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

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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Artist breezes in

HARNESSING the wind’s strength and direction is how Melbourne artist Cameron Robbins creates his work.

He’s aimed to inspire school students to also follow abstract creative techniques whilst he’s been in Albany for the past week.

Robbins has spent several days working with Great Southern Grammar art students and teaching them different ways of drawing.

The main inspiration has been his installing of a wind-powered drawing instrument that transcribes the weather onto paper.

The instrument connects a wind turbine and weathervane to a pencil via intricate engineering that Robbins has been perfecting for more than 20 years.

The end result is a translation of wind direction and speed via a series of lines, shading and shapes.

“It’s about being non-objective,” Robbins said.

“I got the students to use fishing rods and golf clubs, to create lines of energy.

“It’s something completely different.”

Robbins built his first wind-powered drawing instrument in Melbourne in 1992.

The idea stemmed from wanting to draw different parts of the south coast of Australia and work with nature.

“It’s got a lot more finesse now,” Robbins said about the instrument.

“The engineering has gone up several levels and I use A-grade marine materials.

“I think the strongest wind it has catered for is about 90kph.

“That was pretty intense.”

The end result of this machine’s efforts – a series of artworks – is now on display at the Albany Entertainment Centre and will be until March 9.

Robbins will be onsite around lunchtime everyday during the exhibition to showcase the work and explain the wind instrument to visitors from the centre’s exterior deck.

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Guns of grapes

THREE Denmark and Mount Barker wine producers have been named in the top eight of WA finalists in the national Young Gun of Wine awards.

Matt Eastwell and Danni Paviour-Smith from Freehand Natural Wine and Kim Tyrer from Galafrey Wines are now in the running against 48 other finalists from across the country to win the title of Young Gun Winemaker.

Ms Tyrer entered her 2018 Muller Thurgau and 2018 Whole Bunch Shiraz and said she felt honoured to make the top 50 for the second year in a row.

“Because I’m self-taught and stepped into my dad’s shoes when he died, I often feel like I’m 10 years behind everyone else,” she told The Weekender.

“So, it’s great to be recognised.

“I started doing Young Gun to learn more and be better, and be innovative and fun.

“I’m learning and pushing myself with this competition.”

Ms Tyrer described her muller thurgau as “light, fruity and textural” and her shiraz as “very aromatic and clean”.

She said she took pride in focusing on the concept of a wine and following through with it, as well as questioning techniques and challenging the status quo.

“No one else grows it or – without sounding like I’m big-noting myself – grows it as well as we do,” she said about her muller thurgau.

“It’s incredibly versatile and suits our climate.

“With the whole bunch shiraz, there’s not a lot of it out there, and it can sometimes be too stalky or green.

“We’ve managed to move away from that green stalkiness.”

Young Gun of Wine founder Rory Kent said he was “really enthusiastic” about seeing more women occupying winemaker roles and was pleased with the products coming out of the Great Southern.

“Somewhere like the Great Southern…it’s so far away and could be considered the most remote wine region in Australia,” he said.

“It’s a really long way away from capital cities so it’s wonderful to see such creativity emanating from there.

“The Great Southern is blessed climatically and makes for a fantastic place to grow grapes.”

The final 12 of the competition will be announced in late April, when the public can vote via tasting events in Sydney and Melbourne for the People’s Choice award.

The winners will be announced at an invitation- only trophy presentation in Adelaide in June.

Mr Eastwell and Ms Paviour-Smith were contacted for comment.

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School lease extended

DENMARK Machinery and Restoration Group member Ross McGuiness referred to the ongoing battle against the Spirit of Play Community School as similar to Don Quixote talking to the windmills.

The statement was made on Tuesday night before the Shire of Denmark voted unanimously to allow the school a lease extension of 15 years.

During question time, a number of historically minded residents aired their concerns on extending the lease of the school that resides in the Denmark Heritage Railway Station Precinct.

Mr McGuiness said during question time that the DMRG had concerns that if Spirit of Play were awarded a lease extension they would have “no intention of leaving”.

Denmark Historical Society member Brian Humphries said on behalf of the group that they strongly objected the proposal and said allowing Spirit of Play to remain for a further 15 years
would halt the preservation and renovation of the historical precinct.

“If council is to vote to allow this lease, we will take every avenue available to us under the Heritage Act and the Planning and Development Act to appeal the decision,” he passionately stated.

“The school looks like a ramshackle construction site with the barbed wire on the fences.

“This area has one of the last remaining pieces of railway history in Australia and it is a desecration of national heritage.”

Spirit of Play’s Zoe Car also spoke during question time to thank the Shire.

“It has been a long process to negotiate and to come to an agreement,” she said.

Councillor Ian Osborne said during debate on the item that Spirit of Play had received a “great deal”.

“I agree with some of the points made by the historical society in terms of the conservation of the railway heritage,” he said.

“If council votes to extend the lease I’ll wear it but I will regret the diminution.”

After some change in wording of the lease agreement to indicate that the Spirit of Play Community School would agree to pay for the restoration of the turntable and ash pit, council voted to allow the extension.

