Alive and well

RETIREMENT holds no allure for Wakes Music and Sewing Centre owner Eric Wake, despite being in the industry for more than half a century and having two close encounters with death.

Mr Wake opened the doors to his music store on Albany Highway in July 1967 but said he was operating a business well before then.

He said he helped his father run a BP service station in Katanning from age 12 and was in charge of ordering fuel, chocolates and cigarettes.

“I’d get on the train to Albany and pick up the order,” the Albany business stalwart told The Weekender.

“I’d go and have a milkshake and share the chocolates with some of the other passengers on the train.”

When an apprenticeship opportunity arose at a Katanning electronics shop, teenage Wake jumped at the chance to gain more work experience.

“It was called TS Young and Co and we sold everything,” he said.

“Records, electronics, guns, lawnmowers…

“Then one day, a rep’ from Elna came in and asked if we sold sewing machines, so my boss asked me to do demonstrations.”

Mr Wake surprised himself and said he found sewing “quite interesting.”

So much so that he decided to take it upon himself to open an Elna store in Albany when the Elna represesntative expressed interest in migrating the brand down south.

“They really needed someone in Albany, so I moved down and started selling LPs and sewing machines,” Mr Wake said.

“One day, I got a letter with a plane ticket to Switzerland to visit the Elna factory.

“Switzerland’s beautiful.”

Mr Wake continued to run his Albany store in conjunction with an East Perth music shop and a Katanning sewing shop in the 1970s.

But committing to three stores – and the associated travel up and down the highway– nearly ended in disaster for him in the early 1980s.

“I was spreading myself too thin,” he said.

“And I didn’t like the travel.

“I had a head-on collision near Mount Barker where the other driver came onto the wrong side of the road.

“Then a couple of years later, I was involved in another crash and the bones in the lower half of my body were all broken.”

Mr Wake was told he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and would never walk again.

“I actually died on the table,” he said.

“I felt myself leave my body.”

Three years of rehabilitation got Mr Wake back on his feet.

“I was in a wheelchair but I didn’t like that, so I was on crutches for a while and then I was hobbling around on a cane,” he said.

“I gave Poptronics [the Katanning store] to my brother and closed the Perth shop.”

But nothing was, or is, going to stand between Mr Wake and his beloved Albany shop.

“If I retire, I’d only talk to the dog and do the gardening,” he said.

“I’d miss the wonderful relationships with the lovely people who come here.

“The older I get, the more I want to help people, so when people come here as a stress reliever, it gives me a buzz.

“Music is love, warmth and friendship.”

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Woolsheds overhaul

THE defunct woolsheds on the corner of Melville and Festing Streets in central Albany could become a site for self-sustaining houses if a group of university architecture students have anything to do with it.

University of Western Australia students Sarah Brooke, Grace Kocsis and Alex Negri were three of 23 budding architects who visited Albany from Perth this week to re-design unused spaces around town.

Ms Brooke focused on the historic woolshed ruins, Ms Kocsis on a concentrate pad beside Mount Clarence and Mr Negri on a vacant area near the port terminal.

Ms Brooke said her houses would have low environmental impact and that people would be able to adapt her designs to suit themselves.

“I’m looking at how to create a transient community that can be self sufficient,” she said.

“It would be awesome if they could be completely off the grid.

“There would be an opportunity for community gardens too, and potentially using the woolshed structure as a marketplace, maybe once a week.”

Ms Kocsis said she wanted to create a communal space for residents and visitors on Mount Clarence that could be moved to different locations.

“We’re looking at structures that aren’t locked down in a spot, very transparent and fluid,” she said.

“One idea is a seed bank, for collecting plant specimens from the area.

“It will be a place where people can teach and learn through caretaking and collecting the specimens that might not be there in the future.”

Mr Negri said his side of the project would kickstart the others.

“The port facility would be designed to construct the other two projects,” he said.

“The idea is that the dwellings will be constructed here and taken to the wool sheds site in shipping containers.”

He said the port facility was difficult to design, as it relied on the other two projects.

He hoped his design would provide people with knowledge about how industry works.

“I’ve designed the current footpath to wrap around the building and to have the building see-through, so people walking past can see the factory workers at work,” he said.

Architecture lecturer Mark Jecks said the visit marked the first studio unit to be held in Albany.

“If the landowner likes the initiative, they could potentially come to an agreement with the student,” Mr Jecks said of the wool sheds dwelling idea.

