Principal passes test

ALBANY rider and South Stirling Primary School principal Di Fry had a breakthrough win at the recent Cape to Cape endurance mountain biking event.

Over the four stages of the 210km race, Fry clocked in with a total time of 13 hours, 17 minutes and seven seconds to claim the Masters 3 Women’s division.

Fry has been riding competitively for nearly 10 years and said it all started when her husband bought a couple of hybrid bikes.

“I was a middle to long-distance runner for a long time and started getting too many injuries,” she said.

“I was doing shorter and shorter races and I felt like there was no point in doing it.

“So my husband and I bought a couple of hybrid bikes and started to do a lot of riding together.

“After competing in the Karri Cup in Northcliffe, my husband gave me a mountain bike for my 50th birthday and that was it.

“My strength is in endurance, and mountain biking became my sport.”

Fry has now competed in five Cape to Cape races, but this year was the first time she was rewarded for the long haul with a spot on the podium.

“This was my first time in a new age bracket and I’m definitely the baby of the group,” she joked.

“My previous group had some sensational riders and I had no chance of keeping up with them.”

Fry said she tries to get out for a 25km ride twice a week to keep in tip-top shape for her two competitive endurance rides each year.

“I stick to doing the Karri Cup and Cape to Cape each year for competitions,” she said.

“Cape to Cape is around 210km over four days and the Karri Cup is a 100km event.

“It’s getting longer and longer to recover so I’m not too sure how much longer I’ll be doing two big events.”

Fry said getting involved in mountain biking was something the whole family could do.

“The younger your kids are the more confident on the track and least likely to get hurt,” she said.

“If you trust your bike and trust yourself, you’ll be fine.

“It’s a great sport to get out exercising and to be out in nature.”

Fry said she had time to recover over the Christmas break and get back into the swing of training in time for the Karri Cup in April next year.

“Karri Cup is a fantastic event and has a real community spirit behind it.

“Albany is really missing out on having established mountain bike trails because places like Northcliffe, Margaret River and Pemberton are meccas for riders.”

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Mabel’s little life saver

PHOENIX the dog has been more than just a cute and cuddly companion for nine-year-old Albany girl Mabel Dines.

The diabetic alert dog has saved his young owner’s life more than a dozen times since finding his new home with Mabel three months ago.

Following her Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis in September last year, Mabel is now insulin dependent and requires constant monitoring, with a glucose monitor implant and finger prick testing conducted at least four times during the day, and up to five times during the night.

Mabel’s mum Alison Norman told The Weekender she had no idea her daughter had diabetes, with no family history suggesting otherwise.

“It was a complete mystery,” she said.

“Mabel was ravenous, excessively thirsty, she’d wake up four or five times in the night to go to the toilet and drink a litre of water each time she got up…and she lost weight.

“She’s already so thin, and she lost about 5kg in a week.”

While on their way home after a visit to the GP and hospital blood tests, Ms Norman said she was immediately told to turn around and head back to the hospital, as a Royal Flying Doctor Service plane was awaiting her and Mabel.

Mabel was then transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth for a 10-night stay where she received her diabetes diagnosis.

“It was really traumatic for my little girl,” Ms Norman said.

“She’s hyper sensory and has autistic tendencies, and she had to take in a lot of information… there were lots of needles and bright lights in her face.

“She’s a trooper.”

Ms Norman said it was when she sat vigil at Mabel’s hospital bedside that she learned about diabetic alert dogs.

The dogs are trained to recognise the scent of a diabetic’s saliva and alert them when their blood sugar level is too low or high.

Purchasing a trained pooch from the United States or across the other side of Australia was going to cost Ms Norman more than $50,000, so she was relieved to find a more affordable breeder closer to home.

“I found a diabetic lady in Busselton who trained her own,” she said.

“She had been imprinting them with her low blood sugar saliva… she put her life on hold for three months to train her dog from when it was two-hours old.”

Ms Norman said that’s when Phoenix came into her and Mabel’s life, with the price tag of $10,000, just over three months ago.

“He saved Mabel’s life on his first day of duty within two hours,” she said.

“And he has done so more than a dozen times since.

“When we first got him, Mabel was playing with him, and at the time, according to her implant, I knew Mabel was sitting at about five [blood sugar level] and she has to stay between four and eight.

“I could hear her saying, ‘come on Phoenix, let’s play, don’t jump on me…Mum, I think he’s alerting me’.

“So, I asked Phoenix what the matter was, and he banged my knee and banged Mabel’s knee and sat in front of her and didn’t move.

