Comment wins judges over

VICTORIAN artist Kevin Chin was named this year’s $25,000 major acquisitive prize winner for his piece Sheltered at the launch of the Albany Art Prize exhibition at the Town Hall on Thursday.

Mr Chin was unable to accept the prize in person, but called on City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington to read a letter to the audience.

Mr Chin expressed his deep appreciation for his work being recognised as commenting on what he called a global migrant crisis.

Albany artist John Manson also impressed the judges and won the highly commended award for his piece Mt Clarence No. 2.

“I’ve been watching this award for years, and to even be involved is incredible,” he said.

Mr Manson said inspiration for his work came from spending his time driving and riding past Mount Clarence.

“I’ve spent years admiring the houses as I drove by and found the arrangement to be really pleasing, so I wanted to transfer that to a painting,” he said.

Finalists of the Albany Art Prize will be on display daily from 10am to 4pm at the Town Hall until May 6.

The people’s choice award will be announced at the close of the exhibition.

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Life jacket call falls short

IN THE wake of Albany’s latest rock fishing tragedy, Western Australia’s peak body for recreational fishers has stopped short of supporting a coroner’s recommendation released last week that life jackets be made compulsory.

Yesterday, Great Southern Police Inspector Danny Vincent confirmed Samuel Peter Roth, 30, of Bayonet Head was fishing alone, untethered to the shore and not wearing a life jacket when he fell into the ocean while fishing off rocks near West Cape Howe on Easter Monday.

Rescuers found Mr Roth’s body about 3pm in water near an area called ‘The Deep’.

The tragedy comes just one week after a coroner’s report into the deaths of Perth fishermen Chunjun Li and Jialong Zhang at Albany’s Salmon Holes in Easter 2015 recommended that lifejackets be made compulsory for rock fishers (‘Fishing safety plea’, The Weekender, March 29).

Albany Sea Rescue operations coordinator Chris Johns – whose testimony heavily influenced the recommendations of Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker – said conditions were treacherous as two rescue boats with seven crew, and two surf lifesaving jet skis and four riders were dispatched from Albany on Monday.

“A Denmark surf lifesaving jet ski got there [first] and recovered the body, which was transferred to the Denmark sea rescue boat and then the police asked us to take the man back to Albany,” he said.

Mr Johns repeated calls he has made over many years for life jackets to be made mandatory for rock fishers.

Tim Grose, communications manager for recreational fishing peak group Recfishwest, stopped well short of backing Mr Johns’ calls.

“We’re currently reviewing the coroner’s recommendations and will use the current trial happening in New South Wales to help better guide our position on life jackets for rock fishers,” he told The Weekender.

“At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their own safety and all the authorities are doing a great job collectively educating and raising the awareness of safe beach fishing, especially on the South Coast.”

Mr Johns said sea rescue and surf lifesaving personnel were all volunteers, and that he had personally put 15 people in body bags.

“One thing I’ve been saying in these current coronial reports is that most people think this is always at Salmon Holes and always tourists,” he said.

“I get really offended by that because at least 40 per cent, probably 50 per cent of our jobs, if you look at our log books, are not at Salmon Holes, a case in point yesterday, and they are local fishers.

He said rock fishing deaths were on the rise around Albany.

“Since 1974, every 2.8 years we lose somebody through rock fishing here,” he said.

“It’s been disproportionally higher in the last few years.

“There have been nine deaths and about eight recoveries from 2015 back to 2011 from rock fishing alone.”

Mr Johns said one similarity among all deaths was that none of the fishers was wearing a life jacket.

“We understand that the family would feel shattered right now,” he said.

“So do the volunteers, and SES and the police who respond at the scene.”

Tributes to Mr Roth have flowed in over social media since news of his death broke on Monday.

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Perfect pumpkins

THE heaviest and best-dressed pumpkins the Great Southern has to offer will be on display next week for the annual Lower Kalgan Community Association’s Giant Pumpkin Fair.

The Giant Pumpkin Fair will spread its roots through the Lower Kalgan Hall’s grounds on April 14 from 9am to midday, and will have many prizes up for grabs, including the heaviest and best-dressed pumpkins, best pumpkin soup and best pumpkin photos.

