A balcony fit for Juliet

THE first balcony at the Albany Club on which a woman member is allowed to stand was officially launched on Monday.

And like the decision almost 30 years ago to open the then exclusively gentlemen’s club up to women, the opening of the balcony door to a gentle easterly was an understated but liberat- ing affair.

Optometrist Alison Steer, whose father Geoff is a long-term member, said that in 1990 when she became the club’s first woman member, there was no- where else in town appropriate for informal business meetings.

“This was a nice, secluded place to bring business people and reps,” she said.

“I guess I got a bit of inside knowledge about the club from Dad feeding me bits about what was going on.

“I knew all the members anyway; they were family friends.”

Graham Wroth and Alison Steer at the balcony launch.

In the lead-up to Ms Steer’s membership, renovations were hastily arranged for the 1887-built clubhouse, which had no women’s toilets.

“I’ve heard the story that in the club constitution, when it was first written, that because there was no dream that women would even be involved, it just listed ‘member’,” she said.

“So there was no constitutional change needed, and there was very little excuse for them not to let me in.”

Ms Steer said there were lots of behind-the-scenes whispers about her signing up that she heard “bits and pieces of”, but once members “got their heads around it, it really was a non- issue for me when I first rocked up”.

“At first they wanted me to stay in the front bar, but no-one else was there, so I said ‘that’s not going to happen’ , and quickly walked into the main billiard room, and everyone said ‘hello’,” she added.

She said the new balcony, overlooking Aberdeen Street, was “unbelievably fantastic”.

“There used to be a door up there that led nowhere, but now it leads on to the balcony, and the building looks complete,” she said.

Club President Daphne Cotton and Mayor Dennis Wellington at the balcony launch.

At the launch, Mayor Dennis Wellington unveiled a plaque.

He recalled that in the 1980s, when he was a real estate agent and club member, he tried to have a business meeting with a woman sales manager from Skywest Airlines at the venue, because it was the nicest spot in town.

“There were a few coronaries in the pool room, and I was told it was totally unacceptable,” he said.

There have now been three women club presidents, including current president Daphne Cotton. The club’s next project is to revive a spindly 110-year-old rose bush out the front that’s seen far better days.

Photos: Chris Thomson

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Weed warrior named Denmark’s top citizen

THERE was a lot of love at Denmark council chambers on Tuesday afternoon as weed warrior Diane Harwood was named citizen of the year.

Outside the chambers after receiving the shire’s top gong, Ms Harwood, a passionate member of the Denmark Weed Action Group, said she was “very surprised” to have been honoured.

“It means, to me, that people out in the community really care for the bush the way I do,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people out there who agree with the way the group works in the bush, which is a very gentle way.

“We don’t go in with a machine, but do hand-weeding and it looks as if nothing’s happened.”

Minutes earlier, from her shire president’s chair, Ceinwen Gearon had said Ms Harwood was well-known for doing “lots of work on the ground”.

“Diane is passionate about our bushland and we’re grateful to her for all the work she has done,” Cr Gearon said.

Denmark local Andrew Dickinson then stepped to a lectern and, in the direction of Cr Gearon and her dormant gavel, was moved to bush verse:

This town has a hero, the bush has a friend, a champion there to protect

our natural environment so rich and so wild, the places to which we connect.

One of a small band of women so strong, quietly chipping away,

tipping the balance to favour the bush, removing the weeds that held sway.

Releasing the natives has been her life’s work. Though comrades have fallen aside,

her focus stayed strong and she knew right from wrong. She’d carry this flame ‘til she died.

Now she has a band protecting this land from the beautiful escapees,

for her passion inspires, her strength we admire. What a gutsy woman is she!

Over so many years and in so many ways she has tried to educate us.

But despair she has known, for the bush that she loved faced a death of a thousand cuts.

In performing her tasks she has mastered her craft, refining bush re-gen techniques.

So pay attention you fellas and lend her your ear and listen whenever she speaks.

This town has a hero who has worked long and hard.

To her we should take off our hat.

She is truly a gem, a national treasure

and citizen of the year at that.

A spontaneous round of applause erupted from the packed public gallery.

Photo: Chris Thomson

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Wind farm tests tax laws

ON THE eve of its fifth birthday, the Denmark community wind farm has lost a test case in the Federal Court where it challenged the inclusion in its assessable tax income of more than $2 million spent on its two landmark wind turbines.

In a written judgement delivered last week, the Full Bench of the Federal Court dismissed the wind farm’s appeal against a 2017 judgment disallowing deductions it had claimed in 2013 and 2014 respectively for amounts of $747,045 and $1,271,380.

After the Commissioner for Taxation decided the amounts were assessable income, the wind farm objected, but the Commissioner disallowed the objection.