“I tested her blood sugar level and she had dropped down to 3.8.”

Ms Norman said she has started a Gofundme page to help pay the bill for Phoenix, who still requires constant daily training.

She said she is incredibly thankful to those who have donated just over $2000 so far, and would be grateful for any other fundraising suggestions.

If you wish to donate to help pay for Phoenix or have a fundraising opportunity available, visit

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Ruby shines bright

SEVEN-year-old Ruby Robertson will be laid to rest on Monday after losing a life-long battle with illness.

The avid Wiggles fan was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome and epilepsy after undergoing surgery for a disconnected and twisted bowel at two years of age, but never let her health issues slow her down until the very end.

In a difficult text message to send, The Weekender contacted Ruby’s mum Tamara Drew to extend condolences to her family and to share her memories, having first met Ruby a year ago.

Despite her grief, Ms Drew obliged.

“Ruby was full of courage, strength and sheer determination,” she replied.

“She loved her life, her school, her family and the Wiggles very much.

“Finding joy was always on the top of her list.

“We feel privileged to have walked beside her along this journey.”

A post on the Team Ruby Facebook page made a simple request for friends and family for a play and a party at Eyre Park on Monday following the service at Amity Rose Funeral Home.

“Please, request the day off, keep your kids home from school, chuck a sickie – whatever it takes,” dad James Robertson posted.

“We want as many people as possible to help us celebrate and remember this girl’s incredible life.

“We want this town to grind to a halt as we pay tribute to this most incredible child, and bask in the glorious light that she shines upon us all.

“Ruby would not have wanted it any other way.”

Ms Drew said the family was grateful for the love and support they had received from the community.

Weekender readers first met Ruby this time last year (‘Making the mis- sion easier’, 19 October 2017) when her family reciprocated support from Ronald McDonald House, which had assisted with the countless stays in Perth for medical appointments.

Ms Drew described Ruby as “an absolute battler” who “just loves her life”.

“The way she lives is just beautiful,” she said.

The family said there will be the opportunity to donate to several charities and organisations that have helped them along the way at Monday’s service.

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Music for maintenance

PROCEEDS from next month’s collaborative performance between Albany Sinfonia and the City of Albany Band will fund renovations to their shared home, Lancaster Hall.

City of Albany Band conductor Colin France said the Lancaster Hall committee had recently installed new lighting in the hall but other amenities required upgrading to make the hall more comfortable for users.

He said the building, which used to be a church, had basic toilets, a simple storeroom and limited facilities, and that the urn often had to be filled from the bathroom sink.

He said ticket sales from Last Night of the Proms, to be performed on November 24 at Oceans Church, would go towards funding the hall’s upgrades.

“We don’t really have a kitchen, so we are trying to put one in, and we want to upgrade the toilets too,” Mr France said.

“It’s a good building, but it needs a bit of maintenance…it needs painting too.”

Lancaster Hall committee chair Alison Steer said she planned to have a disabled toilet facility added as well as water access in the kitchen.

“The concert should hopefully pay to put in the kitchen plumbing for hot and cold water,” she said.

Ms Steer said the concert, which will include a guest performance from the Albany Choral Society, will be the first performed at Oceans Church.

She said the impressive facility could seat 500 people and that she was keen to test out its acoustics.

“We are very excited to be one of the opening acts to first perform at the church,” Ms Steer said.

“We are bringing back Last Night of the Proms by popular demand as a bit of fun for the end of the year.”

Mr France added the performance will be “typical” of Last Night of the Proms, so the audience can “sing along and make funny noises” at their pleasure.

Tickets for the November 24 show are now on sale from Uptown Music and

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Pulling up stumps

WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S oldest working relationship between a sitting mayor or shire president and current CEO comes to an end tomorrow in the Great Southern town of Woodanilling.

Belinda Knight commenced as CEO of Woodanilling Shire in August 2001 and in the 17 years since has only ever worked with one shire president, Russel Thomson.

“I started here only three weeks before the planes flew into the twin towers in America,” Ms Knight said in a stark reminder of the passage of time.

“I’ve now been the longest continually serving president at the Shire of Woodanilling since it started in 1906.

“That’s something I’m pretty proud of.”

Her last day at the Shire, and the last day of her executive partnership with Cr Thomson, is tomorrow.

Exhaustive Weekender analysis reveals the partnership to be the longest currently existing between a CEO and shire president, or mayor, across all of the state’s 139 local governments.