Young Charlie, Wesley, Louis and Marnie McGregor have worked with dad Clint to grow their pumpkins, aiming to enter into the heaviest pumpkin junior category.

They are aiming to beat their entry from last year that tipped the scales at 75kg.

“We might have beaten last years’,” Mr McGregor said, inspecting the sizeable vegetables at the bottom of his makeshift garden.

“We planted in November as it takes about four months for them to get to a good size, and I reckon this one is about 75kg at the moment.”

Mr McGregor said the necessary maintenance for the pumpkins was relatively low, using slow-release fertiliser in an old cattle yard, where he said the soil already had good poo.

And while rabbits aren’t necessarily a problem, Mr McGregor said he had enlisted the help of his young tribe to shoo other pests away.

“The kids help with the watering and shooing away the chooks and the duck,” he said.

“The only thing I have to keep an eye on is the kids walking all over the pumpkins.”

To find out more about the pumpkin competition and market stalls at the fair, you can check out the Facebook page, or contact Laura Bird on 0428 294 234 for pumpkin enquiries and Vicki Joynes for stall bookings on 0402 166 161.

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Lamp shines bright

THERE’S no such thing as a dull moment for renowned Albany author Dianne Wolfer.

If she’s not writing or editing a piece of work in her study, she’s off around the world chasing snippets of history, gathering writer’s inspiration from the comfort of a café lounge, or speaking with school students about literacy.

2018 is a busy year for Wolfer, who is releasing two new books, speaking at multiple schools and groups across the state about her books, organising her packed-out school schedule for Book Week, and launching her latest historical fiction, In the Lamplight, in both WA and in Harefield, England – In the Lamplight’s primary location.

She took a moment from her busy agenda to speak with The Weekender about her third and final instalment of the historical fiction saga Albanians have come to know and love her for.

While on a trip with her husband Peter to Peronne, France in 2003, Wolfer said the pair stopped over in London.

She said she was keen to visit Harefield, a small village north-west of London, as it housed the site of the first Australian World War I auxiliary hospital.

“It was a village that was completely changed by WWI, and I was really interested in that,” she said.

And so, In the Lamplight was born.

The first two books in her historical fiction series, Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, travel through time from the beginning of WWI and its major events.

Wolfer said it was only natural to complete the trilogy with In the Lamplight’s plot ending in 1919.

“The war changed Australia forever,” she said.

“We often look at what happened during the war, but not always at what happened afterwards, when all these men were coming home damaged.”

When closing in on her final manuscript last year, Wolfer said she was aware of the possible timing her book launch could have – April 2018 coinciding with the centenary of the end of WWI.

“It was a three-year project, because the research was so time-consuming,” she said.

“Each little fact had to be cross-referenced, and I’d often get carried away with the excitement of it all.

“So, I knew that if I wanted it to hit the shelves in April, I had to have it to the printers by October.

“We were working around the clock.”

Wolfer explored historical war resources in Albany, Perth, Canberra and Harefield to create the beautifully-presented, Australian-English perspective on the first world war that is In the Lamplight.

She is excited to officially launch the book at Carlyles Function Centre on April 9 and in Harefield in May.

“It’s all go!” she said.

For more information on the launch or to get your hands on a copy of In the Lamplight, visit or Paperbark Merchants on York Street.

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Malleefowl love nest

RARE birds after which the Shire of Gnowangerup is named are breeding like billyo out Ongerup way.

Manager of Yongergnow Australian Malleefowl Centre Rebecca Brady says that malleefowls Maggie, aged four, and Drei, two, have produced 19 chicks since late last year, and show no signs of stopping.

“After the Christmas break, when we came back we spotted three little chicks in the small aviary, and since then they’ve just been hatching and hatching, and every time we go out there’s been more and more, so the count now is 19,” she says.

“The last time our biologist, Vicki, checked the mound was before the last six chicks hatched. There were five eggs in it and we haven’t checked since then – so there could be more.”

Ms Brady says the 19 feathered newbies were the first chicks produced by their prolific parents.

“Maggie is about four years old,” she says.

