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  • Parasite attacks Morisset kangaroos: poll  

    MORE than 150 kangaroos are believed to have died in less than a month after an outbreak of a parasitic infection led to the discovery of up to 10 carcasses a day in the grounds of Morisset Hospital.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Alarmed wildlife rescue carers called in the authorities after finding too many of the dead animals to dispose of, prompting a joint investigation involving the RSPCA, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo experts, the Office of Environment of Heritage and others.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen said dead kangaroos were first reported to the organisation, which has cared for the animals at the site for some years, about three weeks ago.

    Initially she thought it was the work of more "ratbags" who had run over or attacked the animals in the past.

    But with large adult eastern grey kangaroos dying quickly, and more carcasses being discovered, the organisation realised "there's something really wrong with these animals".

    "There's a lot of little orphans left too," she said.

    "We had to bring the department in and say 'we can't cope with this any more', when we had to dispose of [the carcasses]."

    Initial findings show "no evidence of malicious poisoning" and that the kangaroos have been infected with a blood-borne parasite called Babesia, although the species has yet to be identified.

    In livestock, it is referred to as "tick fever", capable of swiftly killing large cattle and requiring quarantines for large outbreaks.

    Samples of the kangaroos have been sent to Taronga Zoo this week for autopsy.

    A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said other samples had been sent to its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

    "Babesia macropus has previously been found to infect kangaroos in Australia," she said.

    "This species is not known to have the potential to spread to humans."

    Hunter New England Health reminded staff and clients of the psychiatric hospital not to touch the animals.

    Ground staff have also been asked to wear masks and protective equipment when disposing of the roos.

    But animal rescuers are angry large numbers of tourists have ignored signs and fed the kangaroos bread, drawing large numbers of both humans and animals to what has become an unofficial visitor attraction.

    "I have never seen so many animals in the one spot. I think they're over-grazed, they may have contaminated their own area," Ms Koosmen said.

    "Now when you drive in the gates - honest to God, when I got down there, there was probably 150 of them waiting at the gate for the [tourist] buses."

    Ms Koosmen was stunned to witness foreign tourists recently pull a joey from its mother's pouch for a photo.

    "Then one of them was trying to cuddle this big buck who's about six foot tall. I said 'leave him alone, he's a father, he'll bite you, he'll kick you'," she said.

    Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said the number of people visiting the grounds was a concern, "and we request that tour operators and other visitor information websites remove any reference to the facility as a tourist attraction".

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

    Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

  • Bland joins Dull and Boring

    A COMBINATION of Dull, Boring and Bland is the cause of plenty of excitement with three ordinary-named locales coming together to form the League of Extraordinary communities.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Last Tuesday, a quirky new tourism partnership was recognised by Bland Shire Council in which it will pair with US Pacific-northwest community Boring and the small village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to boost visitors to the region.

    Despite opposition, Bland Shire Council mayor Neil Pokoney welcomed the new links saying the partnership was "comedic and fun", with him hoping the league will give the shire more notoriety to international tourists.

    "A few people were worried it was disrespectful to the Bland Shire name," Councillor Pokoney said, adding he had spoke on US radio as part of the partnership.

    "But it's meant to be light-hearted and a promotional tool for the entire shire, which has plenty to offer for travellers who might want to visit."

    Bland Shire has a population of 6000 people.

    Boring has a population of 8000 while Dull is the smallest of the three, with about 80 residents.

    Last September, a council employee read about the existing Dull and Boring partnership and thought it could be useful for Bland Shire to become a part of it.

    "Boring was driving the initial partnership with Dull it is the biggest of us all," Cr Pokoney said.

    The partnership has already been reported on by the ABC, BBC and in UK, US and Canadian newspapers.

    Bland Shire council deputy mayor Liz McGlynn said any publicity was good publicity for the shire and its towns.

    "I hope it gets people talking and coming to the region," Councillor McGlynn said.

    Bland Shire has joined forces with Dull and Boring.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Zohab Zee Khan’s performance poetry a slam dunk for reaching high school students

    "It doesn't feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know": Zohab Zee Khan.Zohab Zee Khan has little in common with the dead white male poets students commonly meet at high school.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Dressed in high-top sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap, he delivers his lines with the rhythm and physicality of a rapper.

    As a 26-year-old living in the Illawarra, the world he rhymes about is familiar to the students at Dapto High School. ''It doesn't feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know,'' said Khan, a state poetry slam champion.

