Domestic violence reforms welcomed

WOMEN’S safety advocates and support services in the Great Southern have welcomed sweeping changes to domestic violence laws passing State Parliament last week, saying the new reforms will help save lives.

According to a 2019 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one woman is killed every nine days in a family violence incident.

The same report found 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show WA has the largest number of family and domestic violence-related homicides across the nation.

New laws brought in by the WA Government aim to change these grotesque facts.

One of the key changes is the introduction of a new specific criminal offence for suffocation and strangulation, which was previously classified as an assault.

Asha Bhat, Chairperson of the Albany Family and Domestic Violence Action Group, said strangulation and suffocation, much like domestic violence, had flown under the radar for far too long.

“Strangulation is predominant in violent intimate relationships and adds to that character of power and control present in domestic violence,” she said.

“An incident of strangulation in an intimate relationship significantly increases the risk to the victim of serious injury or death.

“The Bill is a big step forward in recognising the seriousness of the strangulation as an offence and carries higher penalties than an assault.”

Under the package of reforms, persistent family violence will also become a criminal offence and changes to the Restraining Orders Act 1997 and Bail Act 1982 will make it easier for victims to be granted protections.

Albany Women’s Centre Manager Joanna Fictoor said the new laws would have an immediate effect.

“We work daily with women who are in fear for their safety due to their perpetrators being granted bail for serious offences with limited monitoring,” she said.

“The introduction of monitoring, or changes to when an offender can be bailed, will hopefully provide some peace of mind for survivors of family violence, especially living in regional areas such as here in the Great Southern.”

Ms Fictoor said the reforms had been long overdue.

“For years now victims of family violence and those of us working in support services have been raising concerns the legislation did not go far enough in protecting victims, nor did it hold perpetrators to account for what are often repeated acts of abuse,” she said.

“Many workers in family and domestic violence services have supported numerous victims of the same perpetrator; these changes have the potential to hold repeat offenders to account and potentially break the cycle.”

WA has the second highest rate of family and domestic violence in the country and Ms Fictoor said those rates had risen at an alarming rate during COVID-19.

“Here at the Albany Women’s Centre, we saw a 50 per cent increase in calls for help during the height of the coronavirus,” she said.

“We know perpetrators have weaponised social isolation measures and contagion fears to cut off their victims from support networks, such as family members and friends, as well as using it to excuse abusive behaviour.”

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Emerging leaders

ALBANY’S next generation of entrepreneurs were already doing things a little bit differently to the business norm and it put them in the box seat to not just survive but thrive through the pandemic.

While many of your traditional industries scrambled to transition online during the hysteria of the coronavirus, Albany’s younger group of business owners were already set up for success in the digital world.

Change and adapting to a new norm doesn’t faze these up-and-comers.

We’ve all heard the frightening assessment of Australia’s economy.

Companies are suffering and there are talks of thousands more job losses to come.

But the new norm has opened up exciting opportunities for the likes of Aaron Attwell, who runs digital marketing company Xesiv Digital.

“Business is booming bigger than ever,” he said.

“We had our biggest months through COVID.

“Even though there was a short period where everyone was a bit uncertain, which was understandable, business picked up because people understood the impact of being online and they wanted work done last week.

“People came to me wanting to know how they could thrive in this new environment.”

Emily Smith, who founded mindset coaching company Be Think Do Coaching, said she now has a waiting list for new clients.

“Everyone is realising the importance of mental health and looking after ourselves more than ever,” she said.

“What I do is help people with their mindset, and with what’s happening this year people have been forced to face the things they may have been avoiding dealing with.

“I’ve had my two biggest months in business in April and June. I wish I could take on more clients but I can’t right now and that’s a good place to be in as a business.”

Ms Smith said she had already been partly running business from home before the coronavirus, but has now decided to work online full-time.

“We get straight to the point. If someone is coming to your house you might talk about other things, but when we just have an online call it’s focused and straight into it,” she said.

“I found it a really good change. It forced us to go online and practice a different way of doing things that actually works better.”

Jordan Wilson, who started up Albany IT company Concept Tech, said it is an exciting time for businesses in the digital space if you know what you are doing.

“Things were moving so fast,” he said.

“The Government and business system was getting a shake up so a lot of money was getting passed around.

“We’ve had a lot of people purchasing products from us because they’ve had a bit of extra coin in the bank.

“It’s creating a gap for younger businesses and new business owners to pop-up and take advantage of it.”

Mr Wilson said many local business owners aren’t making the most of the digital space and don’t understand cyber security.

“We deal with hundreds of businesses locally and lots of them don’t know what they are doing,” he said.

“They might be a great electrician or plumber but they don’t know how to run a business and that’s their downfall.”

