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Australian News

Remember Lauren Burns, Tom King and Belinda Stowell? They won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics too


You remember where you were when Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400 metres at the Sydney Olympics.

You watched Ian Thorpe win the 400 metres freestyle in world record time on the first night of competition.

Australia won 58 medals at the Sydney Games: 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze — its biggest haul.

The massive build-up and the unprecedented focus on gold medals ensured the team had its rock stars: Freeman, Thorpe, Hackett, Perkins and O’Neill. All won gold.

But, so did many others who were never under that intense spotlight.

Now, 20 years on, those athletes are reflecting on their 15 minutes of fame. Some are sanguine, while others wonder why they didn’t get more recognition.

Lauren Burns: Women’s taekwondo 49kg division gold medal

A woman stands on a balcony holding a cup or tea and looks at the camera.
Burns won the first medal in taekwondo, which was making its Olympic debut.(ABC News)

Lauren Burns seemingly came from nowhere to win gold in taekwondo in her 49kg division. It was the first medal in the sport, which was making its Olympic debut.

Burns’ moment of fame was boosted by the incongruous connections that media love to make. She’s the daughter of the singer and songwriter, Ronnie Burns, who was a household name in Australia in the 60s and 70s.

But aside from starting taekwondo because her father and brother were doing it, Burns was entirely her own woman.

The fact that it was a new Olympic sport meant she had barely any official funding.

“I had a sponsorship with an organic vegetable shop,” Burns said.

“My first tournament was in New York (in 1993). It was actually at Madison Square Garden, which was pretty crazy. But we had to pay our way, we paid part of our flights, we paid for our tracksuit.”

However, the financial hardship was outweighed by the sheer delight that after more than a decade in the sport, taekwondo finally had a place in the Olympics.

“There was never really an expectation like ‘oh I should have that much attention or our sport should have that sort of spotlight,’ because we’d never had it,” she said.

The final itself went off without a hitch as Burns beat her Cuban opponent Urbia Melendez by four points to two.

A coach lifts a woman and they both smile.
Burns and her coach Jin Tae Jeong after winning the gold medal.(Reuters: Kimimasa Mayama)

“I just had this incredible, single-minded, myopic focus on winning gold — so that was what I was really there to do,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I came off and my coach grabbed me, and I was running around the stadium, and it was it like ‘Yes, I did it’.”

The next day was a blur as the media interviews came thick and fast.

“I did so many that I lost my voice,” she said.

“I ended up getting some strapping tape and I just put it over my mouth because I needed people to see that I just couldn’t speak.”

Burns retired straight after the Olympics and threw herself into numerous projects — particularly public speaking.

“I was on such a high and it was like I was on the hamster wheel and I said yes to everything. Write a book? Great. Finish a uni degree? I’ll do that.

“I always had a bag in the hallway because I was travelling interstate all the time and never really knew where I was.”

It took five years for her to slow down.

“I stopped and went ‘woah’, and that’s when I kind of had that reflection of you know, who am I without my sport? Who am I if I’m not Lauren the taekwondo girl?”

Burns finished her degree in naturopathy and nutrition, and continued her public speaking career — which has only now been curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tom King: Sailing 470 class gold medal with Mark Turnbull

A man stands in front of a tree and smiles for the camera.
King and Turnbull’s gold medal was overshadowed by walker Jane Saville’s disqualification from her race.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Tom King and his crewmate Mark Turnbull didn’t so much fly under the radar as sail under it.

Australia hadn’t had a competitor in the 470 class at the Olympics since 1984, so King and Turnbull did well just to make the team for Atlanta in ’96, where they finished 23rd.

But by 2000, King knew they were good enough to win gold.

Unlike some of the other high-profile medal chances, the pair deliberately chose to stay incognito.

“We weren’t doing it for media profile and fame and fortune, we were training to try and win the Olympic gold medal because that’s what we wanted to achieve,” he said.

It was all about executing a plan. During nine races across more than a week, they did that perfectly — achieving victory in the final race of the regatta.

“We had our highlight about halfway through the race when we managed to catch the American team who won silver, right off Bradley’s Head, in front of a very big crowd,” he said.

“For us that was an extraordinary experience because we’d never had a crowd attend any of our events.”