Denmark Community Windfarm Ltd Chairman Craig Chappelle told The Weekender he was disap- pointed with the appeal decision, but it was no more than a “blip on the radar” for the company.

“It means that what tax we have paid we’ve lost, it’s gone,” he said.

“The reason that we raised the case was to test the advice given to us by our tax professionals, an accountancy firm and a tax lawyer about the ambiguity of certain sections with the [Taxation Administration] Act.

“The interpretation that we got from our professional advisors was that we should not have had to pay tax on the grant that we received from the Federal Government.”

In 2011, the wind farm received a $2,487,800 grant from the Feds to fund up to 50 per cent of the cost of the farm’s two turbines. The wind farm powers 2000 homes, amounting to 55 per cent of Denmark’s annual domestic electricity demand.

“It was an argument on a technicality and we ended up losing,” Mr Chappelle said of the Federal Court ruling.

“The ATO recognised that this was a grey area that we were entering, to the extent that they helped to fund our case.

“They gave us some of the money that we claimed against costs for preparing our case, because they wanted an answer too.”

The case turned on whether the grant money was deemed to have been received by way of indemnity, in which case the Act mandated the deductions could not be made. The wind farm argued, unsuccessfully, that it was not. The Commissioner argued, successfully, that it was.

The Full Bench agreed with the primary judge that an indemnity may include money paid in respect of an outgoing in- curred by a taxpayer, and that the $2,487,800 Commonwealth grant was received as compensation for an expense incurred by the wind farm.

The wind farm, which turns five on Tuesday, was ordered to pay the Commissioner’s costs in the appeal case.

Mr Chappelle said it was possible the wind farm would have gotten status to appeal the ruling in the High Court, but the company did not intend to appeal further.

Photo: Simon Neville

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Barker roundabout action

THE looks of the main roundabout into Mount Barker, dubbed “a disgrace” by a Plantagenet shire councillor, will be the subject of a community workshop to be held in March.

At last week’s shire council meeting, Cr Brett Bell noted councillors had been talking about beautifying the roundabout “for a couple of years”.

“Slowly it’s been showing wear and tear,” he said of the circular intersection at the corner of Albany and Muir highways.

The roundabout is decorated with poles carrying flags of different colours.

After The Weekender revealed recently that Cr Bell had dubbed the intersection’s aesthetics “a disgrace”, its vegetation was cut back.

“We need to flash it up,” Cr Bell told his shire colleagues last week.

He said the roundabout needed a new visual treatment to “highlight the entrance to Plantagenet shire and the town of Mt Barker”.

Shire councillors unanimously agreed with Cr Bell that a community workshop be arranged to seek ideas on the design of an aesthetically re-vamped roundabout.

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One hell of a shell

A 700KG concrete snail has emerged at Bremer Bay to celebrate an under-appreciated native snail.

Bremer-based landscape ecologist Nathan McQuoid, co-ordinating the project as contractor to the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, said the sculpture was of a South Coast Land Snail, or Bothriembryon Melo.

“One of the most common things you see along the trail here is these snail shells, and they’re actually a native land snail of which there’s many species,” he said.

“They’re often overlooked and people don’t realise they’re a native and they’re a key part of the invertebrate ecology.

“So we thought we’d trumpet them a bit, give them a platform, give them some profile and make a super-sized snail sculpture.”

Mr McQuoid said the snail was very common around Bremer’s bushlands.

“You very rarely see them alive, but if it’s drizzly or humid or moist, you’ll see them out and about, cruising around,” he said.

“People already love the sculpture.

“Just the comments from people who were walking the trail while we were putting it in were wonderful.”

The 2.6m-long snail is about halfway along a 3.5km nature trail between Bremer’s town and caravan park.

It’s on a high point overlooking Doubtful Islands Bay Peninsula, and about 1000 times the size of a real snail.

“This is not a big prawn or a big banana,” Mr McQuoid said.

“It’s to invite and interest people in a part of nature that is often small or overlooked by making something that’s the size of a person or bigger.”

The snail’s creator, Northcliffe-based artist Peter Hill, said the sheer size of the snail and Bremer’s ocean breeze posed challenges.

“I did it at home as much as possible so I could control the drying of the concrete more,” he said.

Hill said a jaw or two dropped as he drove the all-but-complete 700kg snail across the Great Southern on the back of a light truck.

“I came through Mount Barker just before school started and all these kids going to school were looking at me going, like ‘whoooo!’,” he recalled.

“It basically looked like this big snail truck driving along.”

The snail materialised with support from Lotterywest, the Great Southern Development Commission and Jerramungup shire.

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Braving the shave

FOR some blokes, having a shave is a simple task that’s never given a second thought, but there was a bit more behind the decision when Kev Wellman lost his whiskers on Saturday night.