Mr Attwell, who won Young Business Person of the Year at the 2019 ACCI Business Awards, said seasoned operators were starting to take notice of services like digital marketing.

“They are paying attention,” he said.

“You’re not some kid hanging out on a computer anymore.

“The market is changing, but it brings opportunity.

“While I started in Albany, I’m starting to connect with people all over the world. There’s opportunity everywhere if you keep your eyes out for it.”

Mr Attwell said he felt part of the next generation of business owners in the port city who were open to doing things differently to the traditional norm.

“There’s a pocket of very forward thinking people here and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

“You don’t need to be restricted with Albany anymore and there are opportunities to connect and grow. We are building our team and scaling nationally.”

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Sawyer’s bronze age

PORONGURUP artist Larry Sawyer is candidly refreshing, does not mince words and labels himself a traveller in arts and crafts.

“You won’t get much arty-farty talk from me as I am a worker in all disciplines,” Sawyer begins.

“I won’t wear silk cravats or attend art meetings or groups. I just do my thing.”

Having no trade qualifications but self-belief, he started woodwork with a view to selling his products, and now after 30 years has built himself a sound economic unit working from home.

Sawyer also sells watercolour paintings and promised that when he got older he would investigate deeper into traditional arts.

“So on retiring at a overproof age, I taught myself bronze casting,” he said.

“This followed a period of resin casting, as I thought ingot bronze unobtainable.

“I have now built a studio workshop if people care to visit.

“Sales are unimportant as this is a collection of my work, however there is a donation box to help me continue.

“Most of monetary input has come from success at local level, such as Art in the Park.

“The awards came fairly quickly giving me enormous confidence to plunge in.

“I have also a small display of traditional oil paintings focusing on portrait works.”

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The meditative healing of painting

IN A move that was supposed to encourage her children to paint, Albany choreographer and theatre performer Carmen Fasolo has found a new creative passion.

Well known locally for her work with Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company in the likes of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, Fasolo has swapped the bright lights of the theatre for a makeshift painting studio in her Mt Melville home.

With theatre shows cancelled during COVID-19, she decided to set up a painting space in a room usually reserved for making coffee and fresh bread.
Fasolo was hoping her kids would try their hand with the paintbrush, but soon found herself using the new studio far more often.

“It was more for my girls, but I really got into and got lost in it, it’s really meditative,” she told the Weekender.

While the smell of coffee still fills the air of her studio, there’s now more than a few short macchiatos on the production line.

Fasolo has taken to abstract portrait work, and she is loving the change of pace.

“I love that you have no idea what will is going to come out on your canvas,” she said.

“For me it’s knowing when to stop which is quite hard. I think it’s not being too scared about being perfect. That’s why I really enjoy the more modern abstract style.”

Working with the paint brush has also been a healing process, according to Fasolo, who was choreographing Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical Aida for Great Southern Grammar when the show had to be dramatically cancelled because of restrictions.

“We were in production week when it got shutdown so that was pretty devastating,” she said.

“So this has been a form of healing – going into something new.”

Fans of her theatre work don’t need to be too worried though, as she plans to get back to singing and choreographing musicals once the local scene gets up and running again.

But Fasolo believes her theatre experience has helped her creative flair flourish when it comes to painting on canvas.

“Theatre taught me to be brave and just have a go,” she said.

“I’m at the beginning of my little journey.”

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Roundabout safety trial

A ROUNDABOUT that has received plenty of attention in the past due to the unusual amount of accidents associated with it is receiving a safety trial after another vehicle lost control at the location in April.

Mainroads WA confirmed that since December 2019 there has been a total of five crashes at the intersection of North Road and Campbell Road, with information about crashes that occurred in 2020 not available until next year.

Of these five incidents,two required medical attention, two involved major property damage totalling more than $3000 and one involved minor property damage under $3000.

The City of Albany will be making four safety enhancements to the location in consultation with Main Roads, Western Power and the Albany Roadwise Safety Committee.

White road paint and glass bead reflective coating will be applied to the kerbing on the corner of North and Campbell roads, and applied to the inner arc of the roundabout itself.

Seven red retroreflective raised pavement markers will be placed along Campbell Road to face oncoming traffic and an old driveway on Campbell Road will be closed and replaced with new kerbing.

A city spokesperson said permanent solid forms of protection were explored for the area through the consultation period but were considered by all agencies to be a larger hazard for vehicles, posing a greater risk to road users.

City of Albany Executive Director Infrastructure, Development and Environment Paul Camins said the safety trial was essential to prevent and minimise any risks at the intersection.

“We have worked with agencies to consider a range of safety options that will protect both drivers and pedestrians that use this particular road network and have reached an outcome that aims to save lives” he said.

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Recognition for top cop

MOUNT Barker officer-in-charge Sergeant David Johnson has been awarded a Certificate of Outstanding Performance by WA Police, recognising his work and involvement with the community.