“I’ve got a few more years to go until I retire but I just wanted a little bit less pressure as I wind down towards that,” Ms Knight confided.

“I’m going over to Lake Grace as Deputy CEO.”

She said there had “not been a moment” she had regretted at the Shire.

“Woodanilling turned my life around,” she added.

“My family, even as a child, my parents were pretty much the same; we moved every two or three years.

“I found that very hard to stop doing until I came to Woodanilling and suddenly, 17 years later I’m still here and I’ll really miss the place.”

She considered her greatest achievements to be a rebuild of the Shire office facade, and completion in recent years of seven units for older people.

“We have seven beautiful people living in them who love their units and have formed their own little community,” she said of the units located in Woodanilling town.

“They are all people who have come here from outside the shire, and had a connection and wanted to come back.”

Remarkably, Cr Thomson has been on the council since 1982 and Shire President since 1995. He said Ms Knight had “achieved a hell of a lot” for Woodanilling.

“From my point of view, it’s been a great relation- ship, and I’m sad to see it change,” he expanded.

“Belinda brought a huge amount of passion to the job.

“Woodanilling has been her home and when it’s your home you put all your effort into it.”

He said Ms Knight had done everything in her power to make the shire a better place.

“It’s a huge job in there, running a small shire,” he explained.

“At a larger place, the CEO says: ‘Look, Bill, just do that report up for me, will you? And I’d like it tomorrow night’.

“Well, at Woodanilling, hello, that’s the CEO’s job.”

Tomorrow is Ms Knight’s last day working at the Shire.

She’s racked up a big chunk of leave, and says she’ll take it until December 31.

Sean Fletcher, who also quite remarkably has filled CEO roles at the shires of Carnamah, Lake Grace, Morawa, Sandstone and Wyalkatchem, will act as Woodanilling CEO until the job is filled.

The position has been advertised on a three-to-five-year contract with a remuneration package of $126,956 to $198,210.

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Fruit of the vines

NOT every story starts with planting sticks in a cow paddock.

But that’s how the tale of Oranje Tractor Wine began two decades ago, when owners Pam Lincoln and Murray Gomm decided to “escape the rat race of the big smoke” and return to Mr Gomm’s Great Southern roots.

Mr Gomm’s parents owned 386 acres of land in Marbelup on the outskirts of Albany, when he and Ms Lincoln decided to move back to the country.

Mr Gomm said his parents offered the couple part of their property because, “well, if you’re going to move here, you can do something with the land”.

“We looked at various options before coming here,” he said.

“…and wine was a big thing for me,” Ms Lincoln added, referring to her winemaker background.

“So, we moved in 1993 and started planting vines in 1998.”

Ms Lincoln said the pair started with cuttings from other vineyards in the region and planted them in a nursery.

She said they had a blank canvas to work with, so all the greenery and infrastructure seen today was generated by their own hands.

“When we got here, there were no trees; it was a just a cow paddock,” Ms Lincoln said.

“So every tree you see here, we planted.”

Mr Gomm said they then built their home and the shed-turned-cellar door with predominately second-hand materials, as their policy of sustainability was important to maintain throughout the property from the very beginning.

Sustainability and regenerative farming are major aspects of Oranje Tractor and part of the reason why the couple think their products are popular.

“We’re about working with nature, not against it,” Mr Gomm said.

“Our thought process is to leave your patch better than when you started, don’t just crash and burn it.”

Ms Lincoln said she learned at an Adelaide wine conference last week that consumers are more interested in smaller, “more unusual” producers and those who keep organic and sustainable practices.

She was thrilled to learn the news, as that was what she and Mr Gomm had been doing for the past 20 years.

“I think it’s really important that people know our story,” Ms Lincoln said.

“We don’t have organic written all over the label…so locals who know us, know why they are paying say, $35 for a bottle of Riesling instead of $30.”

Mr Gomm added that the pair weren’t in the business of selling wine, but were in the business of “providing an experience…an unforgettable, sharable Instagram photo”.

“Wine is an interesting industry to be in because it’s so competitive,” he said.

“So for us, it’s all about this here…it’s about people walking down that path and, at the moment, smelling the citrus trees and having an experience.

“We’d rather have a conversation with someone here than try and rugby tackle them in a bottle shop to get them to try our wine.”

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‘Sandalwood safe’

RECEIVERS of embattled company Quintis that owns Albany’s Mount Romance sandalwood plant stepped aside this week saying Quintis had successfully recapitalised and their work was now done.