Two men smile while on a sailing boat on Sydney Harbour.
King and Turnbull after taking gold in the men’s 470 fleet race.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

But their moment in the spotlight was short lived, as another event stole the headlines. The Australian walker, Jane Saville, had been disqualified from the 20 kilometre race just as she was about to enter the Olympic Stadium to claim gold.

“It certainly frustrated me a little bit. I think I felt we were deserving of more recognition than we got,” King said.

“There were some experiences in the days that followed in the aftermath of the games that were pretty disappointing in terms of the lack of acknowledgement when the media was being dominated by the swimmers and other athletes.”

It’s a bugbear for King, who says he was conscious of an “us and them” mentality within the Australian Olympic team.

“That’s not to say that many of the swimmers aren’t deserving of that attention … but there are so many other athletes that have achieved similar levels of success in their disciplines whose achievements for some reason haven’t received the same kind of attention. That’s been sad in a way.”

King retired from sailing after the Olympics and struggled with depression as he tried to find his place in the world outside of the rigid confines of elite sport.

“I found it very difficult. It took me really five or six years to get comfortable or confident in a business environment,” he said.

Post-athletic career welfare remains a passionate topic for King, who served for a time as the chairman of the Australian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission and the AOC board.

Now he’s a successful fund manager and looks back with immense pride at what he achieved, not only in winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, but in paving the way for a generation of sailors who came after him.

“It was an extraordinary event for Australia,” he said.

Belinda Stowell: Sailing 470 class gold medal with Jenny Armstrong

Two women look at each other and smile in front of sailing boats at a marina.
Belinda Stowell (left) says the lack of recognition at the time didn’t phase her.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Belinda Stowell won her gold medal with crewmate Jenny Armstrong, just hours before Tom King. It was an incredible day for Australian sailing at the Olympics.

Stowell’s journey began in her native Zimbabwe when she was just four.

“You’re out sailing, and hippos are making their noises in the bay,” she said.

“In some ways I guess it probably made me really observant.”

She emigrated to Australia when she was 19 and took up sailing seriously, deciding in 1995 that winning a gold medal would become her sole focus.

“I was probably obsessive about winning gold — probably to prove something to myself to be the best in the world,” she said.

“Being able to have that one driver almost helps you lift yourself off the canvas. There were definitely ups and downs — and significant downs at moments.”

The lack of money was one.

“I slept on people’s floors … from Cronulla to Palm Beach,” she said.

And she battled for years with a chronic injury to her shoulder — arguably the most important joint in the body for a sailor.

“My shoulder was subluxing (partially dislocating) about five or six times a race.

“From 1998 I saw a surgeon and he said, ‘you’ve got to have seven months out to have an operation, your shoulder is like ice on a plate’. And I said, ‘I’m about to go into my Olympic trials so it’s just not an option.’ I remember on the bus home from the surgeon just bawling my eyes out.”

She opted against the operation until after the Games and won gold with the help of a team of physios and the support of her crewmate, Armstrong.

Two women sit on a competitive sailing boat on Sydney Harbour.
Armstrong and Stowell during the race in which they won gold for Australia.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

“We had the glorious moment of winning the last race and winning the regatta at the same time,” Stowell said.

Like King, her moment in the sun was partially eclipsed by Jane Saville’s disqualification.

But that lack of recognition compared to the star athletes and swimmers never mattered to Stowell.

“I didn’t really mind, because I looked up to those athletes so much and used them for inspiration,” she said.

“I thought I was the bees’ knees, because I also got a stamp with my head on it and we got $10,000 from Australia Post.”

Unlike Burns and King, Stowell continued in her sport, sailing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens — where she and Armstrong finished 14th. She even made a comeback to compete at the 2012 London Games, finishing 7th.

For the last 16 years she has coached sailing at the Western Australian Institute of Sport.

As for her gold medal?

“It means that I was the best in the world for two weeks,” she reflected.



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Local News - Victoria

Being called ‘bitch’ in the street? Lockdown fatigue is no excuse for this


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“I’ve asked patrons why do you need to behave like that and told them to keep their money, I don’t want it.”

“Why do you need to behave like that” – especially in your own backyard – is how I felt when abused by a man in a crisp button-down shirt as I walked home with flowers for my dad on Father’s Day.

That bit of footpath is more than two metres wide and was void of anyone but me and the guy who must have been walking a determined straight line behind me.

I stepped to the edge to make sure I could not possibly be in anyone’s way to read a text. I must have obstructed this stranger’s intended path because he sniped “bitch” as he stomped past.

