‘Build it on a hill’

A BUDDHIST monk who was once a mechanical designer has drafted plans for a monastery overlooking the Porongurup Range at the leafy south coast locale of Elleker.

“What we want to do is have a smaller version of Bodhinyana monastery, that’s at Serpentine in the Perth Hills, here in Albany,” Venerable Mudu told The Weekender from a 65-hectare bush block atop Grasmere Hill where the monastery is planned.

“We’re gonna have four or five monks here, which means we’re gonna have four or five monk huts – they’re called kutis,” he said.

“We had a problem up in Serpentine, we’re trying to build six new huts because we’re overflowing with monks up there, and so the boss, Venerable Ajahn Brahm, told the monks to spread their wings and if they could find another monastery to go to, then off they go.

“But no-one left because, to be honest, it’s very comfortable at Ajahn Brahm’s monastery.”

With no push factor prompting him to take up the boss’s challenge, Venerable Mudu became the only monk motivated to do so after a family connection pulled him to the south coast.

“I wanted to come down here to see my brother,” he confessed.

“He’s down here with his wife and three girls.

“He said: ‘I know the Thais down here; they’ll want you to come down, won’t they?”

Later, from her Thai Angel Hand Massage service on Stirling Terrace, prominent Thai expatriate Wasana Poonwiset says she is 100 per cent behind Venerable Mudu’s blueprints.

“There are beautiful views, and it will be very good for Albany to have a monastery,” she tells The Weekender.

“It is difficult for us because we currently have to go to Perth.

“Lots of people around here, Katanning, Denmark can go there and bring the family, and the kids can see the culture.”

Ms Poonwiset, who also owns the landmark Joop Thai Restaurant on Lockyer Avenue, says about 30 Thai families call Albany home.

“The people are very good people,” she adds.

“To have something to hang on to will be great.

“Buddha’s message is universal – that’s karma, to do good, to give before you get.”

Earlier, back at the block, Venerable Mudu said Ms Poonwiset was “the big boss” of the Thai community in Albany, and had been a driving force behind establishing the south coast’s first monastery.

“It will become an Ajahn Brahm branch monastery because he’s so well known now,” he said.

“But it’s more than that.

“To build this monastery, I’ll be riding on his back because I would never be able to get the support on my own to pay however many couple of million it’s gonna cost to develop this and build it.”

The highest part of the monastery is planned to be 110 metres above sea level, but not visible from Elleker-Grasmere Road down on the plain.

“At the lowest part of the property is where our windmill is – at the time it was put in it was the largest Southern Cross windmill in the Great Southern,” Venerable Mudu said.

“We’ve still got it down there; it’s not working.

“But I’m a car guy, I like to swing the spanners, and when we get the opportunity we’ll put it in our workshop, and when I need a break from meditation I’ll be in there fixing it up.”

Venerable Mudu said the elevated block was chosen after an extensive site selection exercise.

“This is something that Buddha instructed us to do, to live close to nature, not to destroy nature, and to be as kind to nature as possible, to live close to the living beings,” he said.

“He said that when you build your monastery, don’t build it too close to the town, but don’t build it too far away that it’s a burden for the donors to come out and support you.

“Buddha said don’t build your monastery near a swamp, in the lowlands near where the water is – he said build up on a hill.”

Venerable Mudu said Buddha’s instruction to keep things simple was why the huts would be humble three-metre by four-metre structures.

“The idea is to use a lot of local companies, so once the development application is approved I’ll probably hand the details over to a local architect to see what we can do,” he said.

Venerable Mudu has discussed his self-drafted plans with senior City of Albany planners and said he would lodge a development application soon.

Photo: Venerable Mudu on site with the Porongurup Range perforating the horizon. Image: Chris Thomson

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Star shines in Barker

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed actress Miranda Richardson will join big screen favourites Sam Neill and Michael Caton in Mount Barker for the production of feature film Rams.

Filming started in September with a cast featuring the likes of Australian sweetheart Asher Keddie, director of The Sapphires Wayne Blair, Leon Ford from The Light Between Oceans, Travis McMahon from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Hayley McElhinney from the Aussie horror flick The Babadook.

Richardson has two Oscar nominations and multiple BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations and awards to her name in a career spanning nearly four decades on stage and screen.

Rams director Jeremy Sims said Richardson would play the role of Kat, a local veterinarian of a sheep farming town overcome by a rare ovine disease.

“I am completely thrilled that Ms Richardson is able to join us in telling our version of this beautiful saga about warring brothers,” he said.

