Community hops on rehab bike

HAVING his legs feel like they are encased in concrete is an everyday sensation for Albany man Kenny McGonnell, following a motorbike accident earlier this year which left him bound to a wheelchair.

To help his rehabilitation, Mr McGonnell’s friends sent an application to the Albany Community Foundation to raise money for a rehabilitation bike in Albany, as currently, Mr McGonnell can only use a bike in Perth.

The generosity of the Albany community paid off, with a large cheque being presented to Mr McGonnell on Saturday night.

Mr McGonnell went over the handlebars of his motorbike in a low-speed crash in May this year, which fractured his C5 cervical nerve and shattered his T6 thoracic nerve.

He currently has metal rods to support his spine along his T4 to T7 thoracic nerves.

To aid his rehabilitation, Mr McGonnell uses a rehabilitation bike which stimulates his muscles through functional electrical stimulation.

This device is helpful for Mr McGonnell’s rehabilitation and for other people affected by similar injury or illness.

It would be a grateful addition to Albany’s health rehabilitation services.

The Albany Community Foundation threw together posters and money tins in just 48 hours after receiving the fundraiser application, so they could promote Mr McGonnell’s cause at the Great Southern Football League grand final in September.

Thousands of dollars were raised within the first few days of the event, with more than $23,000 raised by the community and $4500 donated by the Albany Community Foundation.

Mr McGonnell was presented with the two cheques on Saturday night at the Albany Community Foundation charity ball.

“It’s amazing to see how generous people are,” Mr McGonnell said.

“The bike in Perth has definitely been helpful, as it maintains my muscle bulk and stops muscle spasms.

“With this injury, my legs feel like they’re encased in concrete, so the bike definitely gives some relief.

“But, I don’t want it [the bike] just for me, I’d rather it for everyone’s use.

“We are trying to find a place for the bike to live at the moment, so it can be shared.”

Volunteer board member for the Albany Community Foundation Sarah Moir was also enthused by the kindness of the Great Southern community.

“It’s really inspiring and heart-warming to see so many people wanting to donate,” she said.

“It’s great to see how the local community can come together.”

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Thanks for all the fish

THE curtain comes down on 40 years of dramatic history when the Plantagenet Players perform their last show at the Jack Hambleton Memorial Theatrette on Saturday night.

Michelle Harris is co-director of the sellout variety-style production titled: ‘So long, farewell and thanks for all the fish’.

“Saturday night is going to be absolutely huge,” she said.

“We’ve put our heart and soul into this show and I think it’s come across to the audience how much we love what we do and how much we love that little hall.”

Saturday night’s show will be the last in the theatrette before the players move to Plantagenet District Hall, which is looking a million bucks after undergoing extensive renovations.

The theatrette, named after an original Plantagenet player, will still be used by the local scouts, a choir and a dancing group.

Cast member Jeff Drage worked on construction of the theatre from 1982 to 1985, right down to scrubbing the structure’s white Barker Stone bricks.

“Saturday night just gone,it was an honour to have two of Jack’s daughters and one of the grand-daughters there at the show,” he said.

Lorraine Linster, a Plantagenet player for 16 years since she migrated from the home country of the Bard, will play several on-stage roles on the night.

“Even during rehearsals there were one or two tears shed backstage,” she said. “For those of us who have been there a long time it is emotional.

“There’s a lot of history there and it’s a nice, intimate little theatre.”

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Twins ride shotgun

ALBANY identical twins Jesse and Luke Wilson have every reason to smile – they will ride shotgun with Santa for 31st Bikers Charity Run for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Fund Appeal on December 9.

Paul Armstrong is the organiser of the event and said one of the jobs at the top of his list each year was finding deserving passengers for the trike that is driven by the main man.

“We really wanted to give a child that had experienced, or is still experiencing trauma, the opportunity to do something fun,” Mr Armstrong said.

“After ringing around I heard about Jesse and Luke. It seemed only fitting to ask if they wanted to join in.”

For all appearances, Jesse and Luke are normal looking nine-year-olds; however, as mum Kylie puts it, “they’ve experienced and endured more in their nine years than some do in their whole lifetime”.

Both boys were diagnosed with spontaneous congenital liver disease as infants, which was managed with diet and medication until things turned for the worse when they were seven.

“I learned that both of the boys needed liver transplants. The doctors said if Luke didn’t get a transplant he wasn’t going to make Christmas,” Kylie said.

