Officer Steven Warrington on disaster management and 2016/17 fire season | AUDIO

CFA Chief Office Steve Warrington speaks at the Rural Press Club of Victoria
CFA Chief Office Steve Warrington speaks at the Rural Press Club of Victoria

CFA Chief Officer Steven Warrington discusses his community-centred approach to emergency management, and Victoria’s upcoming fire season, at a special lunch at Laharum, near Horsham, on Wednesday, October 19, 2016.

Steven was appointed CFA Chief Officer on June 30 after a 35-year career in emergency management that started as a volunteer firefighter.

Rural Press Club of Victoria and Women in Media: Communicating in a digital age | AUDIO

Emma Field, Laura Poole, Lynne Smith, Emily Rayner and Julia Keady-Blanch
Emma Field, Laura Poole, Lynne Smith, Emily Rayner and Julia Keady-Blanch

Communicating in a digital age; what it means for work life balance, traditional storytelling and managing the personal versus the professional.

How do you cut through in an era soaked in storytelling? A panel of Gippsland women, experienced in telling stories through print, broadcast and social media platforms, share their experiences.

Your hosts are Walkey-award winning Weekly Times journalist Emma Field and ABC Gippsland chief of staff Laura Poole. Your panel includes experienced journalists, mentors, trainers and social change agents who have built on a career in the media, and found work, life balance in the rolling deadlines of a digital environment.

Lynne Smith: Lynne has worked in the media sector throughout her working life. After editing Gippsland‘s largest newspaper, the Latrobe Valley Express, for 12 years, and spending eight years as general manager of The Gippsland Times, Lynne is now sharing her experience as a mentor and trainer of establishing journalists.

Emily Rayner: Emily has leadership experience in the commercial radio world as well as being the highest-level female at Fairfax Media’s The Weekly Review, where she oversees the magazine’s digital print and social media channels. She’s on maternity leave with her second child, so knows all about “the juggle”.

Julia Keady-Blanch: Julia spent the first 10 years of her career working in media and has spent the last 10 years working on large-scale social change projects and developments. She leads XFACTOR, a platform that supports a ratio of work life balance that works for her, but also supports flexible employment for women around the country.

Recorded in Gippsland at joint Rural Press Club of Victoria and Women in Media event September 16, 2016.

‘The Dressmaker’ author Rosalie Ham | AUDIO

'The Dressmaker' author Rosalie Ham
‘The Dressmaker’ author Rosalie Ham

How to tell stories that will be heard with The Dressmaker’s Rosalie Ham

Positive stories about rural and regional communities can change outdated perceptions of ‘the bush’. They are needed to encourage population growth and investment necessary to secure the future of rural towns, and help larger communities thrive. However, gaining exposure in the cities is becoming increasingly difficult.

Join Rosalie Ham, author of the best-selling Australian novel, The Dressmaker, for a discussion on how regional and rural communities can make themselves heard.

Recorded at the Rural Press Club of Victoria May 18, 2016




AFI director Mick Keogh, Tanya Pittard from Grain Producers Australia, and Tania Chapman from Voice of Horticulture | AUDIO

Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh
Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh

A landmark discussion paper authored by the Australian Farm Institute says plant biosecurity RD&E that underpins Australian agriculture and its access to international markets must be prioritised and is best served by the establishment of a new research corporation.

Watch or listen to the author of the Paper, AFI director Mick Keogh, join with Tanya Pittard from Grain Producers Australia, and Tania Chapman from Voice of Horticulture to discuss the options of a plant biosecurity model that grows markets together.
Recorded at the Rural Press Club of Victoria on April 20, 2016.

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy at the Rural Press Club of Victoria | AUDIO

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy explains his vision for rural and regional Victoria.

Recorded on February 18, 2016 at the Rural Press Club of Victoria.

A helping hand

The Hamilton Spectator – April 05, 2016

FARMERS from the Western District have come together to donate straw to bushfire and drought- affected farming families so they can get back on their feet.

Instead of burning off excess straw as they prepare paddocks for the upcoming season, farmers around Harrow and Telangatuk East have donated it to the ‘Need for Feed’ and other charities.

Need for Feed links up straw and hay donors with farmers who have lost their pasture to drought or bushfire.

There is no shortage of farmers who need help, with record droughts hitting the Wimmera and areas of Queensland, and bushfires at Scotsburn and Mt Bolton in the Ballarat area.

