Demand for Foodbank as clients double

FOOD insecurity has reached a new level in the region with nearly double the amount of people walking through the doors of Foodbank Albany in recent weeks.

Branch Manager Rod Pfeiffer said to maintain the safety of clients and staff and maintain the ability to distribute food to those in need, Foodbank had moved to providing customers with hampers instead of individual products.

He said the Albany warehouse was feeling the pinch particularly badly now more than ever.

“The extra strain on the food supply was exacerbated by a drop in local donations, largely caused by the panic buying at shops,” Mr Pfeiffer said.

“Fortunately, this appears to have settled back to normal levels as people have begun to self-isolate.”

Local businesses and organisations including Edge Planning and Property, Merrifield Real Estate, GM Taxation, Albany Community Foundation, Albany Maritime Foundation and Inner Wheel Club have made significant financial donations as of late, and restaurants forced into closure due to COVID-19 social distancing policies have also donated their leftover products.

But, Mr Pfeiffer said there was still a shortage.

“Foodbank still desperately needs key staple foods such as pasta, rice, flour, long-life milk and tinned vegetables,” he said.

“If you can spare one extra packet each time you shop and donate the items to Foodbank, it will go to those who can’t afford or are unable to do normal supermarket shopping.

“Food insecurity has taken on a whole new meaning for many people recently. The issues we are facing are much bigger than any one relief agency can do.

“I would encourage everyone to keep an eye out for one another, look after you neighbour and help where you can.”

Woolworths Bayonet Head and Coles Albany Plaza have jumped on board to assist the effort, placing donation buckets outside of their stores for customers to place their donations into.

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GS trio recover from COVID-19

THREE of the nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Great Southern have recovered from the illness.

The WA Department of Health confirmed the statistic with the Weekender on Tuesday, as the state recorded just one new COVID-19 case in WA; three other cases were recorded from the international cruise ship Artania, currently docked at Fremantle.

No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Great Southern within the past week.

The total number of cases across the state is now 532*, with 338* recovered.

Of the total number of cases, 212 are linked to cruise ships.

A research trial began at Perth Children’s Hospital this week to test whether pre-existing vaccines could be used to combat COVID-19.

Approximately 2000 healthcare workers have volunteered to participate in the trial, with all receiving the influenza vaccine and half receiving the BCG vaccine used against tuberculosis.

Telethon Kids Institute Director Jonathan Carapetis said the BCG vaccine appeared to also prevent other respiratory infections, particularly in children and the elderly.

The Mindaroo Foundation donated $1.5m to the trial to assist its operation.

*updated 2.35pm on April 15, 2020.

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Piggery proposal a stinker

PLANS to build a new piggery in Narrikup are causing a stink amongst local residents who say it will deeply affect their quality of life.

The proposal, put forward by Milne AgriGroup, would see a rotational outdoor piggery operation process up to 8500 pigs at any one time with a maximum of 28,000 per year.

A group of Narrikup locals are filthy over the location of the proposed site, which is 2.5km east of Narrikup township on Lake Barnes Road.

Kerry Hill, who’s lived in Narrikup for nearly four years, has started a petition against the piggery that now has close to 800 signatures.

She said she had previously lived on a property that was close to a piggery and never wanted to go through the same experience again.

“Unless you’ve been near pigs, you have no idea how powerfully strong it is,” she said.

“It doesn’t just get into your clothes, it gets into your skin, it gets into your hair.”

Narrikup resident John Miell was concerned a regular breeze would blow the piggery’s smells directly into town.

Milne AgriGroup, which owns Plantagenet Free Range Pork and Mt Barker Chicken, wants to build the piggery to meet increasing demand for pork.

The company has an exclusive contract with Coles to supply it with free range pork.

But Mr Miell said there were other locations close by they could put the piggery which wouldn’t impact on a nearby township.

Shire of Plantagenet health laws stipulate a piggery should be no closer than 5km from the boundary of any townsite.

