Hair-raising fundraiser

SMASHING her fundraising goal four days before the big event, Albany’s Simone Pearton is both excited and nervous to shave her head this weekend.

Ms Pearton is raising money for the Cancer Council’s Do It For Cancer fundraiser, and has dyed her hair pink in celebration of it.

But the bright locks will not remain for much longer as she will shave them all off this Saturday at 11am at Great Southern Motorcycles.

Ms Pearton has already raised $3,000 over the past two months and hopes to raise more this weekend.

“I currently have a family member travelling to Bunbury for treatment and they have said that the Cancer Council has been amazing,” she said.

“And I’ve only just realised that they are a not-for-profit that relies on donations – they do so much.

“So I thought, if I can help out, maybe I can help them find a cure for cancer.”

Ms Pearton is passionate about raising money in the fight against cancer, having participated in similar events such as Relay For Life.

People keen to support Ms Pearton can come down for a sausage sizzle from 9am before the main event at 11am.

Raffle tickets are also on sale for the chance to win a patio heater.

Continue Reading

Stewart retires as Plantagenet CEO

AFTER five years as CEO with the Town of Claremont, Rob Stewart was clinically depressed and had fallen out of love with local government.

But a move to the Great Southern ended up rekindling his passion for making change at a local level.

Back in the late 1990s, Mr Stewart was in charge of the Town of Claremont when it made headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons.

The infamous Claremont serial killings had taken place; with the disappearances of Sarah Spiers, Ciara Glennon and Jane Rimmer sending chilling shockwaves through an entire community.

At the same time as dealing with public backlash over the lack of security cameras in the suburb, Mr Stewart’s colleague and then Claremont Mayor Peter Weygers was sensationally named a “person of interest” by police.

Needless to say, life in the office wasn’t easy.

“We had never handled anything like it before and you still had to run the organisation,” Mr Stewart said.

“Nobody knew who to talk to because we were under a lot of pressure for not having any cameras on the street.

“It was really difficult meeting the fathers of the girls who were killed, especially when they were looking for answers I couldn’t give them. It was really tough.

“We ended up putting cameras in but of course it had all stopped by then.”

In an incredibly stressful period both at home and at work, Mr Stewart said he found support in an unlikely place.

“I was studying at the time for my post-grad in marketing and public relations,” he said.

“I would walk into a tute and the tutors would ask the class what I did wrong on the telly last night.

“My classmates would do my assignments for me because they knew I was under the pump. We talked about it more at uni than in the office.”

At the turn of the century, Mr Stewart left his position at the Town of Claremont to start a software development company, but it wasn’t long before local government work piqued his interest once again.

“I was doing some work down in Mount Barker and they let me know they were looking for a CEO,” he said.

“I got back into local government, which is what I know, but those two years out gave me that insight into how the private sector works. It gave me time to recharge my batteries.”

With a fresh mind and a blank canvas to work with, Mr Stewart went about bringing Mount Barker into the 21st century.

“It needed some work, some planning and leadership – that was a challenge,” he said.

“People didn’t even have job descriptions.”

Change was on the agenda and Mr Stewart relished the opportunity.

“The Council was really good – they had already acknowledged they needed a CEO who would bring everything together,” he said.

“They said they were looking to the future and wanted change and they let me go for it.”

Over the next 19 years, Mr Stewart oversaw the transformation of Mt Barker’s main street, the construction of a new environmentally sound administration centre and a purpose-built medical centre.

Mr Stewart said installing security cameras in town had stopped anti-social behaviour “literally overnight”.

The Shire’s new strategic plan also led to a $9m upgrade of Sounness Park including its artificial hockey turf, the joint venture development of the Public Library and Community Resource Centre and the completion of its new Community College.

“A lot of them fell in my lap, but these things happen when you create the right environment,” Mr Stewart said.

“We never thought we would get the hockey pitch done, but you make your own luck.

“Once we got a project finished there was no sitting around celebrating the milestones. It was, what’s next?”

Tomorrow will be Mr Stewart’s last day as Shire of Plantagenet CEO after announcing his retirement in February.