The Scotsburn fire destroyed 4000 hectares and 12 houses in December last year while the Mt Bolton fire claimed 1300 hectares, three homes and seven sheds in February.

Need for Feed coordinator Graham Cockerell told The Spectator that the largest non- corporate donations the group had ever received had come from Warren and Jasmine Blake’s farm in Telangatuk East.

The Blakes have already seen 210 bales of straw picked up from their 3200-acre cropping and sheep farm, north of Balmoral, and The Spectator spoke to them the day before the last 50 bales were taken away.

Mr Blake said he first heard of Need for Feed, which was established in 2006, through a random post on a social media website and almost dismissed it because of the group’s lack of online members.

“It was advertised on Facebook, believe it or not, through one of Graham’s friends, and I just responded basically asking if it was real or not,” Mr Blake said.

“It snowballed, and I said there was 110 hectares of standing straw if you want it.

“I’m just going to burn it and I thought it would be better to get rid of it rather than burn it and see it go up in smoke.”

Mr Blake said the straw would help feed the livestock of farmers who had seen their grazing paddocks destroyed.

“It saves money and helps feed their stock, that’s the main thing.

“When you get burnt out you lose everything. Stock survive, but feed doesn’t.”

The last of the Blakes’ straw was hauled away on Saturday at about midday.

A convoy of about six semi-trailer trucks and two escort utes is needed to pick up each load of donated straw.

The prior convoys have attracted a lot of attention in Harrow and Telangatuk East, serving as another form of advertising for the charity.

“People see the trucks and they ask what’s going on,” Mrs Blake said.

“You tell them why they are there and they say ‘ring us, we’ll help you load. It’s too late this year (for us to donate ourselves) but next year’.”

For the Blakes, the main cost is through the labour to cut and bale the straw.

Mr Blake says he donated to “pay it forward”.

“We’ve been there before, we’ve been burnt out and people helped us. What comes around goes around.”

Mrs Blake said Facebook also helped in that they could see pictures of when the straw arrived.

“They can see where it’s come from, especially through that Facebook page,” Mrs Blake said.

“It’s the best thing about it: you get to see the faces.”

Mr Blake said a local straw cutting contractor had also volunteered his services to help get the straw prepared.

“I’ve got a bailing contractor to do it for nothing; it’s coming out of his pocket to bale it,” he said.

“It’s coming out of my pocket to cut it; it’s coming out of (Need for Feed’s) pocket to cart it.

“It’s just Australia.”

Need for Feed on Facebook

The Hamilton Spectator, April 5, 2016. Page 1. 'A helping hand'.
The Hamilton Spectator, April 5, 2016. Page 1. ‘A helping hand’.

Tax data reveals low income growth in western Victoria

HAMILTON’S income growth is in the bottom 15 per cent of Victorian postcodes and the immediate area has lost hundreds of net taxpayers over 10 years.

Australian Tax Office data shows that the Hamilton 3300 postcode recorded an almost 44.8 per cent increase in mean taxable income between 2003/04 and 2013/14.

That sounds impressive but the figures reveal that Hamilton was surpassed in income growth by almost 490 of the 573 Victoria postcodes tracked in the ATO data.

The top 15 per cent of postcodes saw their taxable income grow by between 68 and 123 per cent

The Hamilton postcode also recorded an 8.46 per cent decline in the number of people filing a return with net payable tax in 2013/14 compared with ten years earlier, when 6535 local people paid tax.



Roads a priority

The Hamilton Spectator – October 31, 2015

SOUTH-WEST COAST state by-election candidates have all agreed that
local roads are in a terrible state, especially around the Macarthur and
Condah areas that have seen heavy freight use in recent years.
Most of the 10 candidates that spoke to The Spectator about local transport issues this week have advocated for a new system of funding allocation for road works, with many calling for an end to temporary ‘patch ups’.
South-West Coast goes to the polls today, but 42 per cent of voters have already cast their ballot by pre-poll or postal vote.

Liberal candidate Roma Britnell and Nationals candidate Michael Neoh both called for the return of the $160 million ‘Country Roads and Bridges’ program, which provided funds to local governments.

“The community are saying that roads are bad and I agree 100 per cent,” Ms Britnell said.

“But over the last 16 years the Liberals have been in government for four, with Labor in for 12.”