However, because the proposed piggery is an outdoor operation rather than an intensive indoor operation, there is more wiggle room on that 5km buffer.

Shire of Plantagenet Chief Executive Rob Stewart said Council had previously adopted, in consultation with industry, guidelines of a 500m buffer zone for rotational outdoor piggeries.

“There’s a big difference between the impact of outdoor rotational piggeries and intensive piggeries,” he said.

“We acknowledge intensive piggeries can have noise and smell which is why we have bigger buffer zones for them.

“We’ve got many piggeries within the Shire of Plantagenet and complaints regarding piggeries are very few and far between.”

Bev Hall, who runs a cattle farm and farm-stay accommodation next to the proposed site, said the industry regulations were far too lenient.

Mr Hall said he was worried his property’s value would plummet if the piggery went ahead.

“Speaking to the real estate agent they reckon that people won’t even want to look at our property if there is a pig farm next door,” he said.

Mr Stewart said the proposal would likely be voted on at the Shire’s June 16 Council meeting, and urged concerned Narrikup residents to trust the Council’s process.

“We are only gathering information at the moment,” he said.

“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t consider it properly. That’s why we seek submissions, so we know what the concerns of people are.”

Ratepayers originally had until April 7 to make submissions on the proposal, but the Shire last week announced it would extend the cut-off date to April 30.

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Companies join forces to address hand sanitiser shortage

SANDALWOOD supplier Quintis has partnered with Albany-based Great Southern Distilling Company (GSDC) to produce hand sanitiser under its Mt Romance brand.

To help address the supply shortfall of hand sanitiser affecting the Australian and global community amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Quintis has begun sourcing ethanol from GSDC to develop the hand sanitiser at its production facility in Albany.

Quintis will distribute the sanitiser via its Mt Romance stores and website.

Quintis CEO Richard Henfrey said teaming with GSDC was a great example of how local businesses could come together during this challenging time to fill an unmet need.

“Joining forces with Great Southern Distilling Company has provided us with the collective opportunity to protect employment and support the local community,” he said.

“Together we have been able to utilise the strengths of our respective manufacturing facilities to supply local businesses such as St John Ambulance and the Autism Association of WA. This is a time when businesses need to band together to do what they can.”

GSDC founder Cameron Syme echoed Henfrey’s sentiments saying he was proud to be part of the collaboration.

“We’re two local businesses working together in a crisis to support the community – it’s great to be a part of that,” he said.

The Mt Romance hand sanitiser has a special added ingredient – Australian sandalwood oil, a natural anti-bacterial that moisturises the skin and can reduce inflammation.

Quintis has previously produced small batches of hand sanitiser for a niche market.

“This experience has enabled the company to scale up its production of hand-sanitiser with greater efficiency, reliability and higher-quality control than new entrants into the market,” Mr Henfrey said.

The collaboration will enable the production of an additional 1500 units of hand sanitiser per week which will be available for sale from April 15.

Pre-orders can be placed online now at

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Childcare services enraged

THE Federal Government’s decision to make childcare services free alleviated many parents from additional financial strain during the COVID-19 crisis, but the decision has left daycare educators crying out for help with the prospect of becoming “slave labour” and closing their doors presenting a very real threat.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan last week, will provide a weekly payment to childcare centres in lieu of parents to provide free childcare for families.

But ire has built amongst the daycare sector – particularly the Family Day Care (FDC) sector – as the Relief Package will only pay a capped 50 per cent of fee revenue or 50 per cent of the existing hourly rate charged by daycare centres – whichever is lower.

Payments will be backdated to February 17 and begin on April 6 until June 28.

FDCs traditionally offer care to smaller groups of children at a more affordable rate, compared to larger centre-based day cares.

Albany-based Family Day Care educator Tracey Smith said she will now be working for $4.30 per hour per child in her care for the month of April thanks to the Relief Package.

