Musical set for regal performance

ALBANY school teacher and poet Giles Watson’s original libretto will come to life this week at Perth’s Regal Theatre.

Mimma, Watson’s first musical, was co-created with Orana Cinemas owner Ron Siemiginowski after a chance meeting between the two.

With Watson’s words and Siemiginowski’s music, Mimma was born and so with it Watson’s first encounter with theatre writing.

He sat down with The Weekender a few days before the musical’s premiere to give an insight into what it takes to pen a theatre show.

“I write a lot of poetry,” Watson said.

“And I’ve written two short novellas.

“Doing a musical is something I’ve always wanted to do and some-

thing that Ron wanted to do.

“My housemate Simone Keane was recording a song for Ron and she suggested that he and I get together, and we connected.”

Watson has a passion for the Second World War, being a university history major, and hoped his knowledge could help shape a musical one day.

It was timely that at their chance meeting, Siemiginowski was playing Italian-inspired music, which immediately triggered Watson to build a war-themed story.

“I sat and wrote the plot while Ron played,” Watson said.

“It focuses on Mimma, who’s an Italian journalist in 1938 and is sent to England in exile.

“It’s at her uncle’s bar – where she’s staying – that she meets Sarah, who’s English, and they develop a friendship.

“So the main plot is on their friendship and the threats that face it, with the sub-plot of the Italian Resistance.”

Watson said drama is at every turn during the musical.

“The first crisis they face is when the London police are removing Italians from businesses, cafes…” he revealed.

“There’s the drama of separation and loyalty.”

Starring as Mimma is Mirusia Louwerse, who has spent the past decade as the star soprano for internationally-renowned violinist and conductor Andre Rieu.

Opera Australia peformer Holly Meegan will play Sarah Parker and Canadian-American soprano Suzanne Kompass will star as Ada Marini.

Watson is still taking in the fact that so many big names in the opera world are performing his musical.

“It’s really huge,” he grinned.

“And quite overwhelming; I’m fulfilling a dream.

“From it being just Ron and I to people who are calling themselves the Mimma family, it’s fantastic.”

Watson said Mimma “breaks the mould” of modern musicals and is keen to see how people react.

“It’s about events that have happened in our time and looks at a friendship between two women, which isn’t always seen,” he said.

“It approaches the issue of humanity and I hope people feel…one person described it as ‘validated in goodness’ and I really like that.

“I hope people enjoy seeing a really crucial time in our history.”

Watson’s ultimate goal is to see Mimma tour Australia and one day, perform on the stages of New York City’s Broadway and London’s West End.

“I do think it has that potential,” he said.

“And I already have two sequels in my head!”

Mimma is on now at Perth’s Regal Theatre and will play until April 21.

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Addict’s fight

AN ALBANY man who said he lost 24 years of his life to drug addiction revealed his story to the crowd at the March against Meth on Friday.

The march sought to address the issues surrounding meth addiction in the Great Southern region and was coordinated by a number of community groups, including the not-for-profit Palmerston Association for which event speaker Michael Noakes works.

Mr Noakes spoke to The Weekender about his experiences with meth and other drugs, the catalyst for his recovery and the stigma surrounding meth use and recovery generally.

“I first started experimenting with drugs at the age of 12, with marijuana, and then it slowly progressed over the years,” the 48-year-old said.

“As I became an adult, I went from marijuana to acid, acid to ecstasy, ecstasy to cocaine, cocaine to speed and then from speed to ice.

“That was 24 years of my life gone, pretty much.”

Mr Noakes emigrated from England to Australia alongside his parents in 1974, spending much of his childhood in the suburb of Gosnells in Perth.

Within that period, he was charged and imprisoned three times for meth-related crimes.

In 1996, Mr Noakes relocated to Albany to help his mother settle following the death of his father.

“After my last time out of prison, just after my father passed away, I just rethought my life,” he said.

