Albany’s wettest day in 143 years

ALBANY recorded its wettest August day in more than a century this week as the south coast was battered by an unusual winter weather event.

Albany received 81mm of rain on Monday alone, making it the wettest August day since 1877 according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Within the past 20 years, the closest figure to this amount was in 2003 when 40.4mm of rain fell, and in 2011 when 37.6mm fell.

An unusual south-easterly swell peaked at just over 7m on Monday night with south-easterly wind gusts reaching 80km/h in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

King River broke its 16-year highest daily rainfall record, measuring 95mm of rain on Monday.

Denmark also broke a record, this one 124 years old with Monday now its highest August rainfall day with 49.6mm.

That night, power went out in Albany affecting 4,400 residents.

Areas with the most intense rainfall over the 24-hour period were Bremer Bay (122mm), Manypeaks (108.2mm) and Cheynes Beach (93.6mm).

A number of roads were impacted by flash flood- ing including Denmark- Mount Barker Road and Border-Bremer Bay Road.

Emergency Services received more than 44 calls for help from 11am on Monday, primarily to report flooding and roof damage.

A car was left stranded up to its windows in water on the corner of Havoc Road and Henry Street in Milpara, Middleton Beach’s Eyre Park lake overflowed, and Albany Saddlery’s Ulster Road equestrian facility in Collingwood Heights became a pond.

Gnowangerup farming sisters Danielle Smith and Chantelle Varley said their dried up dams soaked up a bit of the south coast’s storm front, recording 25mm of rain on Monday.

Ongerup recorded 23mm of rain and Jacup picked up approximately 20mm of rain.

Katanning recorded a top of 37.2mm at 9am on Monday and Walpole recorded 40.8mm on Tuesday morning.

But it wasn’t just the Great Southern dealing with chilly, wet weather. Perth shivered through its coldest day in 15 years on Monday and as such, set a winter peak electricity load of 3,665 megawatts at 6.20pm.

Western Power officials said the new record only just nudged past the 2016 record of 3,628 mega-watts.

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Aspiring filmmaker sets sights on final

BUDDING student filmmaker Josh Clark has reached the grand final of this year’s CinefestOZ Cinesnaps Short Film Competition.

The Year 11 Great Southern Grammar pupil drew inspiration from his passion for nature photography to craft his five-minute short film Suitcase Story.

Suitcases were the mandatory theme of the competition and Josh’s plot is based around the journey of a suitcase after it falls off a boat and washes ashore.

He filmed scenes at Whalers Cove and Ledge Beach with his Canon 1200D and GoPro as these locations provided colourful on-shore and underwater backdrops.

“It would mean a lot,” Josh said, when asked his opinion on winning. “I don’t have a lot of experience with videography so it would be good to see if people like my stuff.” Media teacher Katie Gunning said Josh was a star student and excelled at all tasks given to him in class.

“He is definitely one of our highest achieving Year 11s,” she said.

“There’s not much left to teach him in cinematography because he teaches himself a lot and he is very intuitive.

“We’re very proud of him.”

Josh is up against Bella Montgomery from Busselton Senior High, Poppy Treloar from Georgiana Molloy Anglican School, Timothy Coleman from Manea Senior College, James Kenworthy and Cooper Warrick from Cape Naturalist College, Julia Spencer, Olivia Teede, Ashton Thompson and Joe Van Nierop from Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School and Luka Coulson from Manea Senior College.

The screening of all films will occur at the grand final in Busselton on August 27.

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Chef in hot water over assault

A DENMARK head chef and business owner was served a wake-up call in court last week after appearing for a string of charges following an alcohol-fuelled rampage.

Grant Richardson, head chef and owner of Ajar on Shadforth, assaulted a woman and threatened to punch a female police officer while resisting arrest outside the Denmark Hotel on July 16.

Prosecuting Sergeant Dave Loverock told the court the incident occurred around 9.40pm, when Mr Richardson started throwing beer glasses onto the road and proceeded to engage in an altercation with another patron.

The 50-year-old woman had asked Mr Richardson to “calm down”, with the chef subsequently push- ing her with both hands, causing the woman to fall back and hit her head on a concrete step.

The woman received a laceration to her head and was taken to Denmark Health Service where the wound was glued shut.

After being locked out of the pub, Mr Richardson did more damage to the business by smashing a glass panel in an attempt to get back in.

Sgt Loverock told the court that when police found Mr Richardson, he began threatening officers and struggled while being loaded into a police vehicle.

Mr Richardson told the court that he was ready to accept the consequences of his actions.

“I accept that I’ve made really bad decisions on that day,” he said.

Mr Richardson offered an explanation for his behaviour, stating the pressures of starting a new business had triggered the frenzy, but Magistrate Raelene Johnston was not impressed.