She said FDCs had actually since an increase in enrolments, due to the attraction of smaller group numbers.

“The Prime Minister tells us if you have a job, you are an essential worker … this leaves our industry questioning if we are a valued essential worker or an expendable resource – what other industry is required to continue working and receive 50 per cent?” Ms Smith said.

Owner of Albany Family Day Care Caroline Boocock is facing living off an $8 per hour income – $13 per hour if she gets JobKeeper – to support herself, her husband, their two children and their mortgage.

She does not think her daycare, which currently looks after 11 children, will be financially viable for much longer.

“Once again, childcare educators are not valued at all … we are told that we need to take one for the team,” Ms Boocock said.

Tara Kaspar from the Northern Territory said her Family Day Care cares for eight children and was operating successfully until the Federal Government’s Relief Package announcement and consequential Childcare Supplement (CCS) cut.

She will now be paid $5.10 per hour per child in her care, regardless if the care is conducted within or outside of normal business hours.

“When Scott Morrison announced childcare was free, I thought, ‘how kind of this man’,” Ms Kaspar said.

“Until … I would be looking at a 60 per cent cut in my wage, if not more.

“This one ‘fit all’ definitely won’t work.”

Barbara Langford, the CEO and part-owner of six Montessori Childcare Centres in Adelaide, will see five of her six centres trading with a negative balance each fortnight due to the new Relief Package.

Family Day Care Approved Provider Sonya Aylmore, who is responsible for ensuring educators in Albany, Denmark and Frankland River comply with legislation, says educators should at least be paid the maximum allowable rate of $5.55 for all hours of care provided.

“Our educators feel expendable, undervalued and used,” she said. “We acknowledge that we are fortunate to still have a contribution and ability to work in the economy, however we have a right to be remunerated appropriately for our contributions.”

Queensland Family Day Care educator Nicki Matassa works 86 hours per week and says knowing she will “essentially” work those hours for “free” has devastated her family.

“We are treated like the help,” she said.

“Actually, lower than help. Slave labour.”

Victorian educator Annabelle Moody will take an 81 per cent pay cut to try and keep afloat.

“This will cripple us. This will destroy Family Day Care,” she said.

Perth educator Mugdha Thapar called on the Government to close early childhood education centres.

“Is the Government waiting for more people, children and babies to die first and then will think about precaution in the ECE sector?” she questioned.

Perth educator Helena Drent’s Family Day Care will close down.

“I love my daycare families and I really want to be able to continue my service, but I refuse to be used and put my own kids last,” she said.

“I am done.”

In response to these concerns, the Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment said most Family Day Care providers and educators may be eligible for JobKeeper, the Boost to Employer Cashflow measure, and/or the Relief Package.

The Department urged providers to visit for more information and to ask any questions they had.



Image:  Pexels

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Travel restrictions now enforced

WA RESIDENTS trying to cross regional borders face being slapped with a $50,000 fine if they do not comply with new COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Premier Mark McGowan announced last Friday that as of 12am April 1, the borders of each of WA’s nine regions were shut off to non-essential travel.

WA Police have the power to enforce these restrictions by issuing fines of up to $50,000.

Exemptions apply for people travelling for employment purposes; medical or veterinary reasons; delivery of essential services including health or emergency services; people living across regional boundaries who may not have access to groceries or supplies immediately within their region; transport of goods; compassionate grounds; a family member has primary care responsibilities; for school, TAFE or tertiary study reasons; to escape domestic violence or due to an emergency.

The Perth and Peel regions have combined as one region and the other eight regions are the South West, Great Southern, Goldfields-Esperance, Mid West, Wheatbelt, Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley.

“Everyone has a responsibility to do the right thing and we expect all Western Australians to heed the message,” Mr McGowan said.

“However, police will enforce the law to those who choose to ignore it.

“My message to Western Australians is this – stay home, do not travel within WA, and please continue to observe the social distancing rules.”