“I became what’s known as a functioning addict. I held down a job, I paid rent, I would spend 97 per cent of my pay packet on drugs and then survive on baked beans.

“It was a horrible cycle to be in.”

It was only in October 2013, when his then two year-old son Lucas was removed from his care by his mother, that Mr Noakes was motivated to change his habits permanently.

“I found myself thinking about being at a crossroads in my life where I could either continue using and leave my son out of my life, which broke my heart… or finally admit that my problem was bigger than myself,” he said.

“He is the light of my life, that child.”

After a two-month waiting period, Mr Noakes submitted to a detoxification centre in West Perth and then entered a rehab program at Palmerston Farm in Wellard.

Over time, he started a study group in the centre to help others like him overcome their hurdles.

“I really sunk myself into every part of that program,” he said.

Mr Noakes has now been clean for more than five years and spends one day a week working as a Trained SMART facilitator at Palmerston in Albany.

It was that organisation that encouraged him to participate at this year’s March Against Meth.

“I want to remove the stigma that’s attached to drug use because people can feel quite ashamed and shunned,” he said.

“I think the more we can reduce the stigma and accept the fact that meth addiction is a massive part of today’s society, the easier it’s going to be for people to reach out.”

Manager for Palmerston Great Southern Ben Headlam said while there’s been a reduction in the prevalence of methamphetamine use in the region, the past few years have also seen an increase in the harm it has caused.

He said Mr Noakes played an important role in the fight against meth use.

“He is a fantastic ambassador for recovery,” Mr Headlam said.

People in need can get in touch with Palmerston on 9892 2100 or call a 24/7 Perth-based meth helpline on 1800 874 878.

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Wilson up for contest

LIBERAL incumbent for the electorate of O’Connor Rick Wilson said he is looking forward to the “contest of ideas” against other candidates of which way the country should be heading after the Prime Minister calls for the Federal election.

Mr Wilson has held the seat of O’Connor since first being elected in 2013 and said he started off being passionate about change while he was involved in agricultural politics.

“I joined the Liberal party in 2000 during the Howard days and the GST debate,” he said.

“The agricultural sector had a lot of socialist type marketing boards that as farmers we had to surrender our produce to who would then sell it on our behalf.

“It was a really inefficient way of marketing our produce so I got involved and started lobbying Canberra politicians.”

Mr Wilson said he thought Canberra was the “place to be if you wanted to make a difference”.

“When Wilson Tuckey was defeated in 2010, I nominated for pre-selection in 2011 and then won the nomination,” he said.

“I was a candidate for two-and-a-half years which I needed every day of.

“Being a farmer, you have some very busy times of the year and some very quiet times of the year.

“It allowed me to get out and about and meet everyone I could.”

Since being elected in 2013 and then re-elected in 2016, Mr Wilson said he had achieved a number of goals for aged care facilities, Youth Allowance reform and infrastructure development.

“One example is the Field of Lights installation in Albany,” he said.

“We chipped in more than $300,000 for the project and in terms of generating economic development it has been a stunning success.

“Also increasing the protection of the Bremer Marine Park by 70 per cent was a massive achievement. By protection I mean fishing and mining are completely locked out.

“We’re trying to extend it even further so the orca hotspot is included in the boundaries.”

Mr Wilson said if he was re-elected for a third term he would fight to have the road to Point Anne in the Fitzgerald National Park sealed and further address the live export debate.

“For me personally, fixing live export is of high importance,” he said.

“The industry has been through a tough 12 months with some appalling footage that came out.

“Those conditions were not the norm for the industry.

“I’ll be fighting to keep the industry open and viable into the future because it’s such a vital component of sheep operations across my electorate of O’Connor.”

Mr Wilson said he believed the state of the economy would be on the minds of most voters as they cast their votes in the next month.

“We’re very blessed to live in a democracy where every three years politicians like myself and candidates that aspire to represent the community have the opportunity to plead their case and discuss their argument,” he said.