“People can die when they get pushed like that,” she said.

As reported in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Richardson had a previous run-in with the law in 2011 when he worked as head chef for an exclusive inner-Sydney bar while “allegedly [supplying] shopping bags full of ecstasy from his kitchen as part of a multimillion-dollar drug syndicate”.

Magistrate Johnston ordered a pre-sentence report, having the matter adjourned to September 3.

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Pre-kindy offered

ONGERUP Primary School is offering pre-kindergarten enrolments to engage parents and children looking to join the school next year.

A Pre-Kindy Open Afternoon was held last Tuesday and saw families visit the campus and listen to a variety of guest speakers from the school’s specialist support network.

Principal Mark Bruce said children turning four by June 30, 2021 were eligible to enrol in kindergarten next year and pre-kindy this year. Pre-kindy day sessions will be offered weekly during Term 4 over a four-week period.

“We had our last pre-kindy in 2017 and the year after, we had our biggest kindy intake,” he said.

“It went down as a really good event for the school and the town.”

Mr Bruce said pre-kindy had been offered previously at Ongerup Primary to try and boost the school’s population.

The school is the smallest in the Great Southern region this year with just 20 students.

“We have a lot of new mums and dads on the fringe between here and Jerramungup, so we encourage people to come and see what we are all about,” Mr Bruce said.

“It’s about getting parents enthusiastic and involved and helping with children’s school readiness.”

Unique features of Ongerup Primary pointed out by Mr Bruce include the whole school Japanese language program, end-of-year musicals and regular camp excursions.

People interested in joining the Term 4 pre-kindy days can contact Mr Bruce on 9828 2033.

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Gnowangerup ninja twins

SWINGING, leaping, jumping and dodging obstacles on TV was certainly not what Gnowangerup twins Chantelle Varley and Danielle Smith were expecting to do this year.

The pair made their way into season four of Australian Ninja Warrior, which began airing last month, and still find it surreal seeing themselves on screen.

As fourth generation farmers, being outdoors has always been the twins’ favourite place to be, and with that a passion for sports and fitness.

It was good friend Sam Goodall from Albany, who is also competing in this season of Australian Ninja Warrior, who encouraged the sisters to sign up for the obstacle competition.

“He said: ‘You guys should go for it, you are really active’,” Ms Smith said.

“And Dani forced me to apply!” Ms Varley laughed.

“I thought it would be cool,” Ms Smith smirked. The sisters were luckily able to attend the Perth tryouts after harvest was completed earlier than expected.

“I’d been doing sneaky training behind Chani’s back,” Ms Smith, the school chaplain for Tambellup and Katanning, said.

“Yeah, because I’d been stuck on a tractor for four weeks and done no training!” Ms Varley, who stayed on the family farm, said.

Once they learned in January that their application had been successful, their husbands got to work building a miniature ninja course for the sisters to train on.

They have a rock-climbing wall and bars in their tractor shed.

“We hit training pretty hard once we knew we got in,” Ms Smith said.

“We were training three times a week and at least once a week we’d train with Sam at his gym in Albany.”

“It was three months of hardcore training,” Ms Varley added.

With their acceptance into Australian Ninja Warrior a secret, the twins snuck off to Melbourne under the guise of a “family holiday” in March to film their episodes.

It took a bit of work to convince the Gnowangerup community that they were actually going to Melbourne for a holiday, as they are two very country people who are very anti-city.

Once they reached the course ground in Melbourne, Ms Varley and Ms Smith got on a bus at 4pm and returned to their hotel at 4am.

Their first time on the Australian Ninja Warrior track was exactly what viewers saw in the episode.

“Once you’re up there, you’re so in the moment and focused on the next step,” Ms Smith said.

Filming was conducted months before the show hit television and keeping it quiet was a funny secret to keep.

Ms Smith said it was pretty weird once students at her schools watched the show and realised she was front and centre.

“They’d be like, ‘we saw you!’, ‘you have a twin?’” she said.

“I was actually more nervous the day it was going to air than the day of actually doing it.”

Both sisters were proud the show put Gnowangerup on the national map and hoped to further promote farming and the work farmers do.

Ms Smith made it to the semi-final of Australian Ninja Warrior on Monday but did not go through to the grand final.

Ms Varley participated in Heat 2 but did not reach the next round.

Sam Goodall and brother-in-law Zed Colback from Mandurah have made it through to the grand final.

Stage 1 of the grand final will air this Sunday at 7pm on Nine and Stage 2, 3, and 4 will follow on Monday at 7.30pm

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Twins reunited

TWIN sisters have come together in Albany to celebrate their 70th birthdays together this week, after 52 years of celebrating solo.