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Seventh GS case of COVID-19 recorded

THE Great Southern recorded its seventh case of COVID-19 this week.

As of yesterday, 28 cases were diagnosed in WA overnight, nine from regional areas.

It was not confirmed if any were from the Great Southern.

heat map released by the Department of Health yesterday confirmed all Great Southern COVID-19 cases – as of Wednesday – were in Albany.

As the Weekender went to print on Wednesday, there were 392 cases of COVID-19 in WA.

Stage 3 restrictions are now in place for one month but will be reviewed in two weeks.

This includes harder border closures with the exemption only for freight, essential work and on compassionate grounds.

Drones are being deployed to broadcast messages to people ignoring social distancing in public areas.

There will be a winding down of interstate Fly-In, Fly-Out work, and new rulings on gatherings.

For non-essential indoor and outdoor gatherings, there is now a restriction of two people only.

This excludes families living in the same household.

Regional border restrictions have been in place since Tuesday night.

The Premier urged people to stay at home unless they need to shop for groceries, healthcare purposes, exercise with no more than one other person, or to attend work, school or study if it could not be completed from home.

Playgrounds and skateparks are now closed.

Mr McGowan also announced a $25m rent relief program, waiving rent for six months for businesses and agencies located in Government-owned buildings.



Map: Courtesy WA Department of Health

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Virus on Albany flight

WITH hundreds of people trying to fly home from across the world to escape the spread of COVID-19, some are ending up in closer contact with the virus than they thought.

Albany local William Marwick was living and working in London when news of the pandemic began to spread.

Mr Marwick said staying in the UK became more unappealing by the day.

“The way London was going it just seemed like it wasn’t being managed very well there, with lots of people still going out,” he said.

“My work dried up as well, so I just came back home.”

But despite the apparent safety of returning home, Mr Marwick found himself on the same Regional Express flight as an unconfirmed case of COVID-19.

The March 20 flight from Perth to Albany had a passenger who tested positive for the virus a few days later.

Mr Marwick had no contact from the airline or the Department of Health, and only found out he had been in close proximity to a confirmed case through an online news story.

“I only found out on Saturday when somebody sent me a link to an article about it,” he said.

“No one contacted me about it officially, I haven’t heard anything.”

The Department of Health states that for flights, a close contact is anyone seated in the same row as the case, the two rows in front, and the two rows behind.

These passengers are contacted and advised to self-quarantine at home for 14 days and to seek medical attention if symptoms develop.

Mr Marwick said it appeared as though the passenger with the virus was amongst the considered ‘healthy’ passengers.

“Because I was an international transfer, I had to wear a face mask and me and the other people coming from international flights were put at the back of the plane, away from everyone else,” he said.

“The concerned case was at the front I think, amongst all the people who weren’t wearing face masks and were all bunched together.”

Mr Marwick said even the Australian borders seemed to be quite relaxed.

“I was surprised at the casualness of when you’re coming into Australia and they’re quarantining you, all you have to do is fill out a form, tell them where you’re staying, hand it to a border person and in you come,” he said.

“I don’t feel like anyone’s been enforcing it with me, it’s just kind of been my own responsibility, which it should be, but it did feel a bit casual.”

Mr Marwick has self-isolated at home and is displaying no symptoms.




Photo: Regional Express Media Centre
Credit Jason Suters

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Store bucks trend by hiring casuals

IT IS no secret businesses in WA are suffering as COVID-19 spreads across the state, but some employers are doing what they can to support their community.

Small Change store in Katanning is one of the fortunate small businesses in the state to have had a boom in sales due to shoppers stocking up on supplies.

Instead of having to stand down staff, owner Amy Richardson has taken a different approach, and hired more casuals in the scenario either herself or her current employee have to take time off due to illness.

“I was talking to some small business advisors in Katanning about how to help small businesses through this time, and it just got me thinking about what I could do,” she said.