“I’m very proud and privileged to be a part of that process.”

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Seagrass saviour

A PORTION of seagrass in the Oyster Harbour Catchment has been entirely rehabilitated, in what the environmental consultant behind the project describes as the largest scale recovery of its kind in the world.

Geoff Bastyan first conducted major trials at the three kilometre stretch from Swan Point to the harbour’s east in 1997, determining that the section had experienced unsustainable loss.

“The main aim of that was to select areas where there was very little seagrass returning and facilitate that rapid infill in time,” Mr Bastyan said.

“Back in the 90s and even into the 2000s, it was believed that seagrass couldn’t be restored.

“Since then, there has been a combination of both restoration work and natural regrowth and re-colonisation by seed.

“It’s 100 per cent regrown from the very shallows … down to a mean water depth of 2.8 metres.”

Mr Bastyan is currently in the process of rectifying and computing aerial photographs of the site, taken between 1989 and April 2017, that he will use to prepare an educational package for schools, universities and other interest groups in the region.

By counting and comparing the pixels of black and light areas in the photos, it can be accurately determined just how much the seagrass has grown.

“I think it’s an important thing to get that information out there, particularly for the land care groups working in the catchment,” Mr Bastyan said.

“This is something positive and it’ll get them the extra incentive just to keep on doing the good work that’s been done.

“The schools in particular will benefit because it’s the next generation coming through that I think need to be aware and involved in rehabilitation efforts.”

According to Mr Bastyan, seagrass plays a vital role in climate change mitigation and sustaining marine biodiversity.

“The seagrass meadows here, even after a relatively short time span, lock up 30 to 50 times the amount of carbon that the Amazon rainforest does,” he said.

“Seagrass improves the water quality and provides an enormous amount of habitat for fish, particularly juvenile or spawning fish.”

Although Mr Bastyan has garnered financial support from a variety of sources over the decades, the educational packages he expects to have completed within the next four weeks are funded largely by a grant from the Great Southern Development Commission.

Mr Bastyan received a $12,000 grant from the GSDC as the winner of the 2016 GSDC medal.

GSDC Chair Ross Thornton said the biennial award celebrated best practice in the management of natural resources.

“Past medal recipients include people who have shown their peers how to restore damaged ecosystems, how to work with natural resources to be more productive and how to maintain the exceptional natural qualities of our region,” he said.

Mr Bastyan hopes to extend the scope of his project by planting another species of seagrass at deeper points within the harbour.

“There’s plenty of potential for the posidonia sinuosa to grow well down to the five metre contour,” he said.

“That’s a significant proportion of the total seabed in Oyster Harbour.”

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Drive-in era ends

ALBANY’S will close at the end of April, with its owner saying costs and a lack of interest are the reasons he didn’t extend its lease.

Businessman Tom Kennedy, who also owns the adjacent Albany Ten Pin Bowling, said the drive-in on Stead Road has a long history, first opening on the day after Christmas in 1964.

Mr Kennedy took the helm in late 2012 and hosted a premiere event in early 2013.

While he has always been a passionate cinephile, Mr Kennedy said it took more than passion to keep a business like this running.

“You’ve got to have the people behind it that want to come see it,” he said.

“They overlook the whole cultural experience, the whole culture of the drive-in has been lost.

“Generally people over 30, they’re the ones that can remember going as a kid so they’ll take their kids.

“Young guys in their 20s, they’d rather go to the cinema, they don’t know what the drive-in is all about.”

Mr Kennedy said the high costs of organising film screenings and the rise of technologies like streaming services had rendered old-fashioned drive-ins like his unviable.

“People have seen some films 20 times at home so they don’t want to pay $30 a carload to watch it in here.”

While he has always wanted to screen Star Wars, the film franchise he remembers watching at the drive-in as a kid, licencing rules made it too expensive.

“The restrictions they place on us because we don’t have a digital projector system, we have to have that to get the latest digital films,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Any old film, Paramount, Warner, Universal, they make it difficult for us so we can’t even play Back to the Future.