    The ease with which the artist connects with the teenagers is what drives the Red Room Company's education program.

    ''Where normally it's poetry on the page, this becomes poetry in the air,'' said Tamryn Bennett, the not-for-profit organisation's education manager. ''And they're themes that these students are encountering themselves.''

    The workshop explored the genre of guerilla poetry, writing and performing poetry in unconventional ways.

    Students scrawled their verses across windows, which did not look out of place in the creatively-minded school, which has deliberately coated its walls in murals, paintings and graffiti art.

    ''We have an inexcusable number of blank walls but we're doing everything we can to make this place beautiful and interesting,'' principal Andrew FitzSimons said. ''Engaged students learn better, they attend more regularly and they take more responsibility.''

    Maddison Raisin, who says she has created poetry in private from a young age, wrote about ''a stray cat being tossed from home to home and how it feels''.

    Phoebe Parkin was ''utterly blown away'' by the energy Khan put into his performance. ''It's not just words on a piece of paper,'' the 17-year-old said. ''Older teachers have the knowledge that younger people don't have but they don't have the way to engage them. They can teach you about poetry but he shows you what poetry is.''

    For Khan, too, poetry has been a form of therapy at times.

    ''It has got me through plenty of times of jubilation and plenty of times of sadness,'' he said. ''If I can give them the skills to write and express themselves, I think that's a job well done.''

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Childcare apprenticeships proposed as way around skills shortage

    Childcare workers upgrading their qualifications would have tuition fees covered under an apprenticeship scheme to ease the chronic skills shortage in the sector, in a recommendation by a leading industry group, Care For Kids.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Providers are still struggling to meet standards introduced in January which require half of all staff to have, or be working towards, a diploma in early childhood education and remaining staff to hold a certificate III qualification.

    Services with more than 25 children are required to employ a university-qualified early childhood teacher under the National Quality Framework, which aims to lift young children's learning.

    But the cost of further study is a deterrent to staff earning as little as $19 an hour.

    Roxanne Elliott, co-founder of Care For Kids, a childcare resource website, is calling for an early years apprenticeship scheme to subsidise courses. A certificate III can cost up to $4000, a diploma up to $13,000 and a tertiary degree up to $24,000.

    ''We think an apprenticeship scheme could work well because it provides an incentive to attract quality staff to the sector,'' she said.

    Such an apprenticeship scheme, worth up to $3700, has been introduced in Britain where the childcare sector is also introducing more rigorous qualifications.

    More than one-third of Australian services are not meeting the new standards under the National Quality Framework and almost 5 per cent have applied for waivers as they are unable to meet requirements, based on the latest data from the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority.

    In its submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, Care For Kids recommends the apprenticeship scheme as well as making on-the-job experience equivalent to formal qualifications in appropriate cases.

    Ms Elliott said many older, experienced childcare workers were leaving the sector as they did not want to retrain or could not afford to.

    ''People who have been in the sector for a long time have been reticent to get qualifications and that has resulted in that natural attrition,'' she said.

    Sam Page, chief executive of peak body Early Childhood Australia, supports the idea of subsidising tuition fees, particularly for staff willing to work in rural or remote areas where the skills shortage is worst.

    ''It's a scheme that has worked well for the health sector,'' she said. ''They have done this quite consistently. We think it would work well for the early childhood sector.''

    Early Childhood Australia has called for some of the $300 million government fund previously ear-marked for staff pay increases to go towards subsidising further training.

    ''It's a good way of addressing skills shortages in key areas,'' she said. ''We don't have quite the number of four-year trained teachers or diploma-qualified educators we need.''

    Jemma Carlisle, general manager of four childcare centres at the University of NSW, said apprenticeships would not solve the problem of high staff turnover due to poor remuneration.

    ''Apprenticeships will attract new people to the sector but how long will they stay?'' she said.

    ''The No. 1 issue in the sector is the low wages. That money would be better spent on industry-wide wage rises to ensure better staff retention for the long term. Apprenticeships are a short-term solution.''

    Louise Tarrant, national secretary of United Voice, which represents childcare workers, said even qualified staff were poorly paid. Certificate III holders earned $19.07 an hour and diploma-qualified staff got $22.46 an hour.

    ''Under the current wages structure, educators are offered little financial incentive to obtain or improve their qualification,'' she said.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Toy library to make way for TAFE program

    THE Camperdown Toy Library is likely to be on the move with Corangamite Shire Council considering leasing the library's premises to South West TAFE.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The council's meeting tonight will consider a recommendation to lease two front rooms of the Theatre Royal to TAFE for its Pathfinders program.

