Welcome to 2018!

ARE you reading this on your phone at the gym, on a treadmill you waited 45 minutes for because the gym is packed with new year junkies?

Or, are you still nursing that hangover from three days ago?

Well, if you are neither, then you are probably like me: tired, light-in-the-wallet and three kilos heavier.

The new year was welcomed in style, with the usual glorious fireworks and neighbourhood arguments that the music was turned up too loud, but it was a fun party nonetheless.

Christmas was a bundle of joy, with way too much food, weird and wonderful gifts, and time spent with family.

Now, we have put away the slinky New Year’s Eve skirts, booked our hair appointments and started to cut out carbs.

It’s a new year and it’s a new me.

Well, not really.

My hair is a little grey from dealing with the usual family complaints and trying not to offend anyone and eating a bit of everything from everyone’s house.

And, you know, just generally dealing with people wears you down.

But hey, new year new me.

Regeneration time.

I could be the next Doctor Who.

Actually, nah, I’m not cool enough to pull off a fez.

I’m not one for setting new year’s resolutions, but back in the day, I totally was.

In my tweeny days, I’d got this gorgeous journal for Christmas.

The front cover had a little door, with these coloured gems inside.

It was the coolest journal ever and I kept all my tweeny-bopper secrets in it.

If my memory serves me well, the resolutions I wrote in that journal were to stop arguing with my dad and eat more healthily.

I think I should revisit those resolutions, because I am still an argumentative sod with a weakness and eternal craving for nugs and salty chips.

Some people are so good with sticking with their resolutions – they are super strict on themselves and lose weight, cleanse their skin of stress and dirt, and get fit.

I wish I was one of those people.

I’m terrible; my motivation to do stuff went out the window literally the moment my year 12 ATAR exams were done.

Now, I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle of ‘I feel fat, I should go to the gym, I’ll eat healthy; I’m too tired for the gym, gym sucks anyway, ooh cheeseburger, ah I feel fat.’

I’m my own worst nightmare, honestly.

But, for those of you who have the stamina to stick with your resolutions, I salute you.

I also hate you, but never mind that.

However, the new year is still an opportunity to embrace new changes, so here’s a few things I’m going to try.

Back posture – I have a mildly bad back, in that my lower and upper spine have a deeper curvature.

This means back pain is a bit worse for me, and my body hates me when I sit at my desk for more than five minutes.

So, goal #1: sit up straight.

Now, I’m trying to think of a bunch of other resolutions I really should keep, such as get off my butt and be more proactive about fitness, stop having so much screen time, and avoid the way home via McDonalds.

But, let’s be real, one resolution is hard enough to maintain, so I’m just gonna stick with the one.

Sit tall, shoulders back, head up.

Yeah, that’ll do for lazy old me this year.

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Bright minds have world at their feet

DRIVEN by the desire to earn bragging rights over older siblings and the chance to score a retro car, Albany year 12 graduates James Hearle, Scott Fielding, Danaleigh Victor and Nicholas Gillespie worked hard and achieved impressive Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks (ATAR), which were released a day earlier than expected in mid-December.

Great Southern Grammar pupil James received an ATAR of 96.55, which he hopes to use to get into engineering at Curtin University or aerospace engineering at the Australian National University.

“I wanted to get 97 because Dad would have bought me a Beetle if I had, but I was still pretty stoked with what I got,” James said.

“I’m hoping to do some travelling and work this year, and go to uni next year.”

Albany Senior High School (ASHS) student Scott knew the first person he had to reveal his 94.6 ATAR score to was his older sister, of whom he was incredibly driven to beat.

“I was a bit nervous about getting my score because I thought I didn’t do well in physics, and I was worried about the scaling, but I was really happy with how I went,” he said.

“I snapchatted my sister straight away and told her I was smarter than her, and then I told my parents.

“They were more excited than me; Mum was dancing around the house.”

Scott hopes to pursue a physiotherapy degree at Curtin University or a biomedical science degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

ASHS graduate Danaleigh found out the ATAR results had been posted early via a Facebook group chat, and felt relieved when she saw her 96.7 score.

“I think I nearly fainted!” she said.

“It was really nerve-wracking because I wanted to get into medicine at UWA, so hopefully, with the rural bonus points, I will have enough to get into it.”

She hopes to study at the UWA Albany campus full-time this year, and continue her studies in Perth in 2019.

ASHS student Nicholas Gillespie earned himself a whopping 97.5 ATAR score, and said he was happy with his efforts.

“I’m hoping to go to UWA and do a physics degree,” he said.

“I’m going to live on campus and study full-time and work a bit, which will be a good chance to meet new people.”

The final closing date for applying or re-arranging preferences for university acceptance on the Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) website is today at 11pm, with main round offers available online and via email on January 17.

From this day, applications and change of preferences re-open for second round university offers and the second final closing date will be January 22.