Asking around, it transpires that despite all the uplift we’re receiving from hopeful stories about kindness, my experiences of tensions you would never have expected in our small, and the wider, community are common.

We’re all under serious pressure, yet as many Melburnians dig deep to help others and at the very least not to make others’ lives more stressful, others are are being, well a-holes.

Sammy J captured this strange backlash against “all in it together” in an amusing way in his song this week What will we tell our grandkids (Were you an arsehole back then?), but experiencing this random rage is far from amusing.

Another friend, a small businesswoman with plenty of resilience, was shaken when an older man passing her in Port Melbourne saw her lower her mask to sip coffee and barked “put your f—ing mask back on you c—“.

Demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt confirms this kind of experience is happening more frequently and shows strain at the time when we face the greatest collective stress-test since Japanese subs entered Sydney Harbour and Darwin was bombed in 1942 – except right now only one city is going through the worst of it.

“There’s no doubt there’s a fatigue and a tetchiness emerging; you can almost see the trajectory,” says Salt, who lives in Camberwell. “Everyone’s heard that language – and it’s from a standing start to that. This is really where we’re at.

“The second lockdown really changed the mood and when it was extended it really pushed us to the edge. The tolerance factor has all but disappeared.”

So, now we’re turning our disappointment into bullets and randomly picking off strangers. Melbourne, come on, this is not a coping strategy.

Evidence our lockdown fatigue is turning to contempt just under the surface, and breaking through, is corrosive and will make recovery of any sense of “normality” that much slower.

Personally, having seen these and other confrontations, though I am quite tough, I am now wary of forgetting to step on eggshells and copping a burst.

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I understand August’s bad-on-bad press conferences made us feel powerless, and the sight of conspiracists invading the community playground of Albert Park Lake and upending the “peace and prosperity” (the motto on Victoria’s coat of arms) of the Queen Victoria Market this month has made us nervy.

The questions with no answers about when our lives may return are hugely frustrating and fanning anxiety. We all sense it.

Yet now it seems it’s not just the outliers who feel smashing another person’s tenuous equilibrium is pandemic-acceptable and a tolerable way to deal with one’s own emotions. This only risks sending the 2020 stain deeper into the fabric of our celebrated Melbourne community.

The panic buying was predictable, the hoarding almost understandable, even the sharp increase in people dobbing each other in for breaking coronavirus restrictions is explicable, when, according to Melbourne University social psychologist Professor Brock Bastian, people are doing it believing they’re serving the greater good.

Bastian says a “tightening of the social norms” under which people are doing their best to aid and end this by holding ourselves and each other to account is evident. Fortunately, he says, if we can resist the temptation to hold onto resentment, including if we experience the kind of ugliness above, the community will emerge unscathed or stronger.

Being willing to put ourselves out to get this done is admirable, if uncomfortable. But with weeks of weird lockdown life to go, if I never encounter bad and aggressively selfish behaviour from a stranger/virtual neighbour again before the end of this, it will still be too soon.

Wendy Tuohy is a senior writer.

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Ricki was one of Australia’s first out transgender sportswomen, the treatment she got may surprise you


In the early 90s, Ricki Coughlan graced magazine covers, made newspaper headlines and appeared on TV talk shows.

The unassuming gym manager from Sydney’s south became an instant celebrity — and it was because she was one of the first out transgender women in Australian sport.

A transgender woman on the cover of ITA magazine from 1993.
Coughlan was on the cover of ITA magazine in 1993.(Supplied)

“When people talk to me about being an icon, a pioneer and all of these things, it’s kind of odd to me because back in those days, I didn’t think there would be anyone following me,” the former middle-distance runner says.

“And my main concern was that people were thinking I was a cheat of some kind and I felt that my honesty was being questioned, and my commitment to women’s sport was being questioned.

Ricki is now 62 and still runs every day, sporting her trademark plaited pigtails and baseball cap.

But the running coach barely registers a second glance from passers-by these days, a far cry from the attention that surrounded her when she was outed.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Ricki Coughlan on ABC TV’s Live and Sweaty in 1992

‘I am sex change athlete’

Ricki’s first introduction into the sport and exercise world came after she transitioned in her early 20s.

She started by going to a weight training gym, then became an aerobics instructor, and eventually she discovered running — competing at club and state level in the 800 and 1,500 metres.

A woman runs down an athletics track.
Coughlan competed at club and state level in the 800 and 1,500 metres.