    Pathfinders seeks to re-engage young people aged 15-19 years in a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) program that advances their personal development and gives them work-related skills.

    It's planned the program will run frequently throughout the school week and might also make use of other facilities in the theatre complex, including the old stadium and commercial kitchen.

    TAFE has approached the council seeking new premises for the Pathfinders program, which is to be relocated from Glenormiston College

    The Camperdown Toy Library has used one of the theatre rooms since 1989 and is open for one hour, two days a week. It will need to vacate by March 2.

    Council officers are working with the toy library to find new premises.

    The second room, previously used by Corangamite Arts, has been vacant since November when the group shifted to the old Camperdown courthouse.

    Under the proposal to be put to tonight's meeting, TAFE will be given a three-year lease of the two rooms.

    [email protected]南京夜网.au

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Push for schools to monitor trees after branch kills child

    Arborists are calling for the state's public schools to actively inspect the health of trees on their properties, after an eight-year-old girl was killed by a falling branch on Friday.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Bridget Wright, a year 4 student at Pitt Town Public School, was killed on Friday when she was struck by a branch from a large gumtree shortly after the school bell rang.

    Two other students and a teacher were injured.

    The incident has prompted calls for schools to follow the lead of local government and conduct regular and systematic checks on the health of its trees.

    ''They should be conducting audits: trees are potentially the most dangerous things,'' said Chris Allchin, a Sydney arborist for 25 years.

    ''A lot of gums suffer from summer branch drop - the tree can look perfectly healthy and there's no signs of danger.''

    This call was backed by Arboriculture Australia president Henry Haavisto, who said large government departments, such as Defence, made regular inspections.

    Wayne Plumb, an arborist who worked on clearing the tree at Pitt Town Public after the incident, said it had been in dangerously poor health.

    ''It was full of defects,'' he said. ''[It had] bark inclusion and a fair amount of decay in the upper branches.''

    Bark inclusion is when fibres connecting a tree branch and its trunk do not form a strong bond and can diverge as the tree grows. Arborists often destroy trees with the condition before they grow too large.

    The state Education Department said it ''works with school principals to manage vegetation'' and employs arborists.

    But it refused to say how much was spent on maintenance and inspection of trees on its thousands of properties across the state.

    The department said the figure was not possible to calculate because work was undertaken by individual schools.

    Leichhardt Municipal Council, like other councils in inner Sydney, has qualified arborists inspect all 10,000 street trees in its council area on a two-year cycle and make recommendations for their removal.

    The budget for the council's tree monitoring and maintenance program is about $200,000 for this financial year.

    A report on the health of the tree at Pitt Town will be prepared and sent to the coroner. The Education Department declined to comment on the state of the tree.

    The Pitt Town school had applied for permission from Hawkesbury City Council to clear 35 trees from its property about a year ago.

    But the trees were on a different side of the school to where the accident took place and the clearance was intended to make way for a new sports oval.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Piece of Queensland maritime history saved from eBay sale

    Divers inspect historic vessle the Lady Bowen. Photo: Kevin Coombs lady bowen porthole
    Nanjing Night Net

    A century-old piece of Queensland maritime history has been rescued and returned to its rightful owners - just before it could be snapped up on eBay.

    A weathered, solid brass porthole from the sailing ship Lady Bowen, which sunk off the Far North Queensland coast near Mission Beach in 1894, was due to be placed on the online auction site when it was discovered by Commonwealth officers.

    Premier Campbell Newman has returned the artefact to Cassowary Coast Mayor, Bill Shannon, who took possession on behalf of the residents of Far North Queensland.

    “Shipwrecks are valuable reminders of what happened in the past and the Lady Bowen was an important part of history in this area,” Mr Newman said.

    “It is very rewarding to be able to return this valuable artefact to the local community. I don't know how much it would have sold for on eBay, but the historic value of the porthole is priceless."

    Environment and heritage minister Andrew Powell said more than 1400 ships are believed to have been wrecked or abandoned along the Queensland coastline and the majority had not been located.

    “For the Cardwell community, the return of the Lady Bowen's missing porthole and continued conservation of local buildings such as the former Cardwell Divisional Board Hall are signs of community pride and resilience," he said.

    “I look forward seeing this porthole on display in the Cardwell and District Historical Society's Museum.”