Ms Britnell said the previous Coalition Government had “committed $2.6
million to Myamyn-Macarthur Rd, which Labor pulled.”

A spokesperson for Victoria’s Roads Minister said previously that “two
locations along Myamyn-Macarthur Rd, totalling 1.7km of road, will be
resurfaced in 2015/16.”

Mr Neoh said the Country Roads and Bridges Program should return, but
with $80 million spent over 12 months instead of two years.

“I have asked Jim Cooper from Port of Portland what his priority is and he
said it was the roads outside Portland,” Mr Neoh said.

“Talking to people from those areas, I have also heard the need for emergency repairs.

“I’m calling for half of (Country Roads and Bridges) to be pushed
forward into the first 12 months. There needs to be emergency repairs before we even get to upgrades.”

Independent candidate, Roy Reekie, who has run for Labor in the past, said one of the three key points in his transport plan was “proper investment and repair of roads, not just patch ups”.

Another of his key points was to “get more freight off roads and onto rail”.

“Now we are starting to have B-triples up to 75 tonnes. The roads not designed for this and it’s tearing them apart,” he said.

Greens candidate Thomas Campbell called for a survey of local road quality, combined with consultations with community members and industries, to help direct roads funding.

“Realistically, you have got to find a balance between making our roads safe for cars and trucks, and getting more freight onto rail,” he said.

“We can’t keep building roads endlessly if we can’t maintain all of the ones we have,” Mr Campbell said.

Independent candidate Pete Smith said he had proven and award-winning
experience in securing roads funding, which was needed as local roads were “appalling”.

“I have driven on them myself. They are not just appalling, they are downright dangerous,” he said.

“The situation is exactly the same in many other electorates, but the
marginal areas will get money before we do. The Coalition assumes they
have got it in the bag and Labor is not even trying.”

“Stop treating by-elections like a football game by barracking for your
old team; put your family’s welfare first.”

Mr Smith said that when he was a director of RAC South Australia, he worked on what he called “the largest roads funding campaign in Australia’s history”.

He received a national award for helping boost Victoria’s grant road
share from $2.6m in 1991/92 to $103m in 1994/95.

“I know how to get roads funding. People say ‘I’m going to get more
roads funding’, but I’ve actually done it,” he said.

Independent candidate Rodney Van De Hoef said the speed limit along
the main road at Condah should be reduced from 100 to 80 kilometres per hour as “it’s dangerous for community and those crossing the road”.

“The government will put up 80km/h for a bump in the road, why not this
intersection of major roads?”

Mr Van De Hoef also proposed to get more freight on rail by with an “intermodal/bulk freight hub at Heywood” that could also store shipping containers for the Port of Portland.

Independent candidate Swampy Marsh called for a protest campaign
aimed at the Victorian Premier and Parliament House.

“I’d hold (Premier) Daniel Andrews down by the throat until he promises
to listen,” Mr Marsh said. “You can have all the policies in the world but it won’t matter if people don’t listen.”

Mr Marsh said South-West Coast was in danger of falling behind in
funding because “the government won’t even run a candidate; they haven’t backed Roy Reekie, their losing candidate for the last four elections”.

“If it stays a Liberal seat, they won’t care. It’s got to be independent. You
have got to make them scared,” he said.

“You and I both know that the state of the roads is appalling, but we have
had 26 years of Liberal members, including 10 years in government, and they have done nothing.

“They even had the Roads Minister’s seat in Polwarth, and the Premier’s
seat right next to him, and it didn’t change.”

Mr Marsh said the region “should get a dump truck full of bitumen and
take it to Parliament House” to get media attention because “Labor is too
city-centric, and the Liberals won’t get off their arses”.

Jim Doukas, of the Australian Country Party, said in the local region
“it’s got to the stage where both rods and rail are completely buggered”.

“The State (Government) and Feds, they only fund the big projects like
highways but they should fund everything,” he said.

“The roads in places like Condah, Macarthur and towards Hotspur,
they’ve got to be fixed.

“It’s gotten to the stage where you can’t say we’ll fix some of them because they all need fixing.”

Animal Justice Party candidate Jennifer Gamble said the Princes
Hwy should be duplicated and major works should occur on the Hamilton
Hwy because it was “dangerous” and “the road shoulders are a hazard”.