McGrathNicol partners Jason Preston, Shaun Fraser and Robert Brauer were appointed receivers of the Quintis Group in January 2018.

Their appointment ended on Tuesday after Mr Preston said recapitalisation of the struggling company “had been successfully completed” that afternoon.

He said Quintis had received “a substantial capital injection” and debt arrangements had been renegotiated “on favourable terms such that Quintis emerges from insolvency in a very strong financial position”.

Mr Preston said 200 Quintis staff, most of them in regional Australia, had retained their jobs.

“We are delighted to have reached a positive outcome for stakeholders in such a complex receivership,” he added.

“The majority of jobs have been protected and the recapitalisation ensures all plantations owned by Quintis will continue to be maintained to the company’s high forestry standards.”

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Students face final test

TRIPS to Ningaloo and England, knee surgery and the peaceful Minecraft soundtrack await three Albany year 12 students following the completion of their Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) examinations over the next two weeks.

Christine Murray, Candace Newcombe and Ebony Powell from Albany Senior High School are three of more than 15,000 WA secondary students completing exams at the moment, on subjects including modern history, English, chemistry and maths.

Their final ATAR scores will dictate which undergraduate-university courses they can apply to gain direct entry to.

The trio took a moment between exams and study to chat with The Weekender on Tuesday about their study progress and post-school plans.

As this story hits the streets, Christine, Candace and Ebony will be heads-down and shaking off writers’ cramp in their English exam.

“Since the semester two exams, I’ve had a pretty solid study plan, so it’s just been about trying to maintain that,” Christine said.

“And not being at school, it’s hard to stay motivated, so I try and study at school or at the library or at a mate’s place.”

Christine said having a “pretty big routine” balancing study with swim training has helped her keep focus, knowing she only has a certain time frame in which to complete study.

She hopes to pursue a double degree in sport and exercise, and psychology at Murdoch University, but will first head to England for her gap year to work as a swimming teacher and just to explore.

Candace said she aims to study two or three subjects per day in a school day-like structure for her study routine, to make sure she adequately covers her health, human biology, physical education and English revision.

She’s aiming to be accepted into a nursing course at Curtin University, and further pursue a medical science degree.

“If I’m feeling super un-motivated, I just go outside and do palm card revision – something a bit less intense,” Candace said.

“I’m pretty chill at the moment; I try to just brush off the stress.”

Upon completion of her exams, Candace is heading to Ningaloo for a week-long holiday before heading into hospital for knee surgery.

She said a reoccurring volleyball injury has caused her left knee to dislocate multiple times, so she’s going under the knife to have her hamstring tendon “nailed down” to stop it happening again.

Ebony has five ATAR exams – the first completed on Tuesday – and seemed a tad frazzled when walking out of it.

But she is pressing on, keen to do her best and later return her attention to her beloved Minecraft and its calming effect.

“Yeah, I’m a bit stressed,” Ebony admitted.

“I try to study one subject for two days and just go for it.

“Then just before the exam, I’ll do that topic again.”

Ebony is heading to Augusta and Mundaring with her boyfriend for leavers after exams, before spending her gap year lifeguarding and maybe some waitressing.

She hopes to pursue a teaching degree at Curtin University in 2020.

The final ATAR exam is timetabled for November 16 when students studying ancient history and Italian as a second language will be put through the wringer.

ATAR results are scheduled for release on December 17.

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Actor right at home

KATANNING actor and silver-screen gunslinger Mitchell Page is returning to his home town next month for the screening of the internationally acclaimed independent film The Decadent and Depraved.

Mr Page filmed alongside Australian TV screen heroes Michael Muntz from A Country Practice, McLeod’s Daughters’ Ben Mortley and Blue Heelers’ Steve Turner during his role.

Mr Page said he initially auditioned for the role of ‘Cattlehandler Number 2’ when he got offered to read the role of Ellis.

“I wasn’t even auditioning for Cattlehandler Number 1,” he joked.

“After auditioning they asked me to read the part of Ellis. I drove off when I was done and they called me back 30 minutes later to do a second reading.

“A week later they asked me if I wanted the part of Ellis.”

Mr Page said Ellis’ character leapt straight off the page when he was reading the script but nutting out the details of his persona was a harder task.

“I started off reading a lot of history on what Western Australia was like back then. It was hard work,” he lamented.

“So I decided to read more about the culture and the poetry.

“There was a lot of Banjo Patterson.

“Ellis’ role was unique in that you just had to dive in, sail over the edge and hope you come back out the other side.”