Suzanne Randall and Dianne Buxton have lived in different parts of Australia since 1968, with Ms Randall taking up residence in Albany with her husband and Ms Buxton doing the same in Tasmania.

“We actually went to Tassie and my sister Dianne met her husband, she remained there, and I went back to Victoria,” Ms Randall said.

“She married Kent there, and I came over to Albany with three other girls and found my husband and married here, so that separated us for a long time.”

As the years moved on, the two sisters grew into their own lives which made it difficult to find time to visit each other.

“Our lives became very busy. I had a career in nursing and three babies, my sister had two babies and also had to care for her husband for many, many years and so just circumstances didn’t allow us to meet up again for our birthdays,” Ms Randall said.

The sisters saw one another a total of three times in the 52 years that went by, but when Ms Buxton’s husband passed away it was clear that Albany and the Randall home would welcome her with open arms.

Ms Randall said being able to celebrate her and her sister’s birthday together again after so much time spent apart has been a gift to both her and her children.

“What was really wonderful was that my daughters are now really getting to know their aunty,” she said.

“All of my family was in Victoria, so they’ve had small contact with the aunties but not a lot.

“For them it’s lovely having an aunt here and being part of an extended family.”

Ms Randall said despite the time that has passed, they’re still discovering how similar they truly are.

“We’re identical twins, and that’s one thing we’ve found is how much we are still alike,” she said.

“We’ve spent so many years apart and we’ve realised we still have the same likes and dislikes, and we even start talking together now like twins stereotypically do.

“We both love gardening and we’re both artists too, so we are just so alike and
it’s wonderful getting to know each other again and realising how much alike we are.”

Ms Buxton will now reside with the Randalls, with the twins looking forward to many more shared celebrations.

“This is her home now. We’ll be celebrating each birthday that we have, and hopefully we’ve got many more,” Ms Randall said.

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Black spots given green light

THREE mobile black spots in the Great Southern have been addressed with additional mobile base stations opened last week.

Telstra Area General Manager Boyd Brown said the new mobile base stations located at Narrikup West, Gnowangerup/Jerramungup and Mettler were among 218 mobile coverage black spots across regional WA benefitting from expanded 3G and 4G mobile coverage via the Federal Mobile Black Spot Program.

“The activation of these three new sites is making a huge difference to local communities, as well as providing coverage for motorists and tourists travelling on the nearby major roads such as Albany Highway near Narrikup and South Coast Highway near Mettler,” he said.

“Local residents can keep in contact with family and friends and agricultural businesses can now operate more effectively, whether it’s ordering stock on the phone or using a range of online services.”

Mr Brown said the new sites were equipped with a 4GX service which provides a faster mobile network with more consistent data speeds.

He said the new service would also enable mobile enhanced coverage for nearby areas.

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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.”

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Albany reliant on JobKeeper scheme

ALBANY has the third greatest number of businesses currently utilising the Federal Government’s JobKeeper handout outside of the metropolitan area.

Recorded via postcode, there are 1,049 businesses within the 6330 area on JobKeeper, making Albany a main target for visiting MPs investigating the usefulness of JobKeeper to local enterprises.

Liberal State Senator Matt O’Sullivan visited five towns in the Great Southern last week to learn more about how JobKeeper had affected business output and success.

“Universally, people have said it’s a real gamechanger,” he said.

“People were in tears having to stand down workers but were then really happy to be able to re-engage those workers.

“It’s been a really necessary shot in the arm.”

Mr O’Sullivan stopped by Albany World of Cars along the way and learned co-owner Toni Hunter nearly had to close the establishment.

“Without JobKeeper, we would have died, we would have collapsed,” Ms Hunter said.

The 6333 area, which includes Denmark, Peaceful Bay, Nornalup and surrounds, has 325 businesses using JobKeeper.

Next in the ranking is the 6324 postcode encompassing Denbarker, Mount Barker, Porongurup, South Stirling and surrounds with 105 businesses on JobKeeper.

The Kojonup region (6395) has recorded 78 businesses, Katanning region (6317) 72 businesses, and 45 businesses in Borden, Bremer Bay, Stirling Range and surrounds (6338).

In comparison to other cities in the south west of the state, Albany ranks above Kalgoorlie’s 435 businesses but below Bunbury’s 1,159 and Busselton’s 1,102.

The postcode with the most JobKeeper payments in the state is 6065, which includes Wangara, Wanneroo, Kingsway and surrounds; there are 2,420 businesses there on JobKeeper.

Second in the state is postcode 6000 (Perth) with 1,973 and third goes to 6163 (Bibra Lake, Kardinya, Hilton and surrounds) with 1,943 businesses.

Albany has recorded similar JobKeeper figures to industrial powerhouses Osborne Park (1,077), Morley (1,091) and Balcatta and Stirling (1,025).

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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.”

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