“I’ve just been to Hamilton and it was a bumpy drive,” she said
She also said the Macarthur area had “too many rough surface signs put
up” and needed road works instead.

Independent Michael McCluskey, said “nearly every single road in the
south west is in a state of disrepair”.

He proposed two things, one of which was “we have to prioritise
funding to get a system for upgrading roads” and the other was “get freight off trucks as part of the solution” as “one 18-wheeler is equivalent to 5000 cars”.

The Australian Christians party has not responded to a request for
comment from its candidate Lillian Len.

Majority on board

The Hamilton Spectator – October 29, 2015

A MAJORITY of candidates for the South-West Coast state by-election
have voiced their support for rail projects, including freight and passenger improvements, but the Coalition frontrunners have placed a greater focus on roads.

Most candidates said they would push for the State Government to honour its commitment to have the $416 million Murray Basin Rail Project completed by 2018, including restoration of the line between Ararat and Maryborough.

Independent candidate Roy Reekie, who has previously run for the Labor
Party, said he would not be a part of the government if elected “so I can’t
speak for them”.

“What I will do is lobby to ensure that project is delivered,” he said.

Mr Reekie said a Federal Government contribution would be “reasonable, as it is a national infrastructure project”.

Liberal candidate Roma Britnell said she would look at the “bigger picture” and fight for western Victoria to get a bigger share of money from the “sale” of the Port of Melbourne.

“The Government is hoping to raise $5 to $7 billion, but country Victoria
is only getting three per cent of that,” she said.

“A lot of the products of Western Victoria have been, and will be, going to the Port of Melbourne, so we need more of a share for this region.”

Nationals candidate Michael Neoh said he was “absolutely” in favour of the Murray Basin project but he was concerned that the State Government’s announcement was “not new money”.

“I think there are games being played,” he said.

“If the Federal Government won’t support it, State Government needs to fund it whole.”

Greens candidate Thomas Campbell also said he “absolutely” supported it.
“The more we do for rail freight, the more it opens up the opportunities
for passenger rail, which is good for business and tourism as well as the
community,” he said.

“Rail can do a great deal for Portland and Hamilton as well, as Hamilton is a link to north-west Victoria.” – Jim Doukas

Jim Doukas, of the Australian Country Party, wanted to see rail networks
improved to link areas both north and south of Hamilton.

“Rail can do a great deal for Portland and Hamilton as well, as Hamilton is
a link to north-west Victoria,” he said.
“Also for tourism: they are getting cruise ships in Portland and some of
them carry up to 3000 plus people.

“If you can get them up to the Grampians, there’s nothing like that in
the world.”

Jennifer Gamble, of the Animal Justice Party, supported the project as
long as roads were the first priority.

Rodney Van De Hoef, independent, said “too often we want to rush things” and called for the government to “do the project but over several years; if we rush can turn out like East West Link and get canned.”

Michael McCluskey, independent, said he would support the project “on
principle, because I support major rail projects.”
“The single most important thing is to improve our rail system,” he said.

“We need to get more freight onto rail. There is a direct link between the
decline of rail freight and damage to our roads.”

Independent Pete Smith was the only candidate to declare opposition to spending money on rail projects for agricultural freight, comparing it to
spending $100,000 on a photography darkroom a few years before digital
cameras came in.

Mr Smith declared he had “a vested interest in freight issues” because
of his involvement in AgChoices but called for “new thinking” from

“Any organisation that is investing millions of dollars in saleyards should
be sued by their shareholders or ratepayers,” he said.

“Moving grain by rail is approaching a horizon. What we need is a sort of
grain tube.

“Agriculture by rail freight: is it the future? My answer is that it’s not.”

Swampy Marsh, independent, said the 2018 deadline could not possibly
be met.

“They haven’t given themselves
enough time. There’s so much work to do.

“If they started right now, they’d be pushing it to get done by 2025.
“All they are doing is saying ‘be nice to us and vote for us again before 2018’. Call me an old cynic, but they’re just weasel words.”

Deaths Report: WDHS says findings ‘not an accurate reflection’

The Hamilton Spectator – October 22, 2015

HAMILTON Base Hospital has achieved one of Victoria’s “poorest results” for its death rate of babies born prematurely but the finding “does not accurately reflect performance over recent years”, according to Western District Health Service.