He said the final projects would be exhibited at UWA Crawley in coming weeks.

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Short-stay say

THE Albany and Denmark chambers of commerce are preparing a joint submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation.

Denmark Chamber of Commerce CEO Liz Jack said her group conducted a survey of Denmark business owners, residents and short-stay accommodation providers.

“Airbnb is a part of the disruptive economy we live in,” she said.

“It’s not as black and white as saying Airbnb is good or bad for the economy.”

Ms Jack said there were arguments on both sides of the industry to regulate and to not regulate online services such as AirBnb.

“We need to open the debate on how to level the playing field for commercial accommodation operations and short-stay accommodation,” she said.

“Commercial operations have to pay heavier taxes on their business than people operating out of their homes.

“On the other hand short-stay accommodation brings more money to the town through tourism and also through the purchase of goods and services.”

She said there were plenty of questions surrounding short-stay accommodation that would hopefully be addressed during the inquiry.

“We need to ask ourselves how we would monitor the growth of Airbnb,” she said.

“How do we develop a sustainable tourism industry?

“It’s an interesting vortex of issues that need to be addressed.”

Last year, The Weekender revealed the State planning department was considering a “continuum of options” from “very light-handed” to full regulation to address issues arising from short-term stays in the era of the online sharing economy (‘Short-stay spectrum’, 22 November).

Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Acting CEO Michael Clark said Ms Jack was the driving force behind the submission.

“Seeing how Airbnb affects commercial operations and small business operators is definitely an eye opening experience,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how it all goes with potential future regulation.”

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Fruits of labour

ALBANY city councillor Robert Sutton and his partner Debbie Walker are set to build a pomegranate shack on their 40-hectare Napier property now a development application to do so has been approved.

Mr Sutton says he enjoys getting his hands dirty at the couple’s pomegranate orchard.

“We planted our first few hundred trees in 2015 after Debbie’s niece introduced us to pomegranates,” he says.

“The health benefits of pomegranates absolutely staggered us.

“After I saw that most pomegranates you can buy in supermarkets are imported from America I saw the opportunity to fill a niche market.”

Since then Mr Sutton and Ms Walker have planted 3000 trees and have decided to broaden their horizons.

“Pomegranates have taken over my life and to see the results of having fruiting trees from what was an empty paddock is amazing,” he says.

“We decided after last season that we didn’t want to head down the normal line and that we wanted to try value adding to our fruit.”

Mr Sutton says he and Ms Walker made three trips to Turkey last year to learn from farmers who have cultivated the fruits for centuries.

“Getting the right information is hard, which is why we’ve been going to Turkey,” he says.

“We’re importing a special juicer that will fresh freeze the pomegranates so no water gets into the juice.”

Mr Sutton says a wide variety of products will eventually be sold from the pomegranate shack.

“We want to make pomegranate ice cream using Turkish methods that use pure pomegranate juice and no water,” he explains.

“And we want to make pomegranate molasses or pomegranate lemon, which is what the Turkish call it.

“It’s sweet but tart at the same time.”

Ms Walker says the shack will sell juicers so people can hand-press their own pomegranates.

“We’ve also spoken with a local winemaker to eventually provide them with our juice and them make wine for us,” she adds.

“I would love to eventually see a sparkling pomegranate wine that we can sell.”

Mr Sutton says it will be a few months until the business is up and running.

“It’s going to be a big year,” he says.

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Nullaki concern

THE City of Albany has declined to say if it will appeal last week’s State Administrative Tribunal overruling of Albany council’s unanimous refusal of plans for a lime pit at Nullaki Peninsula.

Asked if the City would appeal the decision, Acting Mayor Greg Stocks said the City would “take some time to review the SAT’s finding and conditions imposed and will be guided by its legal counsel on this matter”.

Cr Stocks said the tribunal’s decision last Thursday came down to technicalities of interpretation, and expert advice presented by developer Graeme Robertson that issues of concern could be managed.

He said he was surprised that an extractive industry was considered consistent with the objectives and provisions of the area’s conservation zoning.

“We actively defended our position and are puzzled and bitterly disappointed we have been unsuccessful and understand the community will be too,” he said.

Mr Robertson told The Weekender the ruling was a “win-win” situation.

He said it was a win for Great Southern farmers, as the pit would provide a natural resource “saving them approximately 50 per cent on their cost of obtaining first grade agriculture lime” in the region.