“I only have one staff, so if neither of us can work then we’d have to shut the shop.

“So I just thought it was an option if I pay some people to train up then we have back-ups if we need them.”

Using social media to advertise the new positions, the store had an immediate response from the public.

“In less than 24 hours we had 10 applications from just our Facebook post,” Ms Richardson said.

“We conducted six interviews and found three people to work for us so it was very successful.”

While the new employees won’t be receiving regular shifts, they will undergo two paid training sessions per week, each three hours in length.

“I think people are really grateful for having something to do,” she said.

“It’s just so much limbo for us though, we were very clear to those people that we can’t guarantee you work, but we will pay you to train and make it worth their while without people feeling like they’ve been let down.”

Small Change will also begin offering a delivery service to those who can’t make it to the store.

“We’re going to start offering free delivery to people who are isolated,” Ms Richardson said.

“We’ll also be doing trips out to the regional towns to do food drop-offs as well.”

While the business is safe now, Ms Richardson said she is not taking for granted how quickly things could change.

“We’re hoping to continue to do well, if we are classified as providing an essential service, but it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen that we’re just going to keep going day-by-day like everyone else.”

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Businesses struggle as city shuts down

THE buzz is gone.

The normally busy streets of Albany CBD fell silent this week as new social distancing measures closed down pubs and forced and cafes restaurants into makeshift takeaway operations.

Any hopes of the hospitality sector continuing on with business as usual were squashed on Sunday when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the laws to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Hospitality and retail owners are doing their best to put on a brave face, but it’s clear how much this crisis is hurting their bottom line and personal wellbeing.

Alkaline Cafe Owner Mel Homewood was fighting back tears as she told the Weekender what the last few days had felt like.

She said Alkaline had received wonderful support from regulars since being forced into a takeaway operation, and will adapt to survive.

“I couldn’t come out and see our regulars because it made me so upset,” she said.

“They’re not just our customers, they’re our family. We come to work every day to serve them. We love what we do.”

To continue trading, Ms Homewood said the cafe would be offering home delivery or contactless pick-up on orders over the phone.

“We have lots of immune-boosting food, which is what everyone needs right now,” she said. “

“We just want to help people. We want to sell in bulk so people don’t have to go to the shops and don’t have to leave their homes.”

Down the road on an eerily quiet Stirling Terrace, Kate’s Place was still serving takeaway coffees, as it has done for almost eight years.

But Owner Kate Ruggera believed it won’t be long till they were forced to shutdown completely.

During a staff meeting, Ms Ruggera had the unenviable task of telling her staff most of them were out of a job and should start looking at Centrelink.

“We are trying to keep a couple on and give them hours, but I think it’s inevitable we will close,” she said.

Ms Ruggera was hopeful the Government would freeze rents – as they have done in other countries – so Kate’s Place would be able to re-open when the pandemic ends.

“Otherwise we will just be paying out of our own pocket and heading to Centrelink as well,” she said.

For retailers it was a similarly sad story, with the new social distancing measures a step too far for a number of stores who were already doing it tough after a lean few months.

Wherever you look stores are advertising clearance and closing down sales in a last-minute bid to boost their coffers.

Morande Designs owner Susan Surridge said she had been counting on a big sales boost over Easter, but now she will have to reassess.

“It is a hollow feeling at the moment,” she said.

“But if these measures keep people safe it’s the best thing to do and the only thing to do.”

Bell and Luca owner Cara Giuntoli had already taken the decision to shut up shop on Peels Place when the Weekender visited the store on Tuesday.

“I feel relieved that we are closing the doors. It’s just good to make the decision,” she said.

“The Government has been delaying a lockdown for too long.”

Moving all her business operations online, Ms Giuntoli was hopeful a free delivery service would help weather the storm, but that there were no certainties.

“We are just taking it day-by-day at the moment,” she said.

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