Interim CEO Paul Sheedy has been appointed to take over for a period of six to nine months, with the Shire employing a recruitment agency to find it a permanent fill.

Mr Stewart said he would move back to Perth to be closer to family, but first plans to ride his motorbike around the WA country and catch up with fellow local government CEOs.

“I’ve been here 19 years and I’ve enjoyed every day of it,” Mr Stewart said.

“I let the Council know when I signed my contract four years ago this would be my last one. I’m not getting any younger.

“In many respects it has been a dream job for a CEO in local government. I’ve done things CEOs may never get to do any of them in their whole career.

“There’s been so much this Council has allowed me to achieve. Once you build up the trust then everything opens up.”

Continue Reading

War veteran recalls Victory in the Pacific

WHEN Nyabing farmer Evan Hobley returned home after fighting Nazi Germany in North Africa, the World War II veteran would lie in bed at night and hear the sound of crashing aircrafts out in the front paddock.

Mr Hobley is one of nearly one million Australians who endured the horrors of history’s deadliest military conflict.

The 99-year-old, who now lives in Albany, is one of only three local RSL members who can still share their memories of World War II in person.

It makes this year’s 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific all the more important, according to the Albany RSL, because it might be one of the last opportunities to recognise the occasion while World War II veterans are present.

Although Nazi Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, the true end to World War II came a few months later on August 14 when Japan accepted the Allies’ demand for unconditional surrender.

The following day, August 15, was then forever known as Victory in the Pacific Day, or VP Day.

More than 17,000 Australians lost their lives while fighting Japan in the Pacific, with some 8,000 dying in Japanese captivity.

Albany RSL sub-branch president and Vietnam veteran Laurie Fraser said victory in the Pacific is probably more significant to Australians than the victory in Europe.

The Albany RSL will host a commemorative service on Sunday, August 16 at 2pm at the Albany War Memorial on York Street to mark the special occasion.

Mr Fraser said the RSL was eager to speak with World War II veterans from the Great Southern or their families so recognition can be paid during the service.

For Mr Hobley, who fought at the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa, the local RSL plays an incredibly important role in his life.

Up until recently, he raised and lowered the flag every day at its headquarters on Stirling Terrace, and looked after the rose garden for years.

At the age of 99, Mr Hobley finds a way to help out, even taking the RSL’s rubbish bins out every Thursday night.

The former Royal Australian Air Force gunner is incredibly humble about his service and was keen to highlight the efforts of those who helped beyond the frontlines.

“You can have the best navy, army and air force in the world but if it’s not supplied it can’t operate,” Mr Hobley said.

“The people who risked their lives to bring supplies from America and Britain never got the recognition they deserved.”

Continue Reading

Cool small school rules

THE title of smallest primary school in the Great Southern this year goes to Ongerup Primary School.

Semester 1 saw just 20 students enrolled – an average seen for the past several years.

Principal Mark Bruce said more than 100 students attended the regional school back in the 1970s.

However, he says the community has adapted to the small school population and enjoy it all the more.

“It’s a very friendly school,” Mr Bruce said.

“All the kids will come up to you and they like to introduce themselves and have a chat.

“We are very proud of our school.”

Classroom size is often a topical debate in the schooling world but at Ongerup Primary, not many people have ever complained about classes being too big.

“Parents expect that level of one-on-one, teacher-student time now, because we’ve naturally had it for quite some time,” Mr Bruce said.

The smallest school in the state is Gascoyne Junction Remote Community School in Carnarvon, which has just five students enrolled.

The largest school in WA is Churchlands Senior High in Perth, which recorded 2,843 students at the end of Term 2.

Continue Reading

Playgrounds of wonder

A FREE digital fantasy world filled with dinosaurs, aliens and mermaids can be at children’s fingertips this school holidays with a new app unique to Albany locales.

The Magical Parks app creates a range of augmented reality worlds at Clifton, Bovell Square, Warrenup, Eco, Eyre, Lange, Lake Weerlara and Lakeside parks across Albany.

At these locations, app users can see different virtual creatures, explore worlds and complete various challenges, including collecting dinosaurs and rescuing marine life from environmental waste.