“She’s been here a while, and Drei was a chick from the 2015/16 breeding season.

“He’s only two, so we didn’t think it was possible just yet.”

Roughly translated from the local Noongar language, ‘Gnowangerup’, the name of the shire in which the Ongerup-based centre sits, means ‘Place of the malleefowl’.

According to Birdlife Australia, the malleefowl – which ranges from Victoria and South Australia, up to the Northern Territory and through to Western Australia – is vulnerable nationally, and rare and likely to become extinct in WA.

“In the wild, the chick survival rate is only two per cent because they have no parental control or anything,” Ms Brady explains.

“Once their mum lays the eggs, that’s her job done.

“The father then adds dirt or removes dirt to keep the temperature in the mound between 32 and 34 degrees, and when they hatch they need to work their way out of the mound, which could be 1.5m high, all by themselves.”

Ms Brady says that when the chicks hatch they have to walk up to a metre from the mound, making them vulnerable to foxes and feral cats.

It is partly for that reason that an annual fox shoot that has been arranged for the night of April 7 by the local Community Resource Centre, which Ms Brady also manages, is so important.

“We feel like the local farmers are really helpful in realising that foxes are major predators, not just of livestock, but also of malleefowl,” she says.

Yongergnow plans to release malleefowl currently at the centre into mallee country in Gnowangerup Shire and beyond.

“Around northern Ongerup there have been sightings of malleefowl, including a male who had a mound,” Ms Brady says.

“He was unfortunately hit by a car so we’d like to think if we could put another male out there that male could then work on that mound again.”

Ongerup locals looking to participate in the April 7 fox shoot, and free brekky early the next day, can call 9828 2326 for more details.

Photo: Rebecca Brady with Maggie, Drei and the mound where the 19 chicks were born. Credit: Chris Thomson

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Lid lifted on dirty toilets

AN ALBANY resident has stepped forward and aired her disgust about the current state of a toilet block in Albany’s CBD, which she says has been left unattended for weeks.

Joy Graham told The Weekender she often walks past the toilet block, located behind Wake’s Music on the corner of Lockyer Avenue and Albany Highway, and says the state of the toilets has severely declined.

“There’s crap all over the toilet bowls and over the tops of the bowls, and it’s been like that for weeks,” she said.

“There are leaves and debris inside, so it hasn’t been swept, and there’s broken glass, rubbish, and there’s no soap or toilet paper.

“It’s disgusting.”

Ms Graham said she had spoken with the toilet block landowner, proprietor of Wake’s Music Eric Wake, and had also contacted the City of Albany regarding the state of the toilet block.

“They [City of Albany] said it was private property and they’d handballed it to Mr Wake, and said they’d talk to him about it,” she said.

Mr Wake told The Weekender that he and the City of Albany had an agreement on the toilet block’s maintenance since he purchased the land from the City about 15 years ago.

“We bought the land off the City, and as a public gesture, we allowed the toilet block to stay open, and the City did the cleaning,” he said.

“We paid council rates and overheads for the block, and they provided the toilet paper.

“All of a sudden, out of the blue, the City said they could no longer clean the toilets, as it was costing them $15,000 a year.

“It costs me more than $15,000 a year in overheads for the block.”

Mr Wake said the City ceased maintaining the toilet block about two months ago, right in the middle of the tourist season.

He said he carried out maintenance for a while, but was unable to continue as he did not have all the keys to the block’s amenities.

“We had someone sweep through about once every 10 days and check the toilet paper,” he said.

“But, when they [City] locked it up and put up the private sign, they gave me the keys to the door but didn’t give me the keys to the appliances, so we physically can’t replace things like the toilet paper.”

Mr Wake was not impressed with the City’s efforts to maintain public facilities at the upper end of the CBD.

“I get people and tourists coming in all the time asking to use the toilet,” he said.

“When we get a boatload of 500 to 2000 people coming in, we’ve only got one toilet for them; this is Albany central… I think it’s very poor that a tourism city has one toilet block at this end of the street.”

Mr Wake also raised the issue of providing a 24/7 facility for homeless people to use.