“I hadn’t told anyone about my story and my past because this was already like 10 years old by 1991, and I’d really moved beyond that and it wasn’t a thing in my life,” she said.

“Now and again I would think, well would there be a problem if someone found out about my past while I was racing?

“I thought maybe some people might think it wasn’t good, but I didn’t think it would become the affair that it did.”

Ricki believes someone leaked some of her personal medical information, and soon word spread around the local athletics community that there was a transgender woman competing.

That’s when her quiet life in the suburbs became national news.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story stating “female athletes in NSW are gathering a petition and have vowed to fight to prevent a transsexual from competing in women’s events during the domestic season.”

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Ricki fronted up to Athletics NSW and Athletics Australia, who cleared her to continue competing domestically.

If she wanted to compete at a higher level, that would have been a matter for the international federation, but by her own admission she “wasn’t going to be that good”.

But there was still a desire from the media and the sporting world to uncover her identity — so she decided to tell her story publicly.

The front page of the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Coughlan’s ‘coming out’ was splashed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph.(Supplied)

“If you were transgender, my understanding was that you would just melt into society and never be seen or heard of again and you would just get on with your life.

“And now all this intimate information about my life was coming out and the whole world was going to know it, and I didn’t know how the world would accept me.”

Ricki’s ‘coming out’ was splashed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph, as the story proclaimed ‘I am sex change athlete’.

The reaction from her fellow athletes and the general public shocked her.

“I thought I was going to experience oppression and shaming and marginalising and othering, and it was completely the opposite.

Has Australia gone backwards?

When Ricki reflects on her experience, it was overwhelmingly positive.

But nearly 30 years later, she feels the situation is worse for the current crop of transgender sportswomen, like former AFLW hopeful Hannah Mouncey.

“I had a different experience to Hannah Mouncey in that I was shaking hands and signing autographs for a couple of years, and Hannah Mouncey was defending her existence and her identity,” she says.

A woman on a running track on a headland.
Coughlan’s experience was overwhelmingly positive, compared to that of her peers today.(ABC News: Amanda Shalala)

“It’s become full of assumption and it’s become full of parties defending rights and arguing their rights above the other.”

Ricki is careful to point out there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

“We still don’t have a big enough body of facts for any one group to be able to say unequivocally, ‘This is fair or unfair’. And so I think at this time we are best to start from a position of inclusion.”

Ricki knows how much it means just to participate.

“Some of the greatest days of my life were when I was competing in just interclub at Sydney athletics field through those late-80s and into the mid-1990s,” she said.

“I just hope that women will continue to be able to go out and participate in their sport, do their best and enjoy the experience.”

This story is part of a women in sport series called In Her Words. Head over to ABC iview to watch all episodes.



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Business

Streets ahead in the joy of interacting and tackling change


How long have you been doing this job and what first sparked your interest in this area?

I became a teacher 25 years ago. I always loved to learn and still love learning new things. Like so many others who find themselves in education, I was inspired by a number of amazing teachers when I was in high school. I never wanted to be in a job that would have me sitting or standing at a counter all day. Having said that I find myself sitting at my desk an awful lot these days but at least my office has a revolving door with plenty of different people coming and going.

What do you like most about the job?

One of the aspects of the job that I enjoy is the social nature of the job that has a primary focus on helping others. I like the unpredictability and constant change; you can never claim to be bored as a principal. Education is such a great place to be, it is wonderful interacting on a regular basis with so many bright young people and the staff both teaching and non-teaching are of the highest calibre.

What was the most unexpected thing you have had to do in your job?

There are many unexpected aspects to this job, like accompanying a student in an ambulance to hospital, choosing the colour of paint and patterns of carpet and becoming familiar with guttering styles and the plumbing of the school. In terms of recent events, I never imagined I would have to lead a whole school community in a transition to remote/online learning! That was certainly a learning experience, and something I could never have foreseen when I started teaching 25 years ago.

What is the worst thing you have had to do?

Attend the funerals of young people – educators end up becoming so much more than teachers; we develop strong relationships with not only the students themselves but also with their extended families.

Has your approach to being the principal changed after taking charge of a selective school – and one of the oldest and most renowned schools in Australia? If so, how?