And he said it was a win for the environment with a maximum of three hectares to be cleared temporarily in lieu of the 21 hectares originally recommended for approval by the City.

“As far back as 2006, I have been approached by farmers in the Great Southern who were aware of the vast lime deposits on the Nullaki and were trucking the majority of the 300,000 tonnes required annually for the area from Margaret River,” he said.

“With the increased use of superphosphate in the Great Southern, the soil acidity increases, and to balance the pH. The only remedy is the application of agricultural lime.”

Nullaki resident Angela Dickinson, who lives about 2km from the proposed extraction site, said lots of locals were “really upset” by the ruling.

She said she was concerned about the potential spread of dieback, increased traffic and noise, and threats to already threatened flora and fauna.

“People choose to live in the country to get away from noise,” Ms Dickinson said.

“[With the lime pit]… there will be 14 laden trucks per day – which is 28 truck movements back and forth each day – so that’s about three or four trucks per hour past peoples’ driveways.

“It’s highly inappropriate to be extracting from a high conservation zone.”

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Shire goes solo with CEO

WOODANILLING has appointed a new Shire CEO but not before considering an overture from a municipality outside the Great Southern to jointly appoint a boss.

On November 16 the Wheatbelt Shire of Wagin wrote to its southern neighbour Woodanilling seeking to hold talks about sharing a CEO.

But Woodanilling had already started recruiting after CEO Belinda Knight’s recent departure broke a 17-year partnership with Shire President Russel Thomson that had been the longest in Western Australia (‘Pulling up stumps’, 1 November).

On Friday, Mr Thomson confirmed that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, former Kojonup and current Derby-West Kimberley CEO Steve Gash would start work as Woodanilling’s new CEO in April.

“He’ll bring a good deal of experience,” Cr Thomson said.

“He wanted to come back to the Great Southern.”

Until Mr Gash starts at Woodanilling, relieving CEO Sean Fletcher will continue to act in the role.

At a Woodanilling council meeting on December 18, councillors unanimously agreed to thank Wagin for its offer and “hold broad-ranging discussions” with its northern neighbour about “the possibilities” of sharing a CEO some time in the future.

The Woodanilling position was advertised with a remuneration package of $126,956 to $198,210 a year.

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What’s in a moniker?

THE term ‘Albanians’ as a collective noun for residents of Albany has caused a bit of a stir recently, so The Weekender decided to dig deeper into the moniker’s origin.

In conjunction with Albany historian Malcolm Traill, The Weekender found what is believed to be the earliest mention of the word ‘Albanian’ in relation to Albany residents in Perth newspaper The Inquirer in its September 29, 1852 edition.

The news story details communication from correspondents in Albany and mentions “…all first-class passengers and Albanians” in the saloon aboard the steamer The Australian.

Mr Traill said he believes the nickname began around the time of Albany becoming a mail port.

“It was known as King George Sound, mainly,” he said.

“It was also known as Sleepy Hollow in the 1840s and 1850s, because not much happened.

“So Albanians was a step up from Sleepy Hollow!”

Mr Traill pointed out that the European country of Albania was not officially independent of the Serbian and Ottoman Empires until 1912.

“So, we were Albanians before Albania was independent,” he said.

“We were also known as Albanyites during the 1890s, but that was mainly by Eastern-staters during the gold rush.”

Further Weekender research found more than 10 references to the phrase ‘Albanians’ in various circumstances.

A correspondent report in the September 14, 1870 edition of The Inquirer described a “slight gold fever at Albany” and that “the Albanians, however, could not believe in the fact, and rumours were rife to the effect that gold had been found”.

A piece written by ‘Bald Head’ in Perth publication Daily News on July 11, 1889 showed dislike to the term.

“Sir,” it reads.

“The people of Albany – not the Albanians – as they are not unfrequently styled even in the news- paper of the place – the people of Albany, let me say again, sir…”

Cricket reports from the Albany Advertiser and Katanning’s Southern Districts Advocate regularly used the phrase.

“In the Albany Week programme was included a cricket match…between players from Perth and Albany,” the February 18, 1903 Advertiser reads.

“Albanians were looking forward to the event with interest.”

“The Katanning cricketers met the Albanians on the ground of the latter on Saturday afternoon last, and had a very good win,” the February 21, 1921 Advocate states.