Luke’s first transplant failed and he was in pediatric intensive care for three weeks until another liver was available.

“It felt like we only just got back to Perth when we got the call saying Jesse was going to have his transplant,” Kylie said.

Luck wouldn’t be on the Wilson family’s side however, when Jesse’s donated liver also failed.

“He underwent the two surgeries for livers within two days,” Kylie said.

“They were very sick little boys.

The support received from friends and family during those rough two years still touches Kylie today.

“The help I got from my parents-in-law was just amazing. Since my mum had passed away I didn’t really have a support base and they made themselves be it.”

Kylie said she had also been on the receiving end of the generosity of the Salvation Army.

“The kids had received gift hampers from the Salvos before, and I’ll never forget that moment of happiness the boys had when they got them,” she said.

“They’re very aware for nine-year-olds and they donate to the Kmart Wishing Tree when they can; they know what it’s like to need help.

“Our family are very proud to advocate the amazing work done by the Salvos. You just never know when you’ll need their help.”

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Elleker poets spin top yarns

THERE must be something in the water out Elleker way, because two locals from around the small Great Southern town have just been named the best yarn spinners in the nation.

At the Australian Bush Poetry Championships which wound up in Toodyay last week, Peg Vickers of Old Elleker Road told the nation’s best yarn, while Peter Blyth of Elleker-proper was runner-up.

Peter describes Peg and himself as “the two biggest bull-dusters in town”, before volunteering a water-borne explanation for the pair’s poetic prowess.

“I’ll tell you what’s not in the water around here,” he says.

“It’s that chemical they put in it in the cities, because I’ve just got tank water, and so has Peg.

“It’s the clean water that keeps your mind working; that stuff they put in up in Perth will pickle your brain!”

Peg has lived in the Great Southern all her life.

She met Peter when she won a bush poetry competition he judged when he was a farmer at Salmon Gums in the neighbouring Goldfields-Esperance region.

Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps serendipity, Peter’s sister was living right next door to Peg on Old Elleker Road.

He took the opportunity to drop by and present Peg with a trophy for her poem – about an inedible shepherd’s pie nobody was game enough to criticise and hence whose baker dished up more and more.

Almost 15 years ago, Peter moved to Albany and, bush poetry circles being what they are, kept in touch with Peg, before relocating to his verdant hilly farm at Elleker.

A decade and a half later, beside the cottage garden that sprawls atop Peter’s green hill, Peg tells The Weekender that bush yarns cannot be contrived.

“You can’t sit down and just think of a topic,” she says.

“It’s just got to come in to your head and then you think ‘that’s a good idea’, so then you can write your poem or story.

“And then you’ve got to learn it.”

Peg’s award winner is a laugh-a-line lark about a tortuous emergency phone call to a “rapid response” police-recorded message service.

She confesses she’s not much of a performer, copping occasional critique from judges about the positioning of her hands or touching the mic.

“I didn’t start performing on stage until I was 60-odd years old, and I’m 85 now,” she says.

“I never thought I was going to get anywhere with this story, because we had all the eastern staters there, and I thought: ‘I’ve just got to make the buggers laugh’.

She says that when she won in Toodyay, everyone – from east, west, north and south – was so pleased for her.

“That meant just as much as winning,” she recalls.

“I just try to do the best I can and not be somebody I’m not.”

Peter’s runner-up yarn, titled Fly Drovers, is about how he and a mate herded 40 million flies from Albany to Denmark during a summer hike along Lower Denmark Road.

“We had a contract with the City of Albany to get them out of the place,” he winks.

At the championships, Peter came in third in the bush poetry competition.

Peg also won the unofficial “poets’ brawl”, a kind of battle rap for bush balladeers.

“You had to make up a story, and you had to write up a poem that took a minute to say,” she explains.

“You put your five dollars in the hat, and were given a line you had to include in the poem, and you were given a day and a half to work it out.”

Against some ornery-looking opposition, the octogenarian cleaned up and walked away with the $100 purse.

“I made out that I’d agreed to go out with this bloke, the boss of ‘Flexi Finance’, who was all over me because I wanted to get a loan so I could get my hands on some money,” she says of her racy rhyme.

“So I made myself look like a really bad person.

“But nobody else heard the poem. They only heard it up in Toodyay.”

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Boston takes family gong

IT’S a winning combination that has long been a hit with locals and tourists alike – a place for parents to enjoy a quiet ale and a feed while the kids run free range on the playground.