Not really, I have always been acutely aware of how important a school’s culture and traditions are to the entire school community, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey in education in many different school settings including special education in London. Fort Street High School does have a rich history and pride in many old traditions. For example, I was surprised to find that students still sing in Latin every school assembly. That was something unfamiliar to me, but I felt it was important to make the effort to learn the school songs myself to show that I value that aspect of the school’s history and tradition.

The school’s long tradition of academic excellence is also important to me and to the students. Academically selective schools like Fort Street play an important role in the wider public education system.

Having such a concentration of gifted students allows them to become more than the sum of their parts, and the things they are able to achieve not just academically, but also artistically, culturally and in a leadership sense, are incredible. Part of the tradition of Fort Street is also recognising the responsibility that the privilege of such an education is for our students, developing in them a strong social conscience and encouraging them to make a positive contribution to society.

What advice do you have for people wanting to get into this career? What should they study and what experience do they need to get into this field?

Make sure you realise that the old days of teaching are over – it is not a job for you if you are looking to exert influence and power over others. Teachers and school leaders need to be tolerant, understanding and patient.

Teaching hours also do not reflect the school day. There are many hours spent late into the night and on weekends and holidays preparing lessons, creating resources, marking and providing feedback for students’ work and writing reports. A job in education requires a huge commitment. For those who are interested in school leadership in particular, it is important to realise that while schools are large and complex organisations that increasingly require skills in financial management, human resources management etc. at their heart they remain about the education of young people – quality teaching and learning – and it is important for someone in a position like mine to never lose sight of that.

What personal skills do they need?

Most importantly, you will need to have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate well. A joy of interacting and spending lots of time with young people is also vital.

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Australian News

Sam Kerr’s FIFA 21 rating second behind only Megan Rapinoe


Australian star Sam Kerr is the second-highest-rated women’s player in the FIFA 21 video game yet again.

For the second straight year in the EA Sports video game, Kerr’s rating of 92 has her behind only American Megan Rapinoe on 93.

The Matildas striker’s rating remained steady at 92 from FIFA 20, which was a jump up from 89 in FIFA 19.

Rapinoe has become the most famous face in women’s football thanks largely to her star turn as the United States won their fourth Women’s World Cup in 2019.

She has also regularly spoken out about social issues — particularly LGBT+ rights, equal pay for women and systemic racism, putting her front and centre.

Sam Kerr wearing a yellow Matildas team shirt kicks a soccer ball on the turf of a sports arena.
Sam Kerr recently completed a move to Chelsea in the Women’s Super League.(AAP: Brendon Thorne)

When her place at the top of the pile was criticised on social media, she admitted she may not be the best player, but being the most prominent helped her top the ratings.

“I am not the best,” she tweeted, adding that she was definitely among the top players.

“We need more games on TV, bigger budgets, and fairer coverage by the media.”

Kerr is the only Australian in the top 15, with Rapinoe one of four Americans alongside Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz.

There are also three Frenchwomen in the list — Wendie Renard joins Kerr on 92, Amandine Henry on 91 and Eugenie Le Sommer on 90.



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Local News - Victoria

diverse candidates stand for councils


This year, Ms Yengi is one of a number of African-Australian candidates standing in local government elections on October 24.

The impact of the racialised African gang coverage and the lockdown of the public housing towers has in part led to a new generation of leaders who hope to give a voice to under-represented communities.

Ms Yengi says Maribyrnong — where she is standing as a Labor candidate — has the second most ethnically diverse population in Victoria, with 40 per cent of residents born outside Australia. “Our council is definitely not reflective of this,” she says.

The African-Australian candidates come from a range of backgrounds and are standing as ALP, Greens or independents for councils including Wyndham, Maribyrnong, Yarra, Melbourne and Warrnambool.

Earlier this month, they held a Zoom community forum: Meet your African Candidates. “This is the first time we’ve had this many community members put their hands up for election, which is very exciting,” Ms Yengi said on Facebook.

The forum was told that residents had complained to a council about a large group of African Australians playing basketball in a park.

“Because we all stand out, perhaps people feel intimidated by us,” Ms Yengi says. “Rather than the council trying to speak to the community, they just shut the playground.”

She says the African-Australian candidates are all passionate about advocating for greater representation for marginalised and underrepresented community groups.

“I think that other than having different perspectives and experiences, our advantage is the connection we have to the grass roots and being able to relate to other CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) communities,” Ms Yengi says.

This year will be the first time all councillors in Victoria will be elected via postal ballots to address the risk of conducting elections in the middle of a pandemic.