A conversation between Albany mayor CH Wittenoom, H. Parker MLC and Cr Paul on the controversial topic was penned by the Advertiser on April 21, 1949.

“When the visiting Fire Brigade Officials met in the Lower Town Hall last Saturday morning, His Worship the Mayor (Hon. C. H. Wittenoom) brought up the old controversy in pronunciation ‘Al-bany or Awl-bany?’,” it reads.

“He noted with amusement that Hon. H. Parker MLC favoured the latter.

“‘The reason is simple,’ Mr Parker retorted.

“‘I made no reference to Albany as I knew local inhabitants objected to being called Albanians!’

“Cr Paul with an adequate reply: ‘With the way we’ve been massacred by previous Governments, it’s an adequate term!’ he exclaimed.”

Mr Traill said one of the most recent print examples he could find of ‘Albanians’ was in Donald S Garden’s book, Albany: A Panorama of the Sound from 1827, published in 1976.

“He often refers to Albanians, even to periods as early as the 1830s,” Mr Traill said.

“On page 96, it reads: ‘Albanians have always been proud of their town and staunchly patriotic, while the climate and environment have been conducive to a tranquil and pleasant way of life’.”

Mr Traill said he had never heard the word used as a derogatory term or insult, and that the Weekender’s joint research with him about it had inspired an upcoming project of his.

“I think it’s nice to continue tradition,” he said of using the word ‘Albanians’.

“And it gets people interested in history.

“So much so, it gave me an idea for my upcoming curatorial.

“I was going to talk about Albany in an international context but now, I’m going to do the history of the name Albany – ‘What’s in a name?’

“Albany’s had many names – King George Sound, Kinjarling, Frederickstown…”

Mr Traill’s curatorial will be held on February 5 in the old co-op building at the Museum of the Great Southern.

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Surf funds granted

A $400,000 grant for a new surf-club house and a $500,000 contribution for a public space upgrade have been tentatively approved by Denmark council but not before a long debate about toilets.

In August, The Weekender revealed that stunning plans for a new clubhouse at Ocean Beach had been published on the website of Denmark-based PTX Architects.

At a council meeting on December 18, all Denmark councillors except Rob Whooley approved in principle a $400,000 grant to be borrowed from the State Treasury.

A $500,000 contribution toward an upgrade of public areas around the club was also approved in principle.

But it was not plain surfing for the funding, with Councillor Jan Lewis noting planned ablution facilities were smaller than public toilets and showers at the current clubhouse.

“My issue is that the public realm part of the building has no public ablutions,” she said.

Club spokesman Wayne Winchester said that with modern design, including putting hand basins outside, the ablution blocks did not have to be as big.

“It’s a really exciting project,” he said.

“It wasn’t just dreamt up overnight.

“It leverages up $4.7 million in [planned] Federal and State funding.”

Mr Winchester said the project budget was flexible enough to address any concerns the Shire might have about bathrooms.

But Cr Rob Whooley, formerly chief Shire engineer, questioned whether the cost of providing sewerage, water and power had been factored in.

With the meeting’s quorum questioned after three councillors simultaneously departed for a loo break after a marathon public question period when one ratepayer told of tourists defecating in scrub near the Harding River, toilets were the hot topic of the night.

Peering into the 48-strong gallery, 18 of whom were wearing surf club attire, Cr Whooley predicted his vote would be unpopular.

“A $5 million [project] for [a] $400,000 outlay would be absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“[But] when something sounds too good to be perhaps it is.

“Two male and two female toilets available to the public … is completely nuts.”

He said the Shire had a history of budget blow-outs, and he wanted to ensure costs were contained.

Supporting the grants with speeches were club members Billy Collin (16) who said he’d been a Denmark clubbie all his life, and Jorja Williams (17).

“I have never seen a place with such good relations between a wide range of ages,” Jorja said of her beloved club.

She said “as much as we love our now vintage club[house]” it was now inadequate and a new one was needed.

Cr Ian Osborne said the business case for the clubhouse was very strong, and the project was still at conceptual stage.

“Why are we fiddling around [at this early stage] saying they need to put in another men’s toilet?” he posed.

Cr Kingsley Gibson said the business case put to councillors lacked “robustness” but the clubhouse would be an “iconic building and a great asset for the whole community, undeniably so”.

Cr Mark Allen said the project would be the most important piece of infrastructure he was likely to be involved with as a Denmark councillor.