The distinct flowing beard that had been cultivated over the past 30 years got the chop in front of a packed crowd at the Stirling Club for the third annual fundraiser that supports the Beyond Blue organisation and commemorates the life of Kev’s brother Glen.

“Glen struggled with depression his whole life,” Kev said.

“I think it stemmed from when our dad died from cancer when he was six.

“He felt like he missed out on having a relationship with him.

“He’d had five or six suicide attempts in the past. Our family was devastated when we found out.”

Kev said his mum, who was 81 when Glen lost his battle with depression, “cried every day for two years”, and spends every day thinking of him.

“We all miss him, but Mum just never really got over it,” he said.

Kev and his family have held a live music event on the anniversary of Glen’s death each year to raise money for mental health awareness and to simply celebrate one of the Great Southern’s foremost guitarists and musicians.

“We’ve auctioned some of Glen’s guitars at past events to raise some money, but this year we just didn’t have any ideas,” Kev said.

“So I decided to dye my beard blue and shave it off to raise money.

The response for donations was immediate and overwhelming for Kev and his family.

But perhaps not as overwhelming as sitting in the spotlight at Saturday night’s event in-between sets from a couple of local bands that were on the bill, watching his beard disappear one snip at a time.

Under instructions from his sister and event co-ordinator, Linda, Kev donned the cape and sat back nervously while friends and family each struck a blow, including his mother.

“I’ll never do it again though, it’s so strange to not have a beard,” Kev said, while reflecting on the event.

“People don’t recognise me when I walk past.”

“We got around $9500 in donations from shaving my beard, and $500 from the auction of a painting done by my mate Glen Kilpatrick.

“I think we had something like 400 people in attendance too. The family is very overwhelmed by the support.”

With the buzz of the event still lingering, Kev hoped the message he wanted to get across would carry on, and couldn’t stress enough the importance of speaking out about anxiety and depression.

“Glen was just so low; he didn’t call anyone or talk to anyone,” he said.

“I’ve battled depression myself, and you just can’t sit there and brood, you need to speak out and reach out.

“You can’t do it alone.

“That’s why I dyed my beard blue. It’s sort of a message like, no more blue, no more feeling blue.”

If you, or someone you know needs help, you can call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time of the day or night.

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Cop shop celebrates 150th

A WHO’S WHO of the state police force, and their political master, will attend on March 3 when the Plantagenet Historical Society celebrates the 150th anniversary of Mount Barker’s first cop shop.

Commissioner Chris Dawson, Police Minister Michelle Roberts, Great Southern District Superintendent Dom Wood, one-time corrective services minister Terry Redman, the president of the retired police officers’ association, three police union delegates, a police piper and several mounted police have said they’ll be there.

Plantagenet Historical Society archivist Camille Inifer warned that a VIP or two might find themselves embroiled in some punitive shenanigans on the day.

“We’ll have a policeman in uniform from the Plantagenet Players, the drama group, and he might be arresting a few dignitaries if they don’t behave themselves,” she winked.

“We’re gonna have a bit of fun with them.”

The 150th anniversary is also the fiftieth anniversary of when the historical society stepped in, in 1968, to stop Plantagenet shire demolishing the police station.

“It was set for demolition because it was so derelict,” Ms Inifer said.

“One of the policemen, in his wisdom, had let the chooks roost in there for a number of decades, so you can imagine the state of the floor.

“But being history buffs, the society thought they had to save it.”

Ms Inifer said up to 1500 people were likely to descend on the Police Station Museum on March 3, given the Labour Day long weekend timing and the 30th Porongurup Wine Festival kicking off the next day.

Between opening in 1868 and closing in 1908, the state heritage listed building filled a vital public role – as a focus of law and order, and a telegraph office and stopping place for mail coaches travelling from Perth to Albany.

Chair of the committee pulling the anniversary celebrations together John Sales said the commissioner would deliver a speech and unveil a commemorative plaque.

The station was built by convicts who still play a big role in the building’s upkeep, with inmates from the Pardelup minimum security prison doing gardening and odd jobs around the place.

“They’re coming in for a few days before the commemorations and they’re going to do a bit of painting and gardening for us to really showcase the complex,” Mr Sales, a retired police sergeant, said.

Admission is free, and no convicts will be participating on the day.

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From farm gate to footy

TAKING a spin around Bathgate Farm in owner Andrew Bathgate’s well-loved Hilux reminded me about the simple things in life.

Fresh air, open skies, the peace and quiet, and the simple act of growing your own produce.

As we stopped at various points on his acreage and walked along endless rows of lush green crops, Mr Bathgate took the time to explain the effort put into each crop, from when they can be picked, to the best type of soil to use, to which crops should be planted together for the best results.

His passion for what he does showed me how hard people work to bring fresh local produce to their community, as well as the effort put in to keep their local businesses afloat when unpredictable weather intervenes.