    The Lady Bowen was originally built as a paddle steamer before being converted to a 69 metre sailing ship in about 1890.

    It foundered on Kennedy Shoal, between Mission Beach and Cardwell, during heavy seas in 1894 before sinking.

    All 12 crew survived and made landfall on Cardwell's beach before reporting the incident to southern authorities via the Cardwell Telegraph Station.

    The vessel was not seen again until it was rediscovered by north Queensland divers in 1996.

    The recovered porthole will be registered on the Australian National Shipwreck Database.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Brett Whiteley ‘gift’ may have cost council $350,000

    NEWCASTLE City Council says the Brett Whiteley sculpture accepted as a “gift” and recently erected outside Newcastle Art Gallery may have cost the council $350,000.
    Nanjing Night Net

    In a statement after a confidential extraordinary meeting last night the council announced it was suspending all transactions with the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation – a fund-raising body attached to the gallery.

    The Brett Whiteley sculpture Black Totem II being installed out the front of the gallery in October 2013. Picture Darren Pateman

    Council general manager Ken Gouldthorp said the council had concerns about “compliance with Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission Regulation 2013, taxation legislation, the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gift Program and the Foundation’s trust deed”.

    Responding to the announcement, the foundation’s chairman Robert Henderson said the organisation would co-operate with any investigation.

    Mr Henderson said the foundation would notify Wendy Whiteley and the Brett Whiteley foundation of the council’s concerns.

    “The foundation believes it has acted and continues to act in the best interests of the gallery and the arts for the benefit of the city,’’ Mr Henderson said.

    “All board members are volunteers.

    “The foundation is confident that the council’s concerns in relation to this matter will be addressed in full.’’

    Last night’s unheralded announcement is virtually the first statement the council has made since the standing down of the gallery’s director Ron Ramsey and the council’s future city director, Judy Jaeger.

    In its statement last night, the council said it had resolved to implement recommendations by consultants Pricewaterhouse Coopers Legal to “notify and disclose its concerns to the appropriate agencies”.

    General manager Ken Gouldthorp said the transaction surrounding the installation of the Whiteley Black Totem II sculpture at the Newcastle Art Gallery was a key component of an investigation into the art gallery’s activities.

    “At the launch of the sculpture the director of the art gallery, Mr Ron Ramsey, publicly announced that the sculpture was a gift,’’ Mr Gouldthorp said.

    “Council’s concern relates to what appears to be $350,000 payment for the sculpture and failure to disclose this payment on documents lodged with relevant agencies.

    “I also met with the directors of the Art Gallery Foundation prior to the meeting. The foundation has not responded to previous requests for information about the transaction requested by council and the independent investigator.”

    Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said “the matter had potential serious tax and other implications and liability for both the foundation and council”.

    Mr Gouldthorp said the council was seeking “the co-operation of the foundation to address this matter and mitigate the possibility of the de-registration of the foundation and council’s tax deductible gift recipient status”.

  • Minnows get a shot at A-League clubs

    The FFA Cup: How it will work 
    Nanjing Night Net

    Amateur footballers across Australia can dream of toppling the giants of the A-League in a meaningful competition with the introduction of a national knockout competition, the FFA Cup, beginning in July.

    The tournament will provide a definitive link between the grassroots level of the game and the elite clubs with a meaningful national and cross-tier competition.

    There's a resemblance with the oldest competition in football, the FA Cup in Britain, though the first few years of the Australian version are unlikely include such an abundance of romantic runs of amateur clubs. Storylines such as Blyth Spartans and Hereford from the 1970s may not be a common occurrence as just 22 teams from the lower leagues will compete against A-League clubs and all must qualify through their respective state competitions, such as the Waratah Cup in NSW.

    More than 600 teams will enter the tournament in the qualifying phases with the best from the eight state and territory federations earning the right to face the 10 clubs from the A-League in the first round. The competition will begin on July 29, with the final contested on December 16. Future years could include a final on Australia Day.

    ''Today, the FFA Cup comes to life as a very tangible link between community football and the professional tier,'' FFA chief executive David Gallop said. ''It's a unique sporting link from the locals to the legends. We all grew up with the romance of the English FA Cup and well remember the history of upsets. I'm sure the FFA Cup will bring the same fascination to fans across Australia.''

    The model has been tried before in various measures, forms and regions in Australia. While the history of knock-out competitions can be discussed at length, there are claims that the FFA Cup is perhaps the first fully national cup-style competition spanning from the top-tier to amateur level.