“I’ve been a fan forever, from ‘Queenie’ in Blackadder to Stronger.

“I fought hard to bring her out here to play Kat and complement our awesome local cast.

“She is a world-class performer whose presence will bring another dimension to our production.”

Richardson has featured on both the small and silver screen with roles in popular television series including Blackadder and Absolutely Fabulous, while also having roles in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Tim Burton’s classic Sleepy Hollow and nosy witch journalist Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

She also voice-acted for the villainous Mrs Tweedy in Chicken Run.

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Magnificent mo’s

STUDENTS at Mount Lockyer Primary School had fun comparing the impressive facial hair of their teachers throughout Movember, as a group of nine educators raised money for charity.

Year Five teacher Mark Coppack was the proud owner of a horseshoe moustache and the wrangler of the other fundraisers.

“I did it last year at a previous school,” he said while thoughtfully stroking his magnificent mo.

“I spoke to the guys and got them on board this year to raise money for men’s mental health.

“It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

Mr Coppack said the whole event was a great way to have some fun and raise money for a worthy cause.

“It’s a bit of fun and great to see how everyone looks,” he said.

“We definitely had lots of comments and the students liked to compare the teachers.”

Mr Coppack said out of the range of men bearing a majestic mo, there was one standout to the crowd.

“Dan Van Mens is the school’s gardener and definitely had the best moustache,” he quipped.

“He was a bit unsure at the start but it grew in quite nicely.”

At the last tally The Magnificent Moustaches of Mount Lockyer had raised $2416 for the Movember Foundation.

“We’ve easily surpassed our goal and it’s just fantastic,” Mr Coppack said.

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Higher duties

FATHER Randolf Subiaco will become the youngest parish priest in the Diocese of Bunbury next year after answering the call to guide the parishioners of Denmark and Mount Barker in 2019.

Father Randolf has been based in Albany for the past two-and-a-half years, serving as the assisting priest for St Joseph’s Church and the St Joseph’s College chaplain.

“I completed my studies and was told I was needed in Albany,” he said.

“It’s definitely not a standard thing to be sent to Albany.

“I’ve since become a counsellor as well, that’s recognised in Australia.”

Father Randolf said as a 32-yearold parish priest, he wanted to bring more youth-orientated programs to his parishioners as well as provide his counselling services.

And while he would provide the traditional Catholic services to the far reaches of his parish, he was also hoping to reach out to help people in need of support.

“With my counselling services I can give support for people that might be struggling with substance abuse and other issues,” he said.

“Having both spiritual support and mental support is important.”

“I’ll spend parts of my week between Mt Barker, Cranbrook, Frankland, Pardalup Prison, Denmark and Walpole.

“There will be lots of driving, that’s for sure.”

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Home among the hempcrete

DENMARK’S hempcrete housing village is now complete, bar a bit of landscaping, and you can be the last of 12 homebuyers to secure a dwelling in the $6 million grassroots project.

Project manager Paul Llewellyn, a former GreensWA MLC for South West, says the village arose from an extensive scoping exercise.

“We wanted land that was within 500m of town, which was solar reflective – this is about 90 per cent solar reflective – with a stream, Millar’s Creek is right there, and we’re about 150m from Mrs Jones (Cafe) and the arts precinct,” he says.

“We used the model of collaborative or Co-Housing, which was developed in the real Denmark.

“It is a model for delivering friendly neighbourhoods, and the design of the neighbourhood gives rise to the community.”

The DecoHousing Denmark project has four four-bedroom family homes, eight two-bedroom homes, a den for teenagers, and a common house complete with kitchen and games/movie room.

Social worker Pam Rumble, the project’s community development practitioner, says the home-grown company behind the project received no favours from Denmark Shire.

“We had to widen Wattle Way, cede the land either side of the creek, and give a three-metre-wide pedestrian strip,” she says.

In addition, the company had to cede 27 per cent of its 6500sqm block to the Shire.

“History shows that if you do anything outside the box, a commune, a Green Title, the banks don’t like it, the shires don’t like it, so we decided to set up a company, get organised and do it by the book,” Ms Rumble explains.

“We were very fortunate; we had a couple of town planners, facilitators, environmental scientists, an accountant, people in business, so we had a very good team.”

Mr Llewellyn says the block was parcelled in strict accordance with Western Australia’s Strata Act.

“We wanted to use the Act to its maximum potential, to use the rules and liveable neighbourhood frameworks to give expression to this vision to have a well-organised, friendly neighbourhood,” he says.