Sgt Johnson became part of the Mt Barker Police Station in late 2018 and began work on fully immersing himself in the community, becoming the driving force behind the inaugural Mountains and Murals Festival last year, as well as helping establish the beginnings of the Mount Barker Community Centre.

Great Southern Police District’s Superintendent Ian Clarke said it was important for WA Police to recognise the work that Sgt Johnson has undertaken while at the station.

“For me, it epitomises what we see as a country police officers’ role, particular an officer-in-charge,” he said.

“He’s somebody who’s not just there enforcing the law, but he’s also there enriching the community as much as he possibly can, and that’s working on various projects within that community to try and improve the environment for everybody.”

Sgt Johnson said he was humbled by the whole experience and was hard-pressed to pick a favourite moment from his time at the Mt Barker station so far.

“Establishing the Mount Barker Community Centre has been a highlight, obviously COVID derailed that a little bit, but we’re just about to start up again in a couple weeks and move forward,” he said.

“The fact that from the wider community we’ve received an anonymous donor who’s contributed cash to help with some programs really highlights the level of community spirit in town.

“The Mountains and Murals Festival was just amazing for the Shire council and the community to roll with me on an idea that I had and put it together in such a short time.”

A second Mountains and Murals Festival is scheduled for January 2021, which will see 10 visiting War Dogs from the USA, Canada and the UK.

Sgt Johnson said there were more projects underway that will continue to benefit the community.

“We’re doing some work now with the Shire and Impact Services in Albany to look at job creation for young Indigenous people which is another exciting project,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on and it doesn’t all relate to policing in a direct manner, but the end result is that everything I do will have an impact onto police into the future.

“I’ve always had the opinion, and certainly learnt it the longer I was in the job, that you can’t arrest your way out of crime.”

Supt Clarke said while WA Police were limited in the ways they can reward their employees, it was essential to make sure their officers know they’re appreciated.

“We’re not in the position where we can give them monetary gain or anything like that like people can in private industry with a bonus or something like that, but in fairness, we need to recognise when people do really great work,” he said.

“Dave’s been innovative in what he’s come up with, and it’s not just something that he’s come up with in Mount Barker, it’s with stuff he did previously in Kellerberrin as well.

“We’re just lucky that we have people like him working for us in the Great Southern.”

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Sailability success

“THIS is living. In a boat you are in control of everything.”

For Australian sailing representative Rob Cridge, there’s no better feeling than being out on the water in his Hansa 303.

Cridge, who started sailing seven years ago, is one of the many success stories to come out of Princess Royal Sailing Club’s (PRSC) Sailability program.

The initiative, which helps people of all abilities get into sailing through specialised equipment and experienced support, has recently been registered as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider.

PRSC Sailability Co-ordinator Mark Paynter said the official seal of approval was recognition for the work volunteers have put into the program over the past decade.

Mr Paynter said PRSC Sailability wouldn’t have lasted without local sailors stepping up to lend a hand.

“Personally, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” he said.

“It means we’ve met certain standards – particularly in regard to quality of service and a recognition of how we jointly plan activities with participants.

“We have an ethos about jointly planning activities with participants rather than deciding what’s best for them.”

As part of its winter program, PRSC is running sailing from Albany Boatshed during June and July, with coaching support from local sailing gun Geoff Oliver.

People of any ability can take to the water in Hansa 303s, which are small boats modified for sailors who require specially- designed controls.

PRSC Commodore Susette Evan said there were no barriers to sailing if you were willing to give it a go.

“It’s how we all learn,” she said.

“When people come they are so excited to go out. You sometimes get people with huge anxiety but they soon realise they are in control.

“The program is expanding and growing, and this year with the NDIS it’s going to be quite exciting.”

Cridge, who competed at the International Federation of Disabled Sailing World Titles after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, is now using his experience to teach the next generation of local boating enthusiasts.

“It’s fantastic to pass on my knowledge and get other people involved,” Cridge said.

“When the wind is up and you’re in a boat like this, it’s scary as hell.

“I like seeing the development of the people I take out. It gives them independence, that’s really cool.”

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Future a lottery for roller derby

LAST week was a bittersweet return to skating for Albany Roller Derby League (ARDL) President Natalie Jarvis, with her organisation still fighting to stay afloat because of COVID-19.

Despite getting back to training for the first time in months, ARDL’s future is in doubt as the bills mount and funding applications remain up in the air.

Jarvis said some kind community gestures were the only reason skaters had been able to get back to practice at their home venue, The Track.

The venue’s landlord offered to suspend rent until the end of September, while WA Greens MP Diane Evers paid for ARDL’s building insurance.