Mischa and Archie Henderson explored the creatures at Middleton Beach’s Eyre Park this week and found flying dinosaurs, lots of dinosaur eggs, treasure chests, a portal to another dimension and a mermaid.

The siblings spent all morning running around the park, going in circles to chase after creatures and complete missions.

The Magical Parks app is available from the App Store or Google Play.

The map in the app identifies the magical parks in your area.

Continue Reading

Repair skills vital to waste reduction

DENMARK will soon have its own repair cafe to promote waste reduction and financial wellbeing.

Von Quinn said the repair cafe was a direct initiative of a grant designed to improve the financial capability of residents and already had lots of volunteers signed up to help out.

The cafe will operate monthly at Denmark Community Resource Centre and will have its first session on Saturday, July 25 from 10am to noon.

“Hopefully this is the start of something big,” Ms Quinn said.

“It’s a two-prong attack. We want to help people save money by repairing things instead of just buying a new one, and help reduce waste.”

Repair cafes are a global initiative encouraging people to practice and teach others repair skills and fix broken items instead of replacing them with something brand new.

More than 1,500 repair cafes currently exist worldwide.

Featuring this month at Denmark Repair Cafe will be textile and teddy bear repairers, small furniture repairers, knife sharpeners and bike repairers.

In conjunction with the repair cafe, a Low Cost Cooking Workshop will be held at the Denmark Community Resource Centre from 10am to 1pm on July 25 as part of the broader Great Foundations Workshop Series.

Bookings for this are essential online at

Continue Reading

Textile artist sews seeds of success

WHILE COVID-19 has negatively affected many businesses across the state, Albany woman Erica Cooper has taken advantage of the unique opportunity and turned it into a thriving business.

Ms Cooper was stood down from her job at Skill Hire Albany at the end of March, giving her the push to begin using her passions to make some money.

The lifelong textile artist started by making some curtains for friends and family, eventually taking the dive to launch her latest endeavour, The Stitching Studio.

Ms Cooper now completes alterations out of her home and has begun hosting a variety of sewing classes for the public at the Beryl Grant Community Centre.

“Having a business like this is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I was on a good income and didn’t want to take the risk,” she said.

“But I suddenly woke up one morning and thought I’d just go for it.

“I was in a situation where I was lucky enough to access $10,000 out of my superannuation, so I made sure that I’d cleared car payments and everything so I knew I could survive on minimum wages if I had to.”

Ms Cooper said the response she’s received since making the commitment has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’ve got classes already booked out to the end of August so far, there’s definitely a need for these kinds of classes in Albany,” she said.

“I knew it would be popular but the amount of people wanting to attend the classes is absolutely phenomenal.

“A lot of people can only see the negatives of COVID-19, but for me it’s only positives that

have come out of it. “This would have been my 16th week off, and it gave me time to evaluate what I wanted out of life as well having that break. “I just decided to take that chance and go for it.”

As for the future of Ms Cooper’s young business, she only sees it getting bigger from here.

“My goal in the long run, by hopefully next year, is to open a shop with a studio where I can also teach my classes,” she said.

One of Ms Cooper’s August classes focuses on skirt block drafting.

Continue Reading

Early start for 2020 vintage

WHILE this year’s wine harvest wasn’t ideal for the bookkeepers, Great Southern growers say 2020 is shaping up as a great vintage.

On the back of warm and dry conditions across WA, grape producers picked their fruit much earlier than usual.

Plantagenet Wines General Manager Tom Wisdom said harvest dates were “massively accelerated” because of above-average temperatures.

“We typically harvest in March and well into late April, but this year it started in February and finished in very early April,” he said.

With Plantagenet Wines already bottling their 2020 vintage, Mr Wisdom said it would be one of the earliest times they had got their product to market.

“Our rieslings and sauvignon blancs from 2020 are already in bottle and we are looking to get them out to the market next month which is really exciting for us,” he said.

Although wine quality is expected to be high, crop yields were down across Australia.

According to the National Vintage Report 2020 compiled by Wine Australia, production levels were at their lowest for more than a decade.