    There are even attempts to recognise this with the silverware - a large traditional trophy - inspired by that of the first national cup competition, the Australia Cup, which existed from 1962 to 1968.

    ''The FFA Cup has taken on an almost mythical status among football fans who have longed for a national knock-out cup competition to fill a void in the football calendar,'' Gallop said.

    The FFA will cover all travel costs of the competition as well as providing prizemoney beginning at the round of 16 stage, increasing exponentially up to the winner.

    The FFA Cup will not be a profitable exercise, at least in the short-term, but there is a belief from within the governing body that the return on investment will be measured in the growth and development of the game.

    ''We've had to make it a sensible business decision but also recognise this is a very important part of the future for Australian football,'' Gallop said. ''It's something that can only happen in football because of the nature of the game, so we see at as a very important investment for the game's future.

    ''I think we've got it to a point where it's affordable. It's been in the pipeline for a number of years.

    ''The holy grail for football is making a true connection between the grassroots and professional level and you can hardly think of a better way to do that than creating a cup knock-out competition like this.''

    The competition will strengthen the relationship between the FFA and former NSL clubs as state league teams will host all their own games, except the final, and will likely retain the bulk of gate receipts for FFA Cup matches.

    The FFA Cup: How it will work The four A-League semi-finalists will form Pot A and play opponents from the state leagues in the first round.The remaining six A–League clubs will form Pot B and will play each other in the first round, meaning at least three A-League clubs will be knocked out.22 teams from the eight state and territory football federations will qualify through their respective competitions.At least one state league team will qualify for the quarter-finals.Aside from games between two A-League clubs, all matches will be hosted by state league teams who will retain the bulk of gate receipts.The final will be on Tuesday, December 16 with a venue to be confirmed.Fox Sports will televise at least 10 games; the final, semi-finals and quarter-finals, one round of 16 match and one first-round match.Prizemoney will be awarded to all teams beyond the round of 16 with figures to be decided.

    Twitter - @DomBossi

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Asian Champions League: Central Coast Mariners warm to being out in the cold in Seoul

    Central Coast Mariners may be preparing to face one of the biggest clubs in Asia but there is a sense of relief throughout the team given the respite the challenge has provided from their A-League woes.
    Nanjing Night Net

    After four straight defeats in domestic football, including a 4-1 thumping at home to Wellington Phoenix, the Mariners have welcomed the chance to divert their focus to the continental competition, even if it's by playing last year's Asian Champions League runners-up. Central Coast will play FC Seoul in the South Korean capital on Tuesday night in near-freezing conditions but Mariners coach Phil Moss is eagerly anticipating an environment that is a stark contrast to the difficult one his squad left behind.

    ''It's a breath of fresh air,'' Moss said. ''It's come at a good time because we get away from the fishbowl that's the A-League. We can focus on something completely new, and being able to analyse a team that you don't come up against three times a year has been nice and refreshing for the staff as well. I just feel that this game tomorrow night, despite what the result will be, I think this week is going to be a very good thing for all of us.'''

    The A-League champions boasted the tightest defence in all domestic games last season but their back line has crumbled in recent weeks, conceding 11 goals, seven of them at home. Given their unenviable recent record, it's little surprise Moss has spent the past week addressing individual errors that have proved costly against A-League opponents.

    ''It's about going back to basics and making sure we do all the little things that make us a very good side,'' Moss said. ''They're the main things we've been working on but the players are in a fantastic place. Everyone's making a big deal of these results but internally we know we're heading in the right direction.''

    Moss will make several changes to the starting 11 that will play Seoul as left back Josh Rose returns from suspension, while Nick Fitzgerald will start on the wing. Striker Matt Simon will lead the attack after serving a one-match ban and he is said to be eager to perform in the country his career stalled in.

    ''One player with huge motivation for tomorrow night is Matty Simon. He came here to Korea but was injured and only played a handful of games, and I know he's determined to show the Korean public what they missed out on seeing last year,'' Moss said.

    Meanwhile, the Mariners' newest recruit, Kim Seung-yong, was the star attraction for the local media at the pre-match news conference. The attacking midfielder also received reserved praise from FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo, who privately told Moss that he was shocked the Mariners were able to lure him to Australia.

    ''Their coach had a chat to me about him and said what a wonderful player and professional he is. He actually said 'I don't know how you got him away from Korea, but he's a good signing.''' Moss said.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.