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Neill stands up

ALBANY is more than a holiday destination for Fremantle photographer Dale Neill.

The shutterbug turned to the south coast town for refuge after being struck by serious illness 34 years ago.

He told The Weekender that visiting Albany on a regular basis was a “turning point” in his health, so he looked forward to returning in March to lead a series of workshops and to exhibit pieces from the Fremantle International Portrait Prize – a competition he created after regaining his passion for photography with visits to Albany.

“Because I’d been sick, I hadn’t worked for a year,” Neill said.

“I was really down in the dumps…I hadn’t taken a single photo in all that time.

“So, I decided Albany was going to be my recovery place, where I’d start taking photos again.”

Neill drove down to Albany once a month for 12 months and stayed to take photos for three or four days.

He said “the stars aligned” in 1986 while he was hosting his Contre Jour exhibition in Albany’s Lesser Hall.

“One of the local TV people came in to interview a pianist, but he was a no-show,” Neill recalled.

“So, I asked the crew if they would like to interview me instead, because I had an exhibition going.

“That became my most successful exhibition; I sold every photo.”

Neill said he focused on rural scenes around Albany, making sure “Albany was the base, and everything radiated from that”.

One particular shot sold beyond his expectations and is still in demand today.

“My two favourite photos would have to be one from the side of Mount Clarence looking towards the islands, and the other I took in the Stirlings in 1985 or 1986,” he said.

“I had this Pentax 6×7 and it was really clunky.

“I took one shot… clunk…and all of these sheep in front of me turned around.

“So I took another… clunk…and that photo sold and sold and sold.”

Neill said this photo, and 23 others he took around Albany, were a metaphor for his battle with illness.

“I was shooting directly into light,” he said.

“It was like a metaphor; I was so sick, but I still got up at 3am to get those sunrises at Mt Clarence.”

After regaining his mojo in Albany, Neill returned to Fremantle and later created the Fremantle International Portrait Prize in 2009.

He plans to bring the best pieces from the 2017 prize for a month-long exhibition at the Museum of the Great Southern from March 5.

Neill will also host a series of workshops at Vancouver Arts Centre across the March long weekend.

“On the Friday, I’ll be teaching Practical Photography, which is an intermediate course,” he said.

“On Saturday, it will be Travel and Street Photography and Shadows and Silhouettes.

“Then, we’ll look at Angles and Angels – Exploring Low Light Photography, Introduction to Fine Art Photography, and Critique of Images on Sunday.”

Bookings for the workshop can be made via Eventbrite and more information can be obtained by contacting Vancouver Arts Centre.


Photo: Johannes Reinhart

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Rule calls for nominations

KEEP Albany Beautiful President and Secretary Alice Rule is asking for more people to get behind their Best Kept awards as the judging kicks off for the March award.

Each month, Ms Rule and her fellow judge Barry Chapman visit a number of houses to judge who has the Best Kept Business Garden, Private Garden, Waterwise Garden and Street.

Ms Rule said recently there had been a drop in people nominating their homes for consideration.

“We would like people to nominate their gardens or their friends’ gardens,” she said.

“We get a few nominations so at the moment we are selecting areas each month to judge.

“We’ll drive around and then select who best fits the awards for the month.”

Ms Rule said the selection process was a bit more involved than just picking which garden looked the prettiest.

“Residents must go beyond their own garden area and look after the verge as well,” she said.

Keep Albany Beautiful run a number of events throughout the year to encourage Albany residents to put forward their yards in time for the Keep Australia Beautiful Tidy Town award.

“We were doing very well for a number of years but just recently we have lost a few,” Ms Rule lamented.

“Hopefully we’ll be in with a chance this year.”

Ms Rule said Keep Albany Beautiful would run a Clean Up Australia Day in March and the popular Day of Trees event.

“We work with the City of Albany to select a place and invite all of the schools in the area to plant trees,” she said.

“We also run the Children’s Art Competition that is judged at the end of the year.”

To register you house, a friend’s house or your business for the monthly garden awards, contact Ms Rule on 9844 7449.

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Levingston scratches an itch

ALBANY rising star Morgan Levingston has scored a role in the upcoming children’s television series Itch two months before he planned to move to Sydney to pursue an acting career.

Mr Levingston told The Weekender he had a flight booked for April 1 but was more than happy to cancel it when he landed the role of a policeman.

Filming of Itch commenced on Tuesday at Middleton Beach and will continue across the region for two months.

Itch, penned by BBC broadcaster and author Simon Mayo, tells the story of 14-year-old Itchingham Lofte who discovers a new chemical element and has to protect it from secret corporations and government agencies.

“I don’t have too much information yet but my contract is in the mail,” Mr Levingston said.

“I’m really excited and absolutely stoked to be a part of Itch.

“It’s going to be awesome.”

The 21-year-old said he planned to visit the Itch production office tomorrow for a costume fitting and to determine his eight-week filming schedule.