“I see the City wasting money on other projects around town, but not spending it on toilets,” he said.

“If they’re not going to maintain this facility, they need to provide another facility for the top of York Street.”

City of Albany Executive Director for Infrastructure and Environment Matt Thomson confirmed the toilet block was privately owned and the City previously had an understanding with Mr Wake regarding maintenance, but it was no longer responsible for servicing the facility.

“Given the facility is not a public asset, it was determined that the ongoing costs of servicing this facility were excessive and did not provide the community with best value for that spend.

“With shopping centres, fast food outlets and the Town Square facilities in close proximity, the City could not justify continuing to service the privately-owned facility.”

Mr Thomson said the City had not received any complaints from the community regarding the toilet block.

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Fishing safety plea

TWO Easters since Perth fishermen Chunjun Li and Jiaolong Zhang were swept to their deaths in massive seas at Albany’s Salmon Holes, a State Coroner has recommended that rock fisherman be compelled to wear life jackets and carry EPIRB devices.

In a report released this week, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vickers found Mr Li’s death on April 18, 2015 was “consistent with drowning” and Mr Zhang’s demise on the same day was “likely due to drowning”.

“The loss of Mr Li and Mr Zhang to their families is irreversible,” Ms Vickers concluded.

“They had come to Australia to start new lives and experience the lifestyle and opportunities available here.

“Unfortunately, it ended in tragedy and I extend my sincere condolences to their families and communities for their loss.”

During the inquest into the men’s death, Ms Vickers heard Mr Li, then 42, and Mr Zhang, 38, had a rope each, which they tied around their waists with the other end tied around a large rock.

The men did not use anchor points set in the rocks, and were not wearing life jackets.

Mr Li’s father, who was holidaying with his son in Albany, told Ms Vickers that Mr Li and Mr Zhang had been fishing for a very short time before they were swept from the rocks into the Southern Ocean.

Another witness, Hau Pam Pau Laiteng, said the rope the men used became dislodged from the rock before they were swept into the ocean.

Water Police Sergeant Michael Wear told Ms Vickers rock fishing was recognised as the most dangerous sport in Australia, but not one fisherman who has died at Salmon Holes over the years was wearing a life jacket.

Ms Vickers noted there was little doubt the men’s chances of survival would have increased had they been wearing life jackets.

Jim Allan, who owns Albany Rods and Tackle, said he provided life jackets free-of-charge to anglers who needed one, but that his offer was rarely taken up.

Ms Vickers recommended that life jackets and EPIRB devices be made mandatory for rock fishermen in Western Australia.

She also recommended that Telstra be asked to install a mobile phone tower on Eclipse Island to assist communication around Salmon Holes, and the certification of competent drone pilots be promoted within search and rescue organisations.

“On behalf of all those who risk their lives and emotions in these tragic circumstances, please wear life jackets,” Ms Vickers concluded.

“It may not always save your life, but it will help return a better outcome to your families and the community as a whole.”

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Potato plans simmer

THE past 12 months have been difficult for Bornholm potato seed farmer Colin Ayres following the devastating outbreak of tomato potato psyllid (TPP) that was discovered in February 2017.

Despite their crop being free of the pest and the devastating bacteria it carries, Mr Ayres’ business has copped the full brunt of trade barriers to the eastern states.

Mr Ayres said the months without trade had been extremely challenging for the family’s enterprise.

“We had to make half of our casual and full-time staff redundant,” he said.

“We sold what we could to cattle and dairy farmers, but that only covered the cost of filling up the tank. It cost more for us to throw out our potatoes.”

With the GP Ayres & Sons enterprise supplying 60 per cent of WA’s seed potatoes and mini tubers, the recent announcement that they were awarded a $200,000 grant through the Potato Industry Assistance Grants program has enabled them to purchase a state-of-the-art optical sorter.

The Sortop will recognise up to 16 types of defects in an unwashed potato as well as scan and weigh up to 30 potatoes per second and assist in maintaining control over the quality of their produce.

While the machinery is the first of its kind in operation in WA, Mr Ayres said having the sorter earlier would not have made a difference to their situation.

“We didn’t have a market to sell our potatoes too,” he said.