“The plan is to scale down, focus on [my bowling business], don’t stress the wife out.”

Mr Kennedy hopes to host a send-off event sometime around Easter.

He is considering screening 1988 Australian drama The Man from Snowy River II, which drew large numbers of customers when it was shown previously.

“We had one event last week, the film crew from [Albany film production] Itch asked us to play one for them and I opened it up for the public to come in,” he said.

One of Mr Kennedy’s most memorable moments running the drive-in occurred at that screening, when his much beloved pet bull Brucie Brahman escaped.

“He picked on one of the costume girls,” he said.

“It was like an attack in slow motion; he was just walking slowly, pushing her and she was laughing her head off and couldn’t stop, and all the film crew were filming him.

“It was amazing.”

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Ireland acts out

LIFE as an actor isn’t always glitz and glamour and red carpets.

Sometimes actors find themselves learning new languages, battling extreme climates of locations and working around the clock to get the perfect shot.

Luckily for ABC’s children television series Itch actor Samuel Ireland, his time spent in front of the camera in Albany was relatively cruisy.

The 21-year-old sat down with The Weekender to give an inside look at what it takes to be a star.

Mr Ireland began life as a “socially inept, very introverted” young man who found passion in drama.

His older sister pursued it in high school and suggested he give it a go.

Always “terrible” at sport, drama gave Mr Ireland a way to embrace his love of stories by “living” inside of them.

“We did Twelfth Night in year 11,” he said.

“At the end, when everyone came out to bow…seeing everyone cheering and knowing it made them happy… that was it for me.

“I wanted to be an actor.”

Mr Ireland attended Curtin University in Perth and pursued theatre studies where he penned his own play about fear and magical realism.

He also nabbed a role in indie film The Light and got a placement at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Last year was when he got his “first big gig”.

“When I saw the Itch auditions, I thought, ‘this is my childhood,” Mr Ireland said.

Blue Water High, Parallax…kids’ dramas are what Aussies do best.

“So getting that first call back was a wonderful feeling.”

Mr Ireland scored the lead in Itch as Itchingham Lofte, a science-minded teen who discovers a new element and must keep it out of harm’s way.

“To land it was pretty crazy,” he said.

“I got the news just before Christmas and I told my mum and girlfriend first.

“It gave me such a head spin.”

Mr Ireland arrived in Albany a couple of months ago for filming and is leaving today.

He said his days have varied but that he has loved every minute of it.

“I generally get up at about 5.30am or 6am,” Mr Ireland said.

“I have to shave everyday, which sucks, and I go over my lines.

“I’m on set at about 7.30am and have breakfast and then get into costume and hair.

“Then it’s go, go, go.”

Naturally brown-haired, Mr Ireland had to have his hair cut and coloured a particular shade of red for his role as Itch.

It took a couple of tries to get it the perfect shade but fortunately, it didn’t have to be re-coloured too often and therefore didn’t lengthen Mr Ireland’s time in the chair.

“A basic day for me is 10 hours but the longest I’ve done was 13 hours,” he said.

“I felt pretty beat after that.”

In his brief few days off work, Mr Ireland visited The Gap, Emu Point, Middleton Beach, Boston Brewery and Greens Pool.

He’d visited Albany was he was younger and enjoyed reminiscing again.

“We went to Bluff Knoll when I was 12,” Mr Ireland said.

“There was a lot of stairs!

“I don’t think anybody told me just how many there were. ”

Itch is set to air on ABC ME early in 2020.

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Comment sought on Virgin reception

RIO Tinto Iron Ore General Manager of Communities and Communications Linda Dawson has described their regional Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) program as a lifestyle choice for employees and their families.

This follows the City of Albany inviting submissions on the 10-year contract with Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Pty Ltd for a reception point, transfer terminal baggage handling and associated airline operations at the Albany Regional Airport Terminal.