“It’s hard to do because you have to get around so many tick-a-box rules.

“The structures are built out of industrial hemp … a high-performance, environmentally sound material.”

Mr Llewellyn says the project is the largest hempcrete one in Australia, and probably the Southern Hemisphere.

With landscaping not yet complete, the project is already exporting power to the grid.

“There’s no heating or cooling,” he says.

“We may put a fire in the common house.

“We have an amazing power system; we’ve collectivised the energy and communalised the water supply.”

The development’s youngest resident is seven months old, and the eldest an octogenarian.

Albany-based H+H Architects managed the project contract.

“They stuck with us in being responsive to what we needed, but not too responsive, because it was like herding cats,” Mr Llewellyn says.

“We had eight or nine households involved in the preliminary design, and some people came and went.

“It’s affordable, high quality housing, not just affordable housing.”

For Ms Rumble, the project is all about “the sharing, the connection”.

“Everyone’s kitchen window looks out into the commons,” she says.

“That’s the Co-housing design, so that you can be at your sink and see something happening out there and if you would like to join in, or are feeling lonely or whatever, you go out there and chat and share with what’s happening.”

And for anyone “having a bad hair day”, Mr Llewellyn says each house has a private courtyard, and a second entrance that does not open to the undulating common area.

More than 20 people now call the project home. If you’re interested in snapping up the last house – a two-floor, two bathroom, four-bedroom one – call Ms Rumble on 0428 482 015.

Photo: Pam Rumble and Paul Llewellyn tend to their emerging garden. Image: Chris Thomson

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Language barrier dropped

FOUR tiny primary schools in the Great Southern have escaped having to pay for language teaching delivered from Perth, with the State scrapping plans to charge them $7000-a-class from next year.

In Parliament on November 6, Education Minister Sue Ellery told Shadow Minister Donna Faragher that primary schools with 60 students or fewer would not be charged.

Ms Faragher had asked if fees for language courses provided by the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) had changed.

Ms Ellery said they had, but that the planned introduction in 2019 of a price-per-class charge had been canned.

Internal sources, who cannot be named, have said the charge per class originally communicated to schools was about $7000-a-year.

Some regional and remote schools offer up to three language classes.

With four affected Great Southern schools ranging in total enrolments from just 22 to 38 students, the sources considered the per class charge – which would have been the same regardless of school size – to be regressive.

Bremer Bay (student population 27), Borden (22), Gairdner (38) and Ongerup (22) are among seven schools in the South West education region – which includes much of the Great Southern – with students enrolled in the language classes.

Thanks to their low enrolments, none of the four schools will be charged under the recently revised model.

In Parliament, Ms Ellery said the new model had been communicated to schools on October 24.

“As a result of feedback that a price per class may not be sustainable for small primary schools, the per-class pricing model was revised for 2019,” she told Ms Faragher.

“From 2019, the price for accessing a primary languages program through SIDE will be calculated on a cost-recovery model, which uses a sliding scale based on student population.

“The price per student for SIDE languages programs will range from a maximum of $701 per student for schools with a primary student population of 200 or more and will reduce [to zero] for schools with small student populations.”

Ms Ellery told The Weekender the full cost recovery figure is $7010 per class.

She said the cost for schools with enrolments of 200 or more would range from a maximum of $701-a-student, reduced for schools with fewer students.

“Every child should have the chance to learn a second language and this is why we made it a priority to make it more affordable for schools with fewer students,” she said.

Last year, Western Australia’s School Curriculum and Standards Authority mandated that from 2018 all Year 3 students would need to study a second language.

By 2023 all students from Years 3 to 8 will be required to learn a second language.

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Cook comes to table

AFTER critique of his estimated costing and timing for radiotherapy equipment, Health Minister Roger Cook says he will meet with GenesisCare “soon” to discuss “the oncology landscape and range of services currently offered” in the Great Southern.

Last week, Federal Member for O’ Connor Rick Wilson challenged Mr Cook’s $14 million funding estimate for a bunker to house the much-anticipated equipment (‘Cancer cost counted’, 15 November).

Mr Cook’s estimate was based on the cost in 2009 to instal a bunker at Bunbury (‘Cancer cash raincheck’, 8 November).

But Mr Wilson said the Bunbury bunker housed two radiotherapy machines, whereas $6.6 million of funding he recently announced through The Weekender (‘Cancer funding coup’, 13 September) was for one machine only.

He said national company GenesisCare, which installed the Bunbury machines and plans to provide one in Albany, told him a bunker could be built at Albany Health campus for about $3 million.

