NAPLAN tests canned

NAPLAN testing for Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students across the country has been cancelled due to the widespread disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Ministers met last Friday and decided the literacy and numeracy test would not take place on the planned May 12 to 22 dates.

The Education Council said the decision had been made to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning.

“Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test,” the Council said.

“All Education Ministers acknowledge and thank all of our school leaders, our teachers and support staff for the essential work they do every day educating our children and young people, particularly during these challenging times.”



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Hospitals set limits

STRICTER guidelines around hospital visits are being introduced to protect the community from COVID-19.

WA Country Health Service announced that in line with a directive provided by the WA Department of Health, maternity wards would now be limited to one designated support person per patient.

Albany mother Sarah Hulkes has a baby that’s only a few weeks away, and will be directly affected by these new regulations.

“I understand the whole thing, and I would hate to jeopardise anyone in there with me whether that’s the staff or anyone else in the hospital,” Ms Hulkes said.

“The only thing is for me I have such a big and tight family, so it would be devastating for me if I can’t even have [my husband] Cody and my mum in the room with me.”

The new directive means Ms Hulkes could only have one visitor throughout her stay at the maternity ward.

“I’m so close with my mum and she’s just such a great support person for me and being told that I can’t have her with me is quite upsetting,” she said.

“With the pregnancy, I had everything planned and it just throws you a bit.”

Not only will Ms Hulkes not have her mother visit, but her three-year-old son Pacey will have to wait at home to meet his new sibling.

“The only other thing I am upset about it my other son who’s three won’t be allowed to come and see me,” she said.

“It’s not only to meet his new sibling, but to not be able to come and see me will be really hard.”

The new measures are intended to stop the spread of the virus by limiting the number of people coming in and out of the hospital on a daily basis.

Ms Hulkes said that with such a large family group, the introduction of these restrictions would have a direct influence on reducing the spread of any illness.

“I have such a huge family that this will be effective, it’s just unfortunate that this is such a nice time that we can’t celebrate,” she said.

“I really think it’s not the hospital’s fault though, the people there are so awesome that I completely respect everything they’re doing to keep everyone safe.”

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Get serious on social distancing

THERE isn’t some miracle vaccine around the corner that’s going to save our healthcare system from overloading.

The best weapon we have to fight this virus and reduce the stress on hospitals is socials distancing, and it’s time to take it seriously.

That’s been the message from Government, health officials and university researchers this week as Australia scrambles to contain the spread of COVID-19.

It’s simple; only leave your home when it is essential – either for work or to purchase the everyday items you need to live.

It also means you can’t host that party or barbecue you were planning and it’s time to cancel any Easter holiday travels.

“I know this is tough, I know this is confronting, I know I am asking a lot of everyone in our community, but I need everyone to do their bit,” Premier Mark McGowan said on Monday.

“That means listening to the advice, following the rules and performing your civic duty as West Australians.

“Thank you to those people who are adhering to the social distancing measures, but unfortunately it’s not enough.”

Whether the messaging hadn’t been clear enough, or people thought ‘she’ll be right’, there were reports over the weekend of many Australians who weren’t following the correct social distancing measures.

“Too many people in our community are disregarding the social distancing measures,” Mr McGowan said.

“By doing so they are not just putting themselves at risk, they are putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk.

“This is a matter of life and death.”

Research from the University of Western Australia backs up the Government’s focus on social distancing measures.

The study found working from home, self-isolation and community contact reduction was “highly effective” in reducing spread of COVID-19.

Research leader Professor George Milne said in the absence of a vaccine, social distancing was critical to controlling a pandemic situation.

With the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases continuing to rise sharply in WA, WA Health Minister Roger Cook said more social restrictions would be put in place if people didn’t follow the rules.

“People didn’t social distance in pubs and clubs and cafes, and as a result of that we’ve closed them,” he said.

“If you want beaches closed, if you want parks closed, go about ignoring the directives.

“We want people to pull together, but if you’re not going to cooperate we will put in laws to make sure you comply.”

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Second confirmed case in GS region

THE first two cases of COVID-19 in the Great Southern were confirmed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Department of Health would not elaborate on where in the Great Southern the people were located.

The cases bring the WA total to 205 COVID-19 patients; Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook said approximately one quarter of confirmed cases were linked to cruise ships.

Following the National Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a complete travel ban on any overseas travel.

As of midnight yesterday (March 25), stage two restrictions and closures were implemented.

These closures and restrictions are in addition to the stage one closures and restrictions.

Premier Mark McGowan said yesterday that hotels, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks would remain open to provide people with a place to self-isolate if they could not do it in any other way.