Ms Dawson said direct flights from Albany to the Pilbara commenced in March 2012 and now had “approximately 135 employees commuting from Albany”.

“For Rio Tinto, we believe it’s important to contribute to the communities where we live and work, and our workforce in the Albany/Great Southern have established deep connections to the region,” she said.

“Rio Tinto has a long history of supporting economic development both in regional WA.

“In 2016, Rio Tinto’s regional WA FIFO workforce was estimated to have generated a total spend of $424.5 million with a flow on economic impact of $184.7 million, creating almost 1,250 jobs.”

Virgin Australia operated out of the Albany Airport in previous years with a passenger service but was forced to cease operations in 2016 due to low customer demand.

To cater for Rio Tinto’s regional FIFO service, Virgin runs weekly private charters.

Also up for public comment is a proposed five year contract with Regional Express Pty Ltd, or Rex, for airline reception, office space and associated airline operations and transfer or terminal baggage.

City of Albany CEO Andrew Sharpe said the proposed contract “for Rex will enable them to continue to operate the existing RPT service” at the Albany Airport.

“The proposed license with Virgin Australia will allow them to use the airport’s facilities to continue to provide the existing closed charter service for Rio Tinto, flying FIFO workers from Albany,” he said.

In a City council meeting last month, councillors voted unanimously to allow Rex to increase the price on their Community Fare tickets by $10 from its low-cost $129 fare.

Public comment on both proposed contracts closes on April 4.

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Heroism honours

SEVEN Great Southern residents have been awarded medallions in this year’s Australian Bravery Awards for their valiant efforts in life threatening situations across the region.

Matthew Corlett, Jason Fletcher, Peno Hau and Shaun McHenry were recognised for their courage during the October 2012 Black Cat Creek fire burnover event east of Albany that claimed the life of firefighter Wendy Bearfoot.

Mr Corlett, Mr Fletcher and Mr Hau will each receive a bravery medal as they went back into the bushfire to help others.

Mr McHenry will receive a star of courage for his similar efforts of putting himself in harm’s way to assist injured fire crew, some of whom were trapped in burning vehicles or who were without protection.

Chris Johns ESM, Jason Shepherd and Tim Wilkinson will receive a group bravery award for their efforts rescuing a woman who had jumped into the ocean near the Blowholes in October
2015.

The Albany Sea Rescue crew was deployed at around 8pm after police reported a missing person who was believed to have jumped into the water.

Mr Shepherd said conditions were difficult that night and required a full team effort to make the 32km trip as fast as possible.

“I was just about to sit down at home for tea when I got the call,” he said.

“It was a pitch black night, there was no moon and there was a strong easterly.

“It wasn’t a textbook case, so the challenge was to just get there on time.”

Mr Johns said he was incredibly proud of his team’s efforts and couldn’t speak highly enough of the police involved too.

“Shep is one of our best skippers,” he said.

“It was Tim’s first time out at night so he was very sea sick but he still helped.

“They were just outstanding, and that’s why I get so emotional talking about them – they are always so reliable.

“And the police, they were running around with their pocket torches and doing everything they could; they were outstanding.

“The cops don’t always get the thanks but they were just great.”

There are 101 Australians in total receiving honours at this year’s Australian Bravery Awards.

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Labor names Payne

ESPERANCE Shire councillor Shelley Payne was named the Federal Labor candidate in the running for the seat of O’Connor last week.

Ms Payne has lived in Esperance for the past 17 years after growing up in Canada and travelling the world completing an engineering degree, a master of business and recently a diploma
of local government.

Ms Payne said she got involved in local politics in 2017 after her youngest of three started high school.

“I felt that there were some issues that were happening in the shire and I wanted to help out,” she said.

“About a year ago I got interested in running for a Federal seat when I saw the opportunity to represent my region.

“The electorate wants someone they can trust that will fight for everything that regional communities have missed out on in the past.”