Over 1.5 million tonnes of grapes, the equivalent of over one billion litres of wine, was crushed in 2020, 12 per cent lower than 2019 values.

Denmark wine producer Paul Nelson said some of his varieties were down as much as 50 per cent on yield.

“Yields were a little down in Western Australia, but regionally we faired the best,” he said.

“The Great Southern has been fairing consistently well in the past five years compared to a number of other regions.

“We are not seeing the major stresses of climate change as other areas are, but we are certainly seeing the impacts to a smaller degree. Rainfall last year had a major impact.”

So, what does it all mean for the consumer?

As grapes ripened earlier than expected, Mr Nelson said the 2020 vintage would hold lots of upfront fruit flavours.

“It’s going to be a quality year, not a classical, but a great year,” he said.

With Western Australians forced to holiday closer to home this winter, Mr Nelson said cellar door sales had received a big boost.

“Traditionally we wouldn’t really open our cellar door through this period,” he said.

“But we have been inundated with interested drinkers and wine lovers, so it’s been a bit of a turn of events.”

Continue Reading

Community cheers on new Barker pub

AFTER an uncertain four months, Mount Barker’s hotel has finally reopened, with new owners launching the bar and bistro a fortnight ago.

Owner and operator of Mount Barker Bar and Bistro Bec Drage said she could have had no idea when purchasing the business in November last year that the reopening would be so delayed.

“We were supposed to open at the end of February and that never happened because of COVID, so we held off and then everything shut down,” she said.

“We were pretty concerned we wouldn’t be able to open at all.”

Like many other businesses, Ms Drage said the Mount Barker Bar and Bistro just wasn’t viable to partially open under the State’s COVID-19 restrictions.

However, since opening their doors on July 1, Ms Drage said the community has truly gotten behind the new venture.

“We’ve got a lot of support from the locals and they’re happy to see it open again,” she said.

“Everybody was pretty excited when they found out we would be taking it over but then we had problems with the liquor licence and then coronavirus, so finally after seven months we’ve been able to open.”

Ms Drage said despite the stresses of owning a new business through the pandemic, she was grateful that they have eventually been able to get people through the doors.

“With coronavirus, there’s a lot of businesses that weren’t able to reopen or open altogether, so it was a real ‘good on ya’ sort of thing from the community for managing to do it,” she said.

Continue Reading

Noongar dual name project commences

THE City of Albany has partnered with local Indigenous organisations to identify key places which will be dual named with a traditional Noongar name.

The Restoring Menang Noongar Boodja Place Names project aims to explore traditional Noongar names for places and geographic areas within Albany.

Local Aboriginal enterprise Kurrah Mia has been asked to undertake consultation with the Noongar community and research historical records, with Menang man Larry Blight saying it was a great opportunity for the local community.

“It’s something that we’re very proud of, and it is something that has been a long time coming,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of areas that already have Noongar and Menang names and people probably wouldn’t even be aware of it.

“But I think this is an amazing initiative with the City of Albany and the State Government.”

Mr Blight said it wasn’t just about adding a name, but also about encouraging curiosity and the sharing of knowledge about Menang and Noongar history.

“There’s all these other things that this will unlock, and some of this culture and history goes back at least 10,000 years ago and sometimes even older,” he said.

“For example, Middleton Beach has been known as Binalup, it means safe place and place of first light and it’s just a beautiful name for that place.”

Mayor of Albany Dennis Wellington said the dual naming project was a great initiative for Western Australia’s oldest European settlement.

“Having the traditional Noongar name side by side with the European place name sends a wonderful public statement of reconciliation as we continue to recognise the ongoing, strong and cultural connection Menang Noongar people have with Noongar country,” he said.

“This project will allow the City to explore and revive Menang Noongar place names in consultation with Elders to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Noongar language and culture.”

Mr Blight said the project is currently considering several locations around Albany, with the potential for many more in the future.

“There’s about five or six names that they’re looking at right now and there are going to be other ones that will follow, and as Dennis Wellington said this is just the beginning, this is a long-term project,” he said.

“I just think it’s a little bit romantic in a sense to have these beautiful ancient names.”

Continue Reading