And if you time it right, there is often some tasty live music on the side.

Boston Brewing Co. and Willoughby Park in Denmark has been the go-to place for families looking for a one-size-feeds-all venue, and now the judges of the 2017 Australian Hotels Association Aon Hospitality Awards for Excellence have latched onto the idea.

The popular brewery and restaurant came away with the WA’s Best Family Dining Award, and was a finalist in four other categories.

Restaurant manager Emma Van Dijk said the recognition was a massive tip for the work they do.

“The award really does show everyone who we are and what our work ethic is,” she said.

“It’s amazing to be recognised for the effort we put into the Boston Brewery to make it a venue people want to frequent.

“We’re a family-friendly location and we aspire to be a place for families and groups to have a good time.”

Australian Hotels Association CEO Bradley Woods said it was a challenging year for some in the hospitality industry.

“WA’s vibrant hospitality industry is a reality thanks to the courage and entrepreneurship of small to large business owners,” he said.

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Vietnam trip for war story students

SECONDARY students from across the state have been selected to tour Vietnam next year as part of the 15th annual Premier’s Anzac Student Tour.

Indigo Bew from Albany Senior High School and Megan McDougall from Denmark Senior High School are among 10 students who will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive and the battles of Coral and Balmoral from the Vietnam War overseas in April.

To be considered for the Anzac Tour, the girls submitted essays on family members who participated in the First and Second World Wars.

The students were told on Saturday about their successful applications.

“I was over the moon,” Indigo said.

“I really want to learn about Vietnam because that war impacted so many people in Australia, and there are Vietnamese refugees here who have influenced our culture.”

Indigo penned an essay about her great, great grandfather who was a stretcher bearer in the First World War, and received awards for his efforts.

“His kindness has inspired me and my family to give back to the community and do our best,” the year-nine student said.

Megan’s essay looked at her great grandfather who fought in the second world war.

“I wanted to look into his story and it was really interesting,” she said.

“He enlisted when he was 36, which is old to be in war.”

Indigo and Megan are keen to travel through the major cities in Vietnam and visit the museums and commemorative sites.

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Skates on for derby home

CONSTRUCTION of Albany’s very own roller derby track is well under way, with the purpose-built facility on Roundhay Road in Gledhow taking shape.

Construction started in the middle of October and is expected to be completed in January next year.

Once complete, The Track will be equipped with change rooms, showers, a staff kitchen area, storage space, office area and an 825sqm playing space suited for high impact sports.

Albany Roller Derby League President Natalie Jarvis said the league was excited to get skating on their own track.

“We’ve got our first game booked on the track in March for our rescheduled match against Perth Roller Derby Rumble Bees,” she said.

“It’s yet to be confirmed, but we’ve got something bigger and brighter to add to the game.”

Prior to construction, the league had opened a crowd-funding page on Pozible asking for the public’s help in purchasing specialised material for the track.

“We raised around $8000, but because we didn’t reach our goal by the cut off date, we didn’t get to receive any of the money,” Jarvis said.

“We’ll be setting up a GoFundMe page soon; hopefully we’ll be able to raise that money again.

“To help bring down the costs though, we’ll be treating and sealing the concrete as it is. It will still be perfect for skaters to practice on though.”

The ARDL has continued to grow their team, with their Fresh Meat skaters moving on to playing proper matches this weekend.

“We had a 100 per cent success rate at their assessments on Monday night,” Jarvis said.

“Our newly passed skaters will be playing in their very first game this Saturday.

“It takes a big commitment from our Fresh Meat to learn the skills, gain the fitness, learn the rules and strategy and then to be able to play roller derby.

“It takes a lot of effort for them to do the training and pass the practical and written assessments, so the match on Saturday will be great.

“We’re very proud of our graduates.”

Doors open at the Denmark Recreation Centre event at 6pm on Saturday and entry is a gold coin donation.

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Early search is key

LOWLANDS resident Brad Kneebone was diagnosed with advanced cancerous tumours in his prostate at just 65 years old.

Now 76 years old and having just finished a six-week run of radiation therapy on Tuesday, Mr Kneebone said if an early detection campaign had been active back in 2006, he certainly would have responded earlier to his homeopath and GP’s suggestions of getting his elevated Prostate-Specific Antigen levels checked.

Find Cancer Early is a current media campaign by the Cancer Council aimed at promoting early cancer detection in regional people over the age of 40.