Ms Payne said the biggest issue that the O’Connor community faces is having better health and education services.

“It’s an issue regionally everywhere,” she said.

“I was really pleased to see Labor’s commitment to a cancer machine in Albany but the crux of the matter is that regional people need a voice.

“It hasn’t happened for the past few Federal terms and it needs to change.”

Ms Payne said a large influence on her decision to jump from local government to Federal was her children.

“My kids will be in the workforce in the next decade,” she said.

“I want to build a better future for my kids and the kids of O’Connor.

“It’s time to get some progression happening.”

Ms Payne said the future of climate change was a concern that needed to be addressed.

“People need to genuinely understand what climate change means and we need to build a sustainable future,” she said.

Ms Payne said she wouldn’t “stand on the backbench and do nothing” if she is elected.

“I’m not afraid to stand up and fight for the region,” she said.

“The timing is right for a Labor representative for O’Connor.

“Someone needs to stand up and make sure regional areas get their fair share.”

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Rehab program queried

ALBANY’S Ice Breakers methamphetamine rehabilitation program trial period has been extended for a further nine months despite a former program facilitator being jailed for a meth related crime this year and another facing alleged meth related charges.

Premier Mark McGowan announced $360,000 funding for the program during a visit to Albany in May 2017 for a two-year trial period.

Ice Breakers founder Jamie Coyne was jailed for three and a half years for assaulting an Albany man while under the influence of meth after Albany District Court sentenced him in March.

Craig Golding is also facing a string of alleged meth related crimes with 15 counts of offering to sell methylamphetamine while he was a facilitator of the program.

A spokesperson for Premier McGowan did not comment on Mr Coyne’s actions or Mr Golding’s alleged crimes but said during the period between July to December 2018 “101 people received treatment and support” which was “above the annual target of 60”.

“The Ice Breakers program funding of $360,000 over two years was provided for a two year trial,” they said.

“The Mental Health Commission grant agreement ends on 30 June 2019, however, the grant funding will be sufficient for the program trial to continue to March 2020.

“The Ice Breakers program trial and performance will be evaluated and any further funding will then be considered as part of the normal budget process.”

The spokesperson said, “alcohol and other drug issues is a complex issue”.

Shadow Minister for Health and Mental Health Sean L’Estrange said target intervention, support and “breaking the chain” of dealers was essential to helping recovering meth addicts.

“Getting these people into rehab is vital,” he said.

“The McGowan Government made the commitment for the Ice Breakers program and they need to justify the competency of the program.

“The Premier and Minister for Health should have followed a due process and consulted with experts in the field before providing the funding.”

Mr L’Estrange said the question he had was whether or not there was proper due diligence while assessing the program.

“There should have been experts independent of politics consulting,” he said.

“If the Labor Government didn’t do that they should not have allowed the funding. The conduct of those individuals facilitating the program is unacceptable.

“Why is there still funding for the Ice Breakers program?”

Mr L’Estrange said the Premier needed to reassure the public that the Ice Breakers program was still viable if it was to continue until 2020.

“The last thing parents and loved ones want is to worry whether their child, relative or friend is exposed to further harm in a drug rehabilitation program,” he said.

“Mr McGowan needs to explain to the public what due process they followed before the funding was awarded.

“He needs to explain and justify to us how the program was appointed.”

The spokesperson for the Premier said the State Government was “committed to addressing methamphetamine issues in Western Australia”.

“Funding of $131.7 million [was] allocated from 2017-2018 to 2021-22, for the implementation of its Methamphetamine Action Plan and related initiatives,” they said.

“This includes fast-tracking the opening of 19 new residential beds in the South West, which opened in January 2019.”

Mr L’Estrange said the Labor Government had cut $154,000 in funding to the Meth Helpline.

“One in four calls to the helpline were going unanswered and he still cut the funding,” he said.

“They have been cutting the funding for helping people with meth addictions.

“It’s up to the McGowan Government to justify their expenditure.”

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