A Victorian Department of Health analysis of perinatal deaths between 2008 and 2012 found that babies born between 22 and 32 weeks gestation at WDHS were 80 per cent more likely to die than the state average.

The report stated that “in interpreting these ratios, conclusions cannot be drawn about avoidability of any of these deaths”.

The report was published in August but The Age newspaper highlighted some of its data this week in an attempt to link other hospitals with a major investigation into baby deaths in Bacchus Marsh.

A review into 10 baby deaths over two years at Djerriwarrh Health Service,
Bacchus Marsh found that seven of the deaths may have been preventable.

Since the review was released earlier this month a number of women, families and former staff have come forward with allegations of clinical incompetence and bullying at Djerriwarrh.

The Age described WDHS as one of a number of Victorian hospitals “on par with or worse than Bacchus Marsh.”

A statement from the offi ce of Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessey said all Victorian perinatal deaths over the past seven years had been reviewed “and no other health service has been identified as being of concern”.

“Sadly, no pregnancy or birth is completely risk free, and complications
sometimes arise unexpectedly during labour or after delivery,” the minister’s statement said.

“However, latest figures show that Victoria’s perinatal mortality rate is
one of the lowest in Australia.

“The Government has put in place a range of new measures across the
state to ensure the safety of maternity

Though the perinatal report concerned the health outcomes for all babies,
WDHS only had a data entry for babies born at between 22 and 32 weeks gestation.

Babies born at this stage of a pregnancy are defined as “very” or “extremely” preterm and babies born at 22 weeks are unlikely to survive.

The Spectator understands that less than five babies born after 32 weeks gestation have died within 28 days  of birth at WDHS between 2008 and 2012.

That low number of deaths is the reason why WDHS did not receive an
analysis for deaths during treatment of routine pregnancies.

A statement from WDHS said it provided “a quality learning environment and has established processes in place to monitor the outcome of all births, including all perinatal deaths”.

“A medical specialist reviewed the perinatal deaths that occurred at WDHS between 2006 and 2011 and made a number of recommendations that have been actioned.”

The report, ‘Victorian perinatal services performance indicators
2012–13’, stated that health services that performed below average with
health outcomes for babies and mothers “must understand the extent
of suboptimal performance issues and address these”.

Pregnancy terminations and “deaths due to congenital anomalies” were not counted in the data, which was adjusted for the size of each hospital.

According to the report, 230 women gave birth to a total of 232 babies at WDHS during 2012.

WDHS chief executive Rohan Fitzgerald said he recognised the importance of the report as a measure over the period, but it did not accurately reflect the Health Service’s performance over recent years.

“The (gestation standardised perinatal mortality ratio) is an internationally recognised measure of perinatal mortality that includes all deaths, including extremely premature babies, still births and newborn deaths. It does not assess the potential avoidability of any of the deaths,” he said.

“I am deeply saddened for any family that goes through the experience of
losing a baby during labour or after a delivery.

“With every birth our aim is to reduce the risks for both mother and baby as far as practical, although we know that in some cases the risks remain high.”

Despite Ms Hennessy’s statement that no health services were a concern
in regards to baby death rates, the Victorian Government will move to
establish new reporting mechanisms and specific targeting of regional
pregnancy outcomes.

A state-wide perinatal autopsy service will be established along with perinatal morbidity and mortality committees in each region.

“This expert committee will review any perinatal death occurring in that
region every three months,” the Health Minister’s statement said.
“The Department of Health and Human Services will review all of the state’s perinatal services to identify if any improvements can be made.”

Australia’s medical practitioner registration board, AHPRA, which is
in charge of handling complaints about doctors and surgeons, will get a new notification service to automatically inform health services about
investigations into their staff.

“Staff at all health services which provide maternity services will
be required to undertake intensive training, including one led by the Royal
Women’s Hospital, to help them better identify, address and alert risks during birth,” the Health minister’s statement

“A new state-wide perinatal plan will
be developed”.

Mr Fitzgerald said he had confi dence in his team to provide high quality
maternity services to the local community.

“I am confident that we have the staff, systems and processes in place
to support the delivery of safe and appropriate obstetric care to women in
our region,” he said.

“I would encourage any women that have concerns about any aspect of their care to contact Western District Health
Service direct.”

The WDHS community liaison phone number for WDHS is 5551 8583 and
AHPRA’s phone number is 1300 419 495.