Please note this is a developing story.

For the latest, visit or call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

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Excavations investigate cultural site

ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations were undertaken in Albany this week at Strawberry Hill ahead of the construction of its new visitor hub.

Archaeologist David Guilfoyle led a team of 12 people – comprised of archaeologists, students, Indigenous Elders and cultural rangers – to investigate and identify any artifacts of Indigenous cultural significance near the existing worker’s quarters.

The team worked for three days to study the 20m x 5m space and by day two, had found fragments of ceramic vessels and glass.

As the Weekender went to print, investigations were still underway.

“As part of gaining traditional owner consent, we’ve been doing these excavations to check for culturally-sensitive materials, such as evidence of occupation in this area,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“We’ve been using hand tools because we have to be careful.”

Mr Guilfoyle said the cultural science project was a great way for the participating Menang students and rangers to learn more about Strawberry Hill as well as about the site’s significance to the Indigenous community.

Works were allowed to continue this week but Strawberry Hill is closed to the public due to the threat of COVID-19.

National Trust is aiming to reopen the property on April 14.

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United call for calm

A CALL for calm has been echoed by all levels of government this week along with a reminder to only rely upon official sources for the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Weekender went to print yesterday (Wednesday), there were zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Albany, the Great Southern and regional WA.

The Department of Health confirmed WA now has 35 cases of COVID-19 but all were located in the Perth metropolitan area.

The Department said all WA cases notified so far had been associated with overseas travel and that currently, Australia does not have widespread community transmission of the virus.

Member for Albany Peter Watson said the State Government was taking the pandemic very seriously and was well prepared.

“We do not need to be panic buying basic household goods. We need to be looking after elder family members, friends and neighbours,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Wellington said the City of Albany had mobilised a response team to make decisions regarding the City’s services, facilities and events.

He said the City was preparing to maintain essential services as part of its emergency management planning.

WA is now in a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency.

Penalties of up to $50,000 will apply to those who do not self-isolate for 14 days after entering Australia from overseas from Monday, March 17 at 9pm.

International travel restrictions are now at the highest possible ranking – Level 4 – which means all overseas travel is now completely advised against.

Non-essential indoor gatherings of 100-plus people have been banned as of yesterday but this does not apply to public transport facilities, medical and healthcare facilities, pharmacies, emergency service facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, parliaments, food markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, shopping centres, office buildings, factories, construction and mining sites, where it is necessary for their normal operation.

Schools will remain open until the National Cabinet is advised otherwise by the Chief Health Officer.

School hygiene practices have been elevated and parents are reminded to keep their children at home if they are sick.

Southern Ports CEO Steve Lewis said international cruise ships were now banned from docking in Australia for at least 30 days.

All cargo ship crew arriving in Albany, Bunbury or Esperance are required to adhere to a 14-day on-board isolation period from the day they leave their international departure port.

Aged care facility residents will now only be able to receive one visit per day, with a maximum of two people visiting in that singular visit.

Please note this is a developing story.

The latest on the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at or by calling the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

See pages 4 and 5 for more information.


Image: Courtesy

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Recycle trial expands

OVER the next two months select Plantagenet households will have their recycling habits rated in a State Government-funded initiative aimed at improving waste management.

Bin tagging programs have been rolled out across WA over the past year in a bid to reduce contaminated recycling material.

It involves a simple visual assessment of a household’s general waste and recycling bin, where a feedback tag is then attached to a bin handle offering individual tips on how to recycle more and waste less.

“Unlike more traditional education programs, this program recognises positive recycling habits and provides increased community engagement and awareness,” Shire of Plantagenet Environmental Coordinator Alex Tucker said.

“When recycling is used correctly it has the potential to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill.

“This helps reduce the amount of money the council spends on waste management. “

Bin tagging was recently trialled at 50 Plantagenet households during round one of the program, and that number will now expand in round two.

“Round one encouraged positive engagement with residents and we found that many residents came out of their houses wanting to talk to the bin auditors and ask specific questions about recycling,” Ms Tucker said.

Despite concerted efforts to educate people on what can and can’t be recycled, Ms Tucker said there were some common mistakes households still made.

“Whilst it is true that soft plastics can be recycled into other usable products, the particular sorting system used by our waste contractor, Cleanaway, is not set up to deal with them,” she said.

“In simple terms, the yellow top recycle bin is for recycling empty and clean rigid plastic bottles and containers, paper and cardboard, steel food cans, alfoil and glass bottles and jars.”

And the yellow tip bin isn’t your only option for recycling common household items, according to Ms Tucker.