Beyond September, Jarvis said there were still a lot of unknowns, with the grass-roots sporting club waiting to hear back on an application for a Lotterywest grant.

Even if ARDL is successful, Jarvis said there would still be a lot of work to do to stop the doors shutting on their spiritual home.

“We just have until the end of September with this, so partly excitement, part apprehension before we hear back from Lotterywest about whether our grant application is successful or not,” she said.

“We have been successful in the past two years doing this, so we are more than capable when we don’t have a global pandemic happening.”

ARDL will host a couple of fundraising events over the next month, with a skate day this Sunday and a school holiday roller disco on July 29.

“We’d love to see the community show their support and come have a skate,” Jarvis said.

“The Cheap Skate Sunday is a $5 skate hire. It’s designed to be an event that is really accessible to the community and not too expensive for people to participate in.”

Usually ARDL takes on new members once a year, but that’s all changed in 2020 because of COVID-19.

“We are going to put it out there that people can come along in term three and start skating with us anytime rather than waiting for next year,” Jarvis said.

If you were the type of person who usually didn’t feel comfortable around sporting clubs, Jarvis said ARDL offered something different to the mainstream organisations.

“We are making sure it’s not just a sporting club, that we are connected to lots of things happening in the community,” she said.

“If you’ve never felt safe or welcome at a sport before because of your gender or sexuality, then Albany Roller Derby is inclusive and diverse.”

Jarvis said the club would also restart its internationally-acclaimed Skate Like A Girl program during the next school term.

“Skate Like A Girl has been a particularly successful program because it has filled a space that teenage girls didn’t have,” she said.

“If they didn’t fit a traditional sport this was something they could do.

“We’ve always filled out to capacity every term. Missing two terms this year has been quite rough.

“We are excited to see the group again and get some new people down.”

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Early guilty plea for aggravated burglary

THE son of prominent Albany businessman Paul Lionetti has pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and will now face sentencing in the District Court in August.

Steven Angelo Lionetti appeared in Albany’s Magistrate Court last Thursday charged with one count of aggravated burglary and two counts of criminal damage.

Mr Lionetti was alleged to have unlawfully entered a Mount Melville residence on April 13 and damaged a TV and mobile phone on the same date and place.

Magistrate Raelene Johnston told the court the home and property belonged to Mr Lionetti’s ex-partner.

Mr Lionetti pleaded guilty to all three offences and the matter will now be dealt with in the Albany District Court on August 26.

The charge of aggravated burglary is one that can only be dealt with by the District Court and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Police said they were unable to disclose bail conditions at this time.

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Refuge centre reopens

FOOD, warmth and a safe place to stay is becoming available again, with Albany’s crisis accommodation for men reopening its doors, providing refuge for homeless males in the Albany region during winter.

This marks the seventh year of Shalom House’s operations, run by a committee of volunteers who will be reopening the haven for overnight stays from June 29, a month later than they normally do each year.

Shalom House Coordinator Gerry van der Wal said COVID-19 impacted their ability to aid men in need, despite calls for the service.

“There’s been quite a demand for it already, so I think we’ll be functioning pretty much straight away again,” he said.

“We do have to be a bit more careful now however, and we’re going to have to watch our numbers as the committee have restricted me to three clients, when we can normally have seven stay at a time.”

However, things are looking up for Shalom House, with an anonymous philanthropist in Perth offering to help fund improvements to the building.

“We’ve had someone from Perth who felt committed to helping the homeless, and she’s prepared to contribute a substantial amount of money for us to extend,” Mr van der Wal said.

“We’re going to replace some of the rooms inside and make them larger.”

Mr van der Wal said they were looking into adding an extension to the building to allow for more rooms to make sure they can help get as many men off the streets as possible.

“In the winter it gets bitterly cold,” he said.

“We have had one or two guys as well that we’ve helped out who have slept in their cars, and that’s certainly not ideal, it’s not always safe.

“Some of them have experienced having their door forced open while they’re trying to sleep.”

Mr van der Wal said their ability to support local men wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the community.

“The community are really supportive and I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the support I receive every year with food, clothing, money donations … it’s been really great,” he said.

“I have quite a few ladies who cook frozen meals for us, and I just need to give them the word and they’ll be ready and slinging meals for us.”

Mr van der Wal also wanted to give thanks to local businesses who backed the organisation.

“Coles Orana and Jesters Pies have gone out of their way to help me out with all sorts of food donations on a regular basis,” he said.

Shalom House are now asking for any keen people with green fingers to come by and help establish their community garden to grow vegetables for clients, disadvantaged families, individuals and volunteers.

The crisis accommodation for homeless men over the age of 18 will be available until the beginning of October, but remain open all year on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between the hours of 10am and 2pm as a drop-in centre.

If you can offer any assistance, call Mr van der Wal on 0474 474 902.

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