However, it was never the original plan for the Bathgate family to farm their land, Mr Bathgate said; rather, the family simply started to grow things they liked to eat.

“We bought this place back in 2005 because it’s 30 acres of forest,” he said.

“We didn’t buy it with the intention to farm.

“…it’s spud-growing country out here, so we planted some spuds first and then one thing led to another.

“I always thought of us as more of a glorified market garden, really.”

Wind the clock forward a couple of years and Bathgate Farm’s popularity in the Albany community took off.

The growing enterprise expanded into cauliflowers, carrots, leafy greens, and Asian vegetables.

As the years progressed, Bathgate Farm joined the Albany Farmer’s Market, started selling direct to The Garden Basket in Margaret River and began supplying two of WA’s finest restaurants.

The family farm’s most recent venture is testament to their ability to match quality with quantity.

They are one of the local growers in WA whose products are selected by Morley Growers, a Perth-based company, who recently won the fruit and vegetable supply contract for catering at the new Optus Stadium.

So, the next time you’re chowing down on a burger while watching the Eagles beat the Dockers, you could be eating veggies from Bathgate Farm.

When asked about his reaction to learning of his business’s link to Optus Stadium, Mr Bathgate was rather humble.

“Whenever Morley Growers ring and say, ‘that [produce] was fantastic’, you know it’s being compared to others in the state,” Mr Bathgate said.

“But for me, the most rewarding thing is dealing with people.

“Relationships with clients are absolutely imperative.

“It’s about that sense of achievement and being able to provide what your client wants; that’s the most rewarding thing.”

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Citizen of Year for vollie

WITH seven nominees for the City of Albany’s Australia Day Community Citizen of the Year award, volunteer firefighter Heather Bell stood out from the rest following her efforts during the 2016 Yarloop and Esperance fires.

Ms Bell has volunteered with St John Ambulance for more than 15 years, and only started volunteering with Albany’s Volunteer Bushfire Brigade three years ago.

“I wanted to get out into the community to help others, and after a while I was asked to be the secretary for the brigade,” she said.

“So I started helping out when I could, and when the opportunity came up to raise some money for a new Forward Control Vehicle, I jumped on it.”

“The FCV we had was definitely past its use-by date, so it was great to be able to raise the money to buy a new one,” she said.

“We use the van as a control point during emergencies, so all communications are fed through the van to liaise with other teams on the ground.

“It also has live feeds of the fires with up-to-date maps so we can track where the fire is and where it’s going.”

Ms Bell was also recognised for her work in raising funds for victims and communities that were affected by the 2016 Yarloop and Esperance fires.

The achievement was not lost on her family.

Her brother in England and her daughter were very proud of her accomplishments.

“My brother has been posting on Facebook saying how he’s a proud little brother, and my daughter took the time during work to come watch me get my award,” she said.

“I’m lucky my kids are so great with all the volunteering I do.”

Stephanie Mitchell from the Albany Roller Derby League received the Young Citizen of the Year Award for raising more than $10,000 for the burgeoning league and her efforts in the White Ribbon Day, Light the Night and Pride Rally.

Don Perfrement received the Senior Citizen of the Year award in recognition of his various fundraisers for charities including the Royal Flying Doctors and Albany Hospice.

Soroptimist International Albany received this year’s Australia Day Active Citizen Award for their work in raising awareness of issues affecting young girls and women within the region.

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ASHS chalks up 100 years

THIS year marks 100 years since Albany Senior High School (ASHS) first opened its doors and welcomed students from across the Great Southern.

The centenary celebration will be commemorated throughout the year with various archive projects, an open day, activities and a ball.

The first tick off the centenary celebration list was a special assembly yesterday to officially unveil the new centenary mural, located across from the canteen.

Students listened to a variety of guest speakers reflect on their memories of ASHS, including ex-student and City of Albany Deputy Mayor Greg Stocks, ex-student and former WA Premier Alan Carpenter, ex-principal Jo Lynch and ex-principal Arthur Richards.

Mr Carpenter attended the school in the early 1970s and despite admitting he “wasn’t a model student”, said he valued his experiences with ASHS.

“I owe so much to the education and ethos I gained from this school,” he said.

“We’ve had people like Tim Winton, Kim Scott and Dianne Jackson come from here, so it goes to show that no matter where you’re from, or your background, you can achieve anything with an education in WA.”

Mr Stocks has maintained his link to ASHS after attending and teaching at the school by holding the role as chair of the school board, and has seen both his children graduate through ASHS.

“Attending ASHS was the foundation of their success,” he said of his children.

“We all talk about our time at ASHS 20, 30 and 50 years later, so treasure your time here.”

If you would like to find out more about the ASHS centenary celebrations or would like to join the alumni, visit albanyshs.com.au/our-community/ alumni.

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