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Masters of the dance floor

ALBANY ballroom power couple Jim Watmore and Helen Gee have twirled and dipped their way into the dancing hall of fame after triumphing at the Australian Dancesport Championship in Melbourne.

Mr Watmore and Ms Gee are now the current Australian Masters 3 Dancesport champions in C-grade New Vogue dance style, and in B-grade Latin dance.

The pair, both in their early 60s, also achieved fifth in the B-grade standard class, fourth in the open Latin class and made it through the first round of the open new vogue and standard classes.

They were ecstatic with their wins and are already gearing up for next year’s competition.

“Helen and I couldn’t be any happier with our performance,” Mr Watmore said.

“Becoming master champions hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

The performance at Hisense Arena was the couple’s first competitive visit to Melbourne, and they are keen to return next year to continue their gold streak.

“With approximately 40 couples in the Masters 3 field alone, the competition was fierce right from the word go,” Mr Watmore said.

“Helen and I were the only Masters 3 competitors from WA, with a high concentration of couples coming from Victoria and New South Wales.

“It was invaluable experience to be competing against so many couples from other parts of Australia and we relish the challenge of going back next year to defend our titles.”

After just one week’s rest, the seasoned dancers were right back into training with their coach, Joy Hearn, to whom they dedicated their fantastic result.

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Collective crafts by harbour

ALBANY is again being spoiled for choice this Christmas with a pop-up gift gallery appearing at the Albany Entertainment Centre.

Make A Scene Artists Collective has brought together a variety of Great Southern artisans to give them the opportunity to showcase and sell their art, in a scheme known as The Harbourside Project.

Photography, crafts, ceramics and glass art are among the diverse range of gifts in the gallery, and they have arrived in town just in time for Christmas.

Borden artist Jill O’Meehan is an installation artist and is responsible for the colourful jellyfish hanging above the pop-up gallery under the AEC main stairwell, near the View restaurant.

She is selling her jewellery, prints and crochet Christmas decorations as part of The Harbourside Project.

“The pop-up gallery is great, because it creates intense interest over a short period of time,” Ms O’Meehan said.

“It’s a good atmosphere here, especially as it’s somewhere different.

“It gives people the chance to support local artists and buy original artwork for a gift.”

The Harbourside Project will be open until January 7, keeping the hours of 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and will be closed from December 24 to 27.

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Fiery crack for new year welcome

THE new year will kick off with a bang in Albany this year with an array of family-friendly activities planned, as well as a busy schedule of nightlife fun for those wanting to welcome in the new year in town.

From 4pm, the Anzac Peace Park will be busy with live entertainment and performances from local talents, including aerial performers Natural Wings and Jamie the Clown.

Food vendors will also be at the Anzac Peace Park to encourage families to come down for a picnic.

The family fireworks will commence at 9pm and the traditional fireworks will see in the new year at midnight.

Vantage points for the fireworks include the Anzac Peace Park, Stirling Terrace and the town footbridge.

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Gymnastics lands on feet

THREE community groups in the Great Southern will share in $30,000 of federal government funding after a recent announcement from Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson via the Stronger Communities Program.

The Denmark Gymnastics group will receive $20,000 to fit out a shed as a permanent gymnasium, $7500 will go to the City of Albany to buy new equipment for the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre, and $2500 has been granted to Albany PCYC for play equipment and shade sails.

Denmark Gymnastics’ Katy Rutter said she felt relieved and overjoyed when she received news of the group’s new financial support for a permanent gymnasium.

“We’ve been fundraising and applying for grants for the past five or so years, so when Rick Wilson’s office contacted us about the grant, I felt a bit of disbelief,” she said.

“A shed became available to us and the grant came through at a similar time, so everything just fell into place.”

Currently, the Denmark Gymnastics crew gets together every Thursday at the Denmark Recreation Centre and every Wednesday at the Mt Barker Recreation Centre, to cater for the big group of keen gymnasts.

“When I first started out, I was thinking I’d have a class of 15 kids, but 40 kids turned up on the first day,” Ms Rutter said.

“It takes us an hour to set up and an hour to take everything down each week at the rec centres, and we only have limited times we can be there.

“So now with the new shed, we can have everything permanently set up and run more classes, so more kids can have the chance to do gymnastics.

“I’ve got a wait list of 40 kids, so we will be able to cater for them with the new gymnasium.”

The $20,000 grant will be used to extend and enclose the shed, concrete the extension’s floor, and install toilet and shower facilities.

Any remaining money will be combined with the group’s savings to purchase matting and wall bars.

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Hats off to graduating class

THIS year’s graduating class from the University of Western Australia Albany Centre proudly stood before friends and family this week at the Albany Entertainment Centre to mark the completion of their undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD degrees.

Among the 2017 class were 15 undergraduates, seven postgraduates and three PhD students, of whom UWA Albany Centre manager Paula Phillips said had worked hard to reach their achievements.