“As it is, we probably won’t be able to switch it on until December.”

During the announcement last Friday at the Ayers’ farm, Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan said the Department had been doing “a hell of a lot” to contain the outbreak.

“We’ve had more than 400 people continually testing the psyllid and working to contain the bacteria outbreak,” she said.

“There is good news though. We’ve tested more than 8000 psyllids which have shown them all to be clean of the bacteria,” she said.

“We are continuing our work to improve market access for potatoes to the Eastern States and internationally.”

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Enter the dragon

WORK on two silo paintings similar in scale to Albany’s giant new seadragon will soon commence at towns in and very close to the Great Southern region.

Lynda Dorrington, Executive Director of arts promotion group FORM, said one of two remaining silo projects across the State’s south would be at a town in the Great Southern, and the other at a town just outside.

Ms Dorrington asked that the towns’ names – earlier provided to The Weekender by another source – not be reported until major players in FORM’s silo trail project had approved a statement about the remaining two projects in the seven-silo trail.

What can be reported, for the first time, is that about $50,000 of public money was poured into the Albany seadragon project.

A spokesperson for State Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan confirmed Western Power kicked in $10,000.

Ms Dorrington said the Federal Government contributed $20,511 and the City of Albany $20,000 to the $80,000 mural project.

But City of Albany Executive Director Community Services Susan Kay said the $20,000 her directorate contributed was for the seadragon, paintings on transformer boxes and running local workshops combined.

“Through a successful partnership with FORM, the City has been able to attract significant cultural projects to Albany that have enriched our community with colourful, large-scale artworks and delivered engaging public participation programs,” Ms Kay said.

“We were pleased to provide $20,000 towards the recent Albany silo mural and transformer boxes projects, which included several workshops for youth and school group visits.

“FORM’s work in Albany has also generated significant promotion for Albany and the region which will encourage further visitation to our city.”

Ms Dorrington said an estimate by Federal Minister for Regional Development John McVeigh that 29 ongoing jobs would be created from the overall trails project was “incorrect” and had not been provided by FORM.

“This project has created 12 jobs during development and 29 ongoing roles after its completion, which just goes to show that investing in the arts and culture of our regions is also investing in their economic future,” Mr McVeigh had earlier said.

A statement by Ms MacTiernan that $290,000 of State funds had been spent on the Albany works was corrected following questions by The Weekender.

“The State Government provided $290,000 for the overall public silo project across seven sites (including Albany), via Western Power ($100,000) and Lotterywest ($190,000),” her spokesperson clarified.

“A further $30,000 of Western Power funds were spent on painting 10 Western Power transformer boxes in Albany, which included two … youth arts sessions with the artists.”

Ms Dorrington said it would be “impossible” to calculate the economic impact of the silo trail until at least September, which will be one year since the high profile project was announced.

“It’s about watching this space to see the value of creativity as an economic driver,” she said.


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Windy night under stars

A FAIRYLAND of lights will be the backdrop for Albany City Wind Ensemble’s next big performance, and director Sue Findlay promises it will be a night to remember.

The Under the Stars concert is set for 6.30pm on April 8, at Albany Senior High School’s amphitheatre.

The 45-piece band will be joined by local vocal group About FACE to perform the likes of Lord of the Dance, Light Calvalry Overture, Dance of the Hours and Auld Lang Syne underneath the twinkle of fairy lights Ms Findlay said will be scattered everywhere in the amphitheatre.

About FACE will spice things up with a jaunty sea shanty and high-speed traditional Gaelic mouth music.

The outdoor venue will provide the stage for an intimate concert, with numbers limited to a 300-person audience.

Despite taking a risk with the open-air location, Ms Findlay is adamant the weather will be perfect.

“Autumn has always been my favourite time of year in Albany,” she said.

“The wind drops and the weather can be truly delightful.

“Plus, with cushions for the audience, complimentary sandwiches, hot drinks and chocolates, what’s not to love?”

However, if the skies do open up, the show will be relocated to the Albany Town Hall.

Tickets will cost $28 per person and $15 for children under 17, and can be purchased at Frangipani Floral Studio, on the door or online at

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