He said requests from GenesisCare, and from him on the company’s behalf, to meet Mr Cook had fallen on deaf ears.

After deadline last week, Mr Cook revealed the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) had begun a feasibility study, “which will be complete in the course of next year”, into the machine.

“The study will need to include broader master planning considerations for the Albany Health Campus site,” he said.

“It’s important to appreciate that the feasibility study will not only consider the cost of the bunker, but also the supporting infrastructure and associated service costs, with detailed costings required for the full operation of such a service.

“Projects of this scale and complexity rightfully demand appropriate financial due diligence to be observed and, as such, communication is ongoing with the Federal government and the WA Country Health Service.”

Last week, General Manager of GenesisCare WA Michael Davis did not respond to a Weekender request for confirmation of the costing advice relayed by Mr Wilson.

Mr Cook said the Federal funding was welcome, but a bit like giving someone furniture when they do not have a home.

“I’m not going to be hurried into signing a blank cheque to suit Rick Wilson’s Federal election timeframes,” he said.

“In the interim, the Great Southern region currently offers a comprehensive cancer service including visiting medical specialists, specialist cancer nursing services, a day chemotherapy unit, and a complementary therapies unit at the Albany Hospital.”

Until Mr Wilson announced the grant, WACHS had repeatedly said radiotherapy equipment was off the table for the Great Southern until at least 2024.

At last week’s Albany Show, NationalsWA Leader Mia Davies said Mr Cook had unnecessarily politicised provision of the machine.

“The Minister [has] made it about an election, and what we’re talking about is something that is potentially life-saving equipment for not just the people of Albany but for the entire Great Southern,” she said.

“We’ve met with [radiotherapy machine advocate] Mary [Williams] from Denmark who is so passionate about it, and it’s mystifying to me why when you’ve got enormous community support and support coming from the Federal Government that the response from the State Government is that: ‘Oh well, we’ll need to look into it, we’ll need to do the business case’.

“I’m not saying those things don’t need to be done but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency in relation to this, and it’s not a new issue.”

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4WD track promo stalls

PROMOTERS of a Mundaring to Albany four-wheel-drive track have been asked by the State to desist until concerns about dieback and other eco-nasties have been addressed.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Albany-based Greens WA MLC Diane Evers asked Environment Minister Stephen Dawson how many dieback-affected areas the so-called MundAl track would go through, and if the risk of spread had been assessed.

Mr Dawson said the Western Australian 4WD Association launched the track at the Perth 4WD Show on November 9.

“I am advised that no consultation was undertaken with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions even though a significant portion of the 900km track traverses land managed by DBCA,” he said.

“DBCA has now been provided with a digital alignment of the route which has been assessed for its appropriateness in relation to matters such as mining operators, prescribed burning operations, dieback hygiene management, drinking water catchment protection zones, visitor risk management, cultural heritage management and track management.

“While I am supportive of new tourism activities and people getting out and visiting our national parks and reserves, visitor use needs to be appropriately managed at suitable locations.”

Mr Dawson said DBCA had asked the 4WD Association to stop promoting the track until management issues had been “satisfactorily resolved”.

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‘Own your tone’

DENMARK has been named one of 15 melanoma ‘red zones’ outside of the WA metropolitan area with a melanoma diagnosis rate 43 per cent higher than the national average.

Cancer Council WA SunSmart manager Mark Strickland said the new Australian Cancer Atlas, an online resource, identified WA’s melanoma hotspots were along the coast.

The regional hotspots include Denmark, Bunbury, Augusta and Busselton, and he said these findings were not surprising.

“The melanoma hotspots correspond to coastal areas, where there are high concentrations of people who have access to the beach lifestyle – lots of people getting lots of sun,” Mr Strickland explained.

“So we see rates being high in Denmark, Margaret River, Falcon and the northern Perth beaches, all places where people spend time outside at the beach or living the underdressed beach lifestyle.”

Denmark is listed as 43 per cent above the national average for melanoma diagnoses on the Australian Cancer Atlas, compared to Albany’s nine per cent below, Plantagenet’s four per cent below and Kojonup’s two per cent above.

Gnowangerup is listed as eight per cent below the national average, Katanning as 13 per cent below, and the Pemberton region – which includes Walpole – is 10 per cent above.

Cancer Council WA regional education officer for the Great Southern Bruce Beamish said there is no suggestion that a person’s risk of cancer is higher because of geographical area.