Mr Page said his character was certainly unhinged and an overall wacky personality.

“I drew a lot of inspiration from ragged bushrangers and Ned Kelly sort of figures,” he said.

“I just really wanted to play on the myth of what it was like back then to be a bushranger.

“I’m definitely drawn to these sorts of characters. I played Monster in the Lockie Leonard series and he was definitely wild and wacky.”

Twenty-one year-old director Jordon Prince Wright said Mr Page jumped into the character of Ellis.

“He starts off as an undeniable cruel villain in the beginning,” he said.

“By the end of the film he’s more of the lovable villain and acts as comedy relief.”

Mr Page said the process of filming The Decadent and Depraved was a great and intense experience.

“It was either scorching hot or below zero,” he said.

“We really had to battle the Australian environment sometimes since we were filming in outback Kukerin, Cue and Yalgoo.

“There were plenty of late nights and rogue animals.

“The fact that we had such a young cast as well with 19 to 20-year-olds was amazing.

“Their work ethic was fantastic. They would just say ‘bugger it’ and have a crack.”

Mr Page said he was ecstatic about the screening at the Katanning Town Hall.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to do a screening of a film I’m in at home,” he said.

“Katanning is known as the heart of the Great Southern and I’m hoping it can be known as the Hollywood of the Great Southern just for one night.

“Mum and Dad are still in town and they’ll definitely be beating the drum, but we’ll definitely do a bit of a shindig.”

Mr Prince-Wright said this would be the first screening of The Decadent and Depraved in Katanning.

“We’ve taken the film on a tour three times already since it has been so popular,” he said.

“Our biggest premiere event was in Perth, but our stints in country towns have had a completely different atmosphere.

“I feel like the one in Katanning is going to be bigger than Ben Hur, that’s for sure.

“The Shire has been treating us like royalty and the locals have been incredibly supportive.

“We had around 200 people turn up in Kukerin to watch Mitchell run his lines.”

Mr Prince-Wright said he was still shocked at how his $100,000-budget film had evolved into a multi-award winning film.

The Decadent and Depraved has so far won six awards at the Los Angeles Film Awards, seven awards at the Oniros Film Awards, three awards at the New York Film Awards and was a winner of the Festigious International Film Festival.

Mr Page said for now he would be concentrating on his most important project yet.

“I have a one-and-a-half year old at home. That is my little project at the moment,” he joked.

“She takes up a lot of my time and energy so I’ll finish off the film tour and spend some more time with her.”

The Decadent and Depraved will screen at the Katanning Town Hall on November 17 from 7.30pm with a Q&A with the filmmakers and actors on November 18 from 10am.

Tickets are available at

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A stitch in time

IT’S not every day a bride leaves organising her wedding dress until three months before her wedding.

But Albany’s Alicia Sims knew her mum Zoe Masters had the crocheting skills to pull off such a feat.

Ms Masters spent more than 1000 hours over three months crocheting a white sheath silhouette gown with “Cadbury purple” and lavender detailing, based on dimensions her daughter took herself and sent via text message, and on a loose pattern with “really badly translated Russian instructions”.

After agonising over it for so long, Ms Masters said she was nervous to see her daughter’s and family’s reactions to the dress on the big day.

“She was changing her mind about the pattern for about two weeks,” Ms Masters said.

“I said, ‘you need to make up your mind!’

“We had the first and only fitting about three weeks before the wedding, as I was living in Perth at the time, and that was only the top half of the dress…it was finished the night before the wedding.”

Ms Masters said both she, her daughter and her mother burst into tears when Ms Sims tried on the completed gown for the first time.

“It was a perfect fit,” she reminisced.

“Dan [fiancée] said he nearly cried when he saw her…he said his heart melted.”

When asked whether her daughter had a back-up plan should the dress not come together in time, Ms Masters laughed.

“Nope!” she said.

“That’s faith for ya!”

Ms Masters said her daughter loved her gown so much, it went along with her to a heavy metal music concert.

“Her and Dan skipped out on the reception early to go to a Disturbed concert,” she said.

“I said, ‘don’t you tear that dress!’”

The dress made its first public appearance outside of Ms Sim’s wedding at the Wedding and Event Gala Day at Elliot House earlier this month.

Ms Masters said the dress caught a few people’s eyes and attracted potential future clientele.

“My fingers have been itching to make another one,” she admitted.

“Because everything I make is a one-of-a-kind custom.

“If you are wearing something made by me, you can guarantee no one else will be wearing the same.”

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