She said household batteries and mobile phones could be dropped of at the Shire’s administration office, while white goods and electronics could be taken to the O’Neill Road landfill.

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Indigenous fashion set to hit LA

ALBANY artist Kiya Watt has been selected to represent Australia at Los Angeles Fashion Week 2020.

Ms Watt is part of a team representing Deadly Denim, a WA company promoting Indigenous artwork on denim clothing, and will head to the United States in October.

She participated in Perth Fashion Week with Deadly Denim and said she was approached to take things internationally after that.

“To get a platform like this is quite big,” Ms Watt said.

“It’s so amazing – I’m really excited.”

Ms Watt, a Menang Noongar person, wants to use the opportunity to showcase her culture to the rest of the world as well as teach global fashionistas about Indigenous art style.

While her pieces for LA Fashion Week are still in the early concept stage, she has already found a bit of inspiration from other artworks she has created previously.

“I really want American people to see our Noongar culture,” Ms Watt said.

“Our art and clothes can act as a conversation starter into what it means to be an Indigenous person in Australia … it’s really important that we are given these opportunities as Indigenous people so we can show our culture worldwide.”

The WA group heading to L A is raising money through crowd funding to help finance their trip.

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Culture tour inspires students

ALBANY Senior High School students gained tips on how to live off the land this week at their annual cultural tour of the Albany Fish Traps.

The program has been running for the past four years, and involves taking the kids out of the classroom and into nature to experience the culture of Menang people.

ASHS teacher Roger Arnold said the school recognises the importance of exposing children to the cultural experiences of first nations people.

“There is a need to acknowledge, value and respect our local Menang culture,” he said.

The children were spoken to by local Elders such as Vernice Gillies, who wasn’t given the opportunity to learn about her own culture when she was in school.

“I learned about Captain Cook when I was at school, but I wasn’t aware at a young age just how incredibly rich my own culture was, because you weren’t supposed to talk about it,” she said.

“People don’t know the history of our Indigenous people of this country, so what we’re doing is important and we’re hoping to keep it going and eventually pass it onto our young ones, so they can do it too.”

The Albany Fish Traps are a culturally significant area for the Menang people, which date back more than 7000 years.

Despite damage to the area due to a lack of knowledge about its history, a project funded by Royalties for Regions and Lotterywest has helped highlight and educate the public about its importance to local people.

Ms Gillies hopes that future groups will continue to learn from their local Indigenous cultures, and go forward with a greater cross-cultural appreciation.

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Increase in cruise ships amid COVID-19 outbreak

STATE authorities are yet to confirm whether passengers aboard the five cruise ships planning to head to Albany within the next two weeks will be or have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) before they are allowed to mingle in the township.

As of yesterday, there were 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia; four were detected in WA.

COVID-19 was first detected in mainland China in December and has since spread across 113 countries and regions within the past three months.

Across the world there have been more than 117,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 4200 deaths.

The Weekender asked the WA Department of Health on Monday whether passengers aboard Albany-bound cruise ships had been or would be tested for coronavirus before they could disembark and explore the town.

The Sun Princess was in Albany yesterday and the Costa Deliziosa, Seven Seas Mariner, Sea Princess, Seabourn Sojourn and Silver Whisper are expected in the next two weeks.

The Arcadia was in Albany last Sunday.

The Department could not meet the Weekender’s deadline yesterday with a response.

Southern Ports CEO Steve Lewis said 14 cruise ships are currently scheduled to visit Albany between now and November, but this was “subject to change”.

“The immediate port visited prior to attending Albany are all Australian ports,” he said, regarding the cruise ships.

“The Federal Government has implemented strict protocols for people travelling into Australia from high-risk areas, and these protocols also apply to cruise ship passengers.

“Since the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increase in cruise ships visiting Albany, as ships are re-routing to avoid passages in higher-risk areas.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the activation of the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for novel coronavirus on February 27.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that COVID-19 could be the first pandemic in history to be controlled.

“The bottom line is, we are not at the mercy of this virus,” he said.

“The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.

“Among those who are infected, most will recover.”

Dr Ghebreyesus said of the 80,000 reported coronavirus cases in China, more than 70 per cent had recovered and had been discharged from hospital.

“It’s also important to remember that looking only at the total number of reported cases and the total number of countries doesn’t tell the full story,” he said.

“Of all the cases reported globally so far, 93 per cent are from just four countries.

“This is an uneven epidemic at the global level.

“For the moment, only a handful of countries have signs of sustained community transmission – most countries still have sporadic cases or defined clusters.

“As long as that’s the case, those countries have the opportunity to break the chains of transmission, prevent community transmission and reduce the burden on their health systems.”

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