The campaign was first launched in 2011, and received $1.6 million in additional funding from the Department of Health last month, in order to maintain the campaign until December 2020.

Find Cancer Early seeks to encourage regional people over 40 to alert their doctors of any unusual symptoms without delay, and will focus on bowel, lung, prostate, breast and skin cancer.

“There will be TV, radio, print and online advertising, social media activity, an upgraded website and education opportunities including presentations to local groups by Cancer Council WA,” Cancer Council media manager Natacha Hammond said of the revitalised campaign.

“As well as increasing symptom awareness, the campaign aims to break down some of the barriers and myths to seeking help.”

People living in regional areas of WA are more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than people in metropolitan areas, according to Cancer Council CEO Ashley Reid.

“Your survival prospects following a cancer diagnosis should not be determined by your postcode,” he said.

“Find Cancer Early is all about addressing the disparity that exists between outcomes of regional and metropolitan cancer patients.”

Current cancer patient Mr Kneebone believes the Find Cancer Early campaign’s continuation will be highly advantageous to regional people, particularly for those who don’t always prioritise their health.

“Living in the country, I believe many of us, we men in particular, are slow to look after our health,” he said.

“The Find Cancer Early campaign is intended to keep us more alert about our bodies and respond more actively when things don’t seem right.

“Up to now, country folk generally have had poorer survival rates because of later detection and treatment.

“Where health is concerned, we need to think also about the families and people around us who will also suffer if we ignore our health.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the Find Cancer Early campaign will prove to be hugely beneficial to country people in making us more aware of the need to be more proactive about our health.”

In the 2016/2017 financial year, 600 guests in the Cancer Council’s lodges in Perth were from the Great Southern.

This represented about 20 per cent of the total number of guests from regional WA.

To get involved in the Find Cancer Early campaign, you can visit

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Al fresco café for Lockyer

A SPARKLING new indoor-outdoor café is set to start trading on the fringe of Lockyer as soon as an operator is found to run it.

The café space at the brand new Beryl Grant Community Centre is bright and airy with a large kitchen.

The operator who takes it on will have the opportunity to throw cooking classes and catering into the café’s mix of services.

Colleen Tombleson, who co-ordinates the centre, said the café would be open to the public and provide a “seamless flow” between the centre and the Lockyer community.

“It would be a really good business to tie all these features together,” she said, looking out from the centre across to a stand of gum trees.

“There’s quite a few elderly people who live out here, so there’s probably quite a potential to sell ready-made meals as well.”

Some tables and chairs are already installed, and a subsidised rent agreement may be offered to the operator.

The centre, which opened last week at Townsend Road, has had two potential café operators drop by for a peek.

A meeting room, office space, and function room with undulating cedar ceiling are available for hire at the centre at what Mrs Tombleson says are “very affordable rates”.

Beryl Grant is a former president of the Australian College of Nursing who was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for her nursing work and development of services for children and families in regional Australia.

Anyone interested in running the café needs to lodge an expression of interest by November 17.

An information pack is available from Mrs Tombleson on 9841 2055.

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Charity dive for Foodbank drive

DIVERS of Albany will gather for an underwater venture next fortnight in an effort to increase the supply of food and groceries to Albany’s Foodbank branch.

The South Coast Diving Supplies crew has teamed up with Foodbank Albany to send two boat loads of people out to the south side of King George Sound, near Seal Island, for a dive on November 12.

The entry fee into the dive is a donation of between $75 and $110 worth of food to Foodbank, which will be collected from the South Coast Diving Supplies shop on the morning of the dive.

“We were looking for something different to do and contributing to Foodbank came up in discussion, and it progressed from there,” South Coast Diving Supplies owner Garry Wellstead said.

“Foodbank is an important and necessary resource, but it is often overlooked.”

Mr Wellstead said interest in the charity dive had been overwhelming, with a long waiting list should any of the participants opt-out.

Foodbank Albany’s branch manager Rod Pfeiffer said he was amazed at the community support for the charity organisation.

“It just shows what a business can do when they get behind an idea,” he said.

“South Coast Diving Supplies floated the idea and it took off.

“We are hoping for around $1200 to $1500 worth of food to be coming in from this dive, so the influx of food variety will be a massive donation.”

The interest in the event has led Mr Wellstead and Mr Pfeiffer to consider running the fundraising dive annually.

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