The Weekender caught up with Itch pro-ducer Amanda Morrison, head of global development Melanie Halsall and director Renee Webster on Monday after a Welcome to Country ceremony at Middleton Beach.

Although she remained tight-lipped on the complete cast list, Ms Morrison said she’d found “fantastic” talent in town.

She has scouted multiple locations in Albany for filming and was pleased by the reception her cast and crew had received from the community.

“We’ve visited the University of WA Albany campus, the hospital, the entertainment centre, the town hall…” Ms Morrison said.

“There’s such beautiful variation in the architecture here and so many natural phenomenons.”

To facilitate the filming of Itch, traffic diversions will be in place along Proudlove Parade in the car park of UWA Albany on February 21 from 2 to 6pm.

Queries regarding traffic control can be directed to crystallocations@gmail.com.

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Fruit trees filched

SEVEN heritage fruit trees valued up to $1000 were stolen from Albany’s historic Strawberry Hill estate this week.

Volunteer coordinator Judy Williams discovered and reported the theft to Albany Police on Monday morning and believes the offence took place late on Sunday or in the early hours of Monday.

She said it had taken four years for the apple and pear trees to grow and it would be difficult to find replacements.

The trees had recently begun to flourish after fellow garden volunteers Frank McDonald and John Radys spent more than 30 hours replacing the clay that the trees were planted in with healthier soil.

Ms Williams estimated the trees’ value was close to $1000.

“We had 12 trees taken last year at the same time other people on Middleton Road had things taken from their gardens,” she told The Weekender.

“We received a grant to plant those ones for a heritage orchard, because part of Strawberry Hill’s aim is to capture the different time periods that people lived here in.

“We had spares to replace them when they were stolen, but we have no spares now.”

Mr Radys believes the thieves don’t understand the historic significance and value of the trees.

“Some of those fruit trees are very rare,” he said.

“I just don’t know whether we’d be able to replace them.

“Some can only be found in Tasmania or England.”

Ms Williams was both confused and disheartened with the theft.

“I think we’re so upset because they were just torn from us,” she said.

“The trees weren’t dug out, they were just ripped.

“And why would someone pull up trees in sum-mer?

“That’s just crazy.

“They aren’t likely to have any success with them.”

Albany Police Senior Sergeant Grant Pollard said there was no forensic evidence left at the scene or any CCTV footage.

He encouraged anyone with information about the incident to call Albany Police on 9892 9300.

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Friend focus

LOVE is in the air today but instead of fantasising about diamond rings and roses, Flinders Park Primary year one students are focusing on friendship.

Students from Room 2.3 created Valentine’s Day cards yesterday and today will be using them as a way to learn more about each other.

Teacher Linda Fielding said as part of the history curriculum, students learned about past and present family life.

As family traditions are part of family history, she uses Valentine’s Day as a way to talk about friendship, inclusivity and to reiterate anti-bullying messages.

“When we talk about Valentine’s Day, I get my students to talk about themselves and the things they like,” Mrs Fielding said.

“For example, they might say they enjoy playing football or playing in the playground, and by sharing this, they can find other students who enjoy the same things.

“We are in week two at the moment, so students are still getting to know each other.

“This is a great way to encourage new friendships and inclusivity, linking with our school programs.”

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Dolls bring comfort

IN AN attempt to bring comfort and support to children affected by physical and emotional abuse in parts of South Africa, more than 30 Albany women spend a few hours each fortnight knitting and crocheting toy dolls.

It is done in the name of the Uthando Project, which has sent handmade dolls to children in Kwazulu-Natal since 2004.

Albany group coordinator and doll maker Julie Fletcher said the dolls are a “vital” aspect in children’s counseling and education.

The Albany group has sent more than 7500 dolls overseas in eight years.

“The dolls are important because they bring comfort; the children can talk to them and cuddle them,” Ms Fletcher said.

“And they help the children play too, as well as help to teach grandparents how to play.”

Some of the group’s members have been involved in the project and similar projects for decades.

Topsy Pratt joined the Uthando cause a few years ago.

“I was doing stuff for Joseph’s Coat [charity] for about 20 years before they closed,” she said.

“I made clothing for children and rugs, and they went all over the world.

“So when that ended, I wanted to find something to do and I found this.”

Fellow doll maker Norma Lyons said the multi-faceted approach to the project intrigued her.

“I got caught on to the enthusiasm,” she said.

“And then, I coerced my neighbour Hazel into it!

“There’s just so many aspects…knitting, making wigs, the bags, spare sets of clothes, embroiding faces…”

Ms Fletcher said the Albany group’s most successful year was last year.

“We made 1743 dolls,” she said.

“That’s been our biggest year so far.

“Our last shipment was in November and it’s just arrived [in Kwazulu-Natal], as it takes three months to get there – just in time for the start of the school year.

“When some of the children come on the first day a bit anxious, they’re given a doll.”

Ms Fletcher said the group would be focusing on ‘family dolls’ at their group meet this week.

The dolls come in pre-determined sets of parents, siblings and extended family to help children explain situations during counseling sessions, and in their classroom work.

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