He said this means moving to another area “can’t really” influence a person’s cancer risk.

“Denmark, like other melanoma hotspots in WA, has a very beach and outdoor lifestyle, so the chance of UV exposure is increased,” Mr Beamish said.

“Denmark’s cooler climate and beautiful beaches mean that people may not be aware that they are at risk…you can get burnt even if it’s a cool day.”

Denmark Medical Centre doctor Lyn Stoltze said she personally has not seen any positive melanoma diagnoses this year, but reiterated the importance of sun protection.

“A lot of people underestimate…skin damage can occur when it’s cloudy,” Dr Stoltze said.

“So you should still be wearing sunscreen and protective clothing when it’s cloudy, particularly if you work outside or have more vulnerable skin, like English skin.”

Dr Stoltze said she generally has older patients coming in for skin checks but said skin cancer was not age dependent.

She said annual skin checks were the best option for all people.

Albany hairdresser Cathryn Patmore knows about the importance of skin checks, following her melanoma diagnosis at age 12.

The now 19-year-old said she remembers not feeling shocked when she was told she had cancer, as she had seen it in her grandmother and her mother.

“The first sign was when I was 11 and I had a mole, and I thought it should be okay,” Ms Patmore said.

“When I was 12 I had it cut out, and it was cancer, but I didn’t need treatment.”

Ms Patmore said she remained vigilant about her skin from then on and at age 16 identified a “tiny freckle”.

“If I had left it, it would have become melanoma,” she said.

“I recognised it because I’d seen it before with my grandma…it didn’t look right, it was dark, blackened and a weird shape.”

Ms Patmore admitted she never used to wear a rashie at the beach because she didn’t want to look “lame”, but now promotes a very different message.

“Own your tone,” she said.

“I used to get a bit self-conscious about my pale skin, but now I embrace it.

“I’m like a moon, shiny and white, so if I want a tan, it comes out of a bottle.

“And whenever I’m at a festival, I have a little thing of sunscreen clipped to my belt.”

Ms Patmore now uses her knowledge and experience with skin cancer to help others identify unusual lesions in clients.

She said people don’t often check the back of their neck, so she takes it upon herself to have a quick glance when she cuts clients’ hair.

“I had one person last year, and I said to them, ‘you don’t need to freak, but I think you should get that mole checked’,” Ms Patmore said.

“So they did and they had it cut out because it was melanoma.”

Ms Patmore said alongside Mr Beamish, she took part in talks around town last year discussing skin protection and finding unusual lesions.

This, and Ms Patmore’s story, prompted Mr Beamish to teach lessons about skin health to hairdressing, beauty and massage students at South Regional TAFE.

“Knowing your own skin is important,” he said.

“Damage can still occur when it’s cool. It’s not about the temperature – when the UV is over three, your skin starts to suffer damage.”

Mr Beamish said the SunSmart app can help sun-goers wherever they are to identify the UV strength and when they need to don sun protection.

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Naomi’s vision inspires

ALBANY’S Naomi Lake lives by the motto ‘anything is possible’.

Determined to not let her Down Syndrome prevent her from living life, Ms Lake has strived to give everything her best shot and has the results to prove her success.

She’ll be at this year’s Albany Ability Festival on December 5 to showcase her work.

The 28-year-old published her own book in 2014 and toured it more than 4000km across the state last year.

The book, Harmony the Forgetful Hen and the Lost Eggs, was inspired by a few cluckas she spotted one morning, and it allowed her to pursue her writing dream.

“Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to be an author,” she said.

“When I saw the chickens, I could see the characters and that’s where I saw Harmony.”

Ms Lake said she was excited to see her story in a tangible format once it was published, and in celebration, she created a real life Harmony and her baby chicks.

She sewed them from scratch and made a couple of Harmony replicas too, which she’ll sell at the Albany Ability Festival along with copies of her book and Christmas stockings and aprons she’s made.

“Perfect for presents,” Ms Lake smiled.

Festival coordinator Denise Kay said more than 10 other market stallholders will join Ms Lake in the Albany Town Square for the event and encouraged everyone to come down and have a look.

“The ethos is about bringing the whole community together and showing peoples’ abilities,” she said.

“Everyone can do anything.”

Ms Kay said other market stalls would include sculptures, crafts, handmade cards, paintings and jewellery.

Live entertainment will be provided by Emily O’Brien and Connor Menezies from Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company’s Let’s Shine production, the Spencer Park Education Support Centre choir, Terry McKintosh and Highland Hustle among many other acts between 10am and 2pm.

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