But the fact the elections will proceed at all is controversial amid concerns they will heavily favour incumbents who already have a profile.

A frustrated Municipal Association of Victoria president, Cr Coral Ross, said the decision meant the elections would not have the quality and diversity of candidates that Victoria deserved.

Hazara Australian woman Zahra Haydar Big is standing for Greater Shepparton City Council as an independent.

Hazara Australian woman Zahra Haydar Big is standing for Greater Shepparton City Council as an independent.Credit:Joe Armao

The Victorian government — which has committed to achieve 50 per cent female councillors and mayors by 2025 — has funded the It’s our Time campaign to encourage more women to stand.

Currently, the representation of women sits at 38 per cent, with 13 of Victoria’s 79 councils having only one female councillor.

Zahra Haydar Big, who came to Australia in 2008 as a refugee from Afghanistan, is standing as an independent for Greater Shepparton Council. She says so far she is the only female Hazara Australian to stand in Victoria in 2020.

“One of the reasons I am standing is gender equity,” says Ms Haydar Big, who has worked in a range of community service roles including as a case worker for the Australian Red Cross and a community hub leader at a local primary school.

“I want women to fulfil their dreams. Nothing here in Australia can stop our dreams.”

Ms Haydar Big hopes her election tilt shows the wider community that refugees are hard-working and want to contribute to Australia.

“Shepparton is our home. I want to be a voice to improve the local area.”

Hamdi Ali, who was forced to flee refugee camps in Somalia because of war, came to Australia in 1992 on a humanitarian visa.

“To be honest, I’ve never thought of myself as a politician,” says Mr Ali, who lives in a public housing estate in Carlton.

But over time, Mr Ali, who volunteers for the Carlton Legal Service and Carlton Housing Estates Residents Services, came to realise how disconnected the east African community was from the political system.

“For a lot of people, the first time they learn about council is when they get a fine for not voting in the elections,” he says. “They think the ballot is junk mail.”

Mr Ali says Melbourne City Council is especially unrepresentative, in part because it is the only council in Victoria where businesses are given two votes.

His decision to stand for the council was confirmed by the July lockdown of public housing estate towers in Flemington and North Melbourne.

Mr Ali does not oppose the decision but says it was not explained to the east African community, which exacerbated their sense of being outsiders. Initially, community leaders were prevented from providing food to residents and Muslims raised concerns about it not being halal.

“It just confirmed the disconnection between the community and services being provided — they were not made to be a part of it,” Mr Ali says.

After careful consideration, Mr Ali joined the ALP, which has endorsed him as a candidate. “I realised you need to be inside the tent.”

Candidate nominations for the council elections close at noon on September 22.

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Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom to miss AFL finals series due to family reasons


Steele Sidebottom will miss Collingwood’s upcoming AFL finals campaign to remain in Melbourne with his family.

Sidebottom’s partner Alisha gave birth to the couple’s first child — a daughter named Matilda — last week.

The All-Australian midfielder has not played since round 13 after leaving the Magpies’ travel bubble.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley on Saturday said Sidebottom and his young family had indicated a desire to join the team in Queensland.

But logistical issues around COVID-19 quarantine protocols, combined with the uncertainty of finals fixturing, have since seen them decide to remain in Victoria.

“Steele and Alisha have made a call that is completely understandable and one we wholly support,” Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh said in a statement.

“Their comfort and security as a family was always the most important consideration.”

An AFL player wheels away in celebration with his fists clenched after kicking a goal.
Sidebottom made nine appearances for the Magpies this season.(AAP: Darren England)

Under current Queensland COVID-19 restrictions, players entering the state must quarantine for 14 days before training with teammates and playing matches.

It meant Sidebottom, the Magpies vice-captain, would have been unlikely to return until at least the second week of finals.

He also would have had to contend with a compromised training program while in quarantine.

The Magpies will play an elimination final in week one but are still waiting for their final ladder position and opponents to be determined.

A win over top side Port Adelaide on Monday night would secure sixth spot for the Magpies, giving them the right to select the venue for a ‘home’ final.

They could slide as low as eighth with a loss to the Power.

Sidebottom only played nine matches for the Magpies this season.

He served a four-match suspension earlier in the season for breaching the AFL’s COVID-19 protocols.

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Local News - Victoria

Kindness of strangers lights up Victoria’s coronavirus gloom


Patricia Callinan