“The UWA Albany community is extremely proud of the Albany graduates who have completed their degrees this year,” she said.

“The students’ hard work and perseverance has paid off and they can all be satisfied on reaching this achievement.”

“We are looking forward to future growth in the coming year as we offer more students the access to higher education in the Great Southern.”

The graduating class included The Weekender’s own Grace Jones, who achieved a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Cultural Studies, and History.

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Manji firm wins contract

A MANJIMUP company adept at abseiling has beaten four other firms to win a $470,000 contract to maintain the Valley of The Giants treetop walk over the next two years.

The Weekender can reveal that Precision Contracting Pty Ltd has won the right to watch over the elevated steel structure at the popular tourist attraction near the western edge of Denmark Shire.

Company director Darren Kitchen said awaiting news on which company had won the project was quite nerve-wracking.

“That was a hell of a three-month wait up against some of the big players in the game and the multinationals that have started up what we’re doing,” he said.

“We’ve been doing it for years, and it was such a relief to get the contract back.

“Everyone wants that project in their portfolio.”

Mr Kitchen said Precision had maintained the treetop walk since it opened in 1996, except for a brief period when undercut by another company.

He said the company had cut its prices to stave off competition for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions contract.

“It’s something that we want to hang on to and maybe hand over to one of my boys down the track,” he confided.

Precision started in Manjimup in 1994, and now also has bases in Collie, Darwin and Newcastle.

In addition to Denmark’s treetop walk, the company maintains the spectacular Tahune Airwalk south of Hobart in Tasmania.

His abseilers were at the Valley of the Giants on Tuesday and Wednesday doing the treetop walk’s annual pre-Christmas inspection.

The department has confirmed the $470,000 price was “in line with” the cost of previous maintenance for the steel treetop walk structure.

Work includes tensioning guy-wires, welding on the walk structure, repairing and replacing structural fixings, treating and preventing corrosion, testing weld and metal thickness, cleaning areas not accessible by ground staff, and digging to expose and treat pylon basins and supports.

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Support the Vinnies cause

ALLEVIATING hardship and providing hope are the goals of the St Vincent de Paul Society this Christmas.

Their ability to provide practical support, financial assistance, specialist services, advocacy and friendship has helped Australians in need since the Australian society’s conception in the 1850s.

St Vincent de Paul Society spokesperson Carl Prowse said some of the work the Albany branch will be doing this Christmas includes providing clothing, homewares and furniture to those in need, as well as providing emergency relief assistance.

“Vinnies is committed to helping people break the cycle of disadvantage,” Mr Prowse said.

“Our volunteers will provide hope this Christmas by delivering hampers to people experiencing hardship, and continue to assist with essentials such as food, clothing and bill payments through our emergency relief program.”

“Vinnies is extremely grateful for the support it has and will continue to receive from the Albany community.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society’s major project this year has been the 2017 Christmas Appeal, in which they hope to raised more than half a million dollars to aid disadvantaged Western Australians.

According to the Society, 13.3 per cent of Australians are living in poverty, of which 731,000 are children.

The Society is calling on people to donate funds towards care packages, food, safety and rent for those in need this Christmas.

“Vinnies aims to raise $600,000 for the 2017 Christmas Appeal,” Mr Prowse said.

“If people would like to make a financial donation, they can visit vinnies.org.au or call 13 18 12.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society can provide low-income support, aid with housing, health matters and education, as well as help refugees and migrants.

If you are seeking emergency relief assistance from the St Vincent de Paul Society, you can contact the Albany branch on 9842 2386.

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All in a day’s work for FC and Co.

WITH Christmas fast approaching, festive season fan Carey Dickason has been busy entertaining her neighbors with the creative decorations outside her Kalgan home.

Ms Dickason retired to Albany 10 years ago after previously living in Australind.

“I used to go for a walk every morning through my neighbourhood, and I especially loved it at Christmas time when everyone started decorating their homes,” she said.

“There was one house where the owner put a Santa out the front, and every day he had been moved and positioned to make a scene. I always got a kick out of seeing it.”

After a few years living in Albany, Ms Dickason spotted a Santa suit at the shops and decided she could “give it a go”.

From December 1 to Christmas day Ms Dickason brings out Father Christmas or FC for short, as well as his two elves Elfie and Edward Elf to get up to some mischief in her front yard.

“I really get a kick out of doing it and the neighbours do too,” she said.

“I get up every morning and get them set up doing something silly.

“Ideas just sort of happen, sometimes I have no clue what to do and it’s like FC, Elfie and Edward get a mind of their own.”

Ms Dickason posts her newest creations on her Facebook page ‘FC, Elfie and Edward Elf’ to share with her friends and Albany locals.

“Sometimes I get kids knocking on my front door with suggestions for the next day,” she said.

“I just really enjoy doing this each Christmas; people get a kick out of it.”

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