Cr Roger Seeney said the clubhouse would have “knock-on effects” for Denmark’s builders, shopkeeps and innkeeps.

“I can see a million dollars going back into this community from this project alone,” he added.


Image: PTX Architects

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ATAR stars shine

MORE than 10 of Albany’s brightest minds earned their stripes recently with Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks above 90.

North Albany Senior High School student Alex Blogg scored 99.75, just 0.2 off the highest possible score.

Hot on his heels were Great Southern Grammar pupil Holly Rost and Albany Senior High School graduate Peter Ebert, with ATARs of 98.5 and 98.35 respectively.

Medicine and law were the most popular university course choices among them.

“I’d just go home, walk the dog and study for at least three hours,” Peter said of his study regime.

“I’m hoping to get into biomedicine at the University of Western Australia to study immunology and microbiology.”

Alex is going to take a gap year and figure out his university plans later.

Albany Senior High School student Bryce Taylor (98.05) received his acceptance letter to the Australian National University to study art and science just moments before sitting down with The Weekender and discussing his post high school plans.

Fellow classmates Shiana Vanderheide (95), Jayden Simpson (93.35) and Jazmin Ferrell (92.4) are aiming for university too, targeting English and history, podiatric medicine and pharmacy.

Great Southern Grammar students Isabella Hendry (95.8), Ainslie Morris (96.95), Emma Turbill (97.85), Renae Johnston (96.55) and Matthew Ferreira (96.05) are heading on different paths.

Isabella wishes to study Japanese and journalism with her Curtin University Japanese Language scholarship, Ainslie wants to study business law to become a CEO rather than a lawyer, and Emma wants to partially follow in her mother’s veterinarian background by becoming a doctor or pathologist.

Renae wants to teach human biology and Matthew is considering psychology.

“I met with a journalism lecturer and they were really passionate about the importance of serious journalism,” Isabella said.

“Plus, I’d like a job that I can travel with.”

According to the Tertiary Institutes Service Centre, Year 12 graduates have until 11pm on January 15 to apply to be considered for the January round offers for all courses that are still open.

It is also the final closing date to rearrange or add preferences for the January round of offers for courses closing on January 15.

Applications won’t be accepted after this date.

January round offers will be available online on January 22.

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It’s a wrap for Happiness

RECENT York Street addition Little Italy Restaurant and Pizzeria, French café Gourmandise and Co and Little Beach all copped a mention from Hollywood superstars Joel Jackson, Emma Booth and Richard Roxburgh as their favourite spots to visit in Albany in-between filming H is for Happiness.

The Weekender sat down with the trio while they were filming in Albert Hall, adjacent to Wesley Uniting Church on Duke Street, on their second last day in town.

Film crew and actors began filming in and around Albany on November 12 and wrapped up on December 21.

They spent their last day in Albany shooting scenes in a house on Festing Street and had their wrap up party at the Stirling Club.

Jackson, born in Albany, said he was proud to come home after so many years and reminisced on his childhood with The Weekender.

“We lived on Queen Street in Little Grove in this sunken, white house,” he said.

“I went to Little Grove Primary and Mr Bolt was one of my teachers.

“I just remember the oceans, lots of kids everywhere, and being outdoors…and vivid boat memories; I love Muttonbird [Beach].

“I remember the ocean being so big and so scary!”

Jackson said when he had been spotted around town, there were still a few people who remembered him from when he was a little tacker.

Booth, born in Denmark but raised in Perth, said her old family farm had become a vineyard.

She had planned to visit it but ran out of time.

“I think it’s Southern Star now,” she said.

Booth managed to get out to Two Peoples Bay and Little Beach and couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the scenery.

She popped over to a few eateries in town too and discovered her new favourite foods.

“I just don’t understand how the water is that turquoise!” Booth said.

“Oh, and we’ve been slamming pizzas from Little Italy and that French place? Gourmandise and Co…where has that been all my life?!”

The interview was momentarily disrupted by a quick hug between Booth and fellow cast member, Deborah Mailman.

Roxburgh agreed with Booth that the Great Southern’s coastline was one of a kind.

“Denmark was just glorious,” he said, reflecting on his shoot for Breath.

“And Albany is pretty spectacular.

“I’m staying at Middleton and the boardwalk there is pretty special.

“I love the easy pace here.”

H is for Happiness will now go into post production and premiere during the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.

A crew spokesperson advised people to stay tuned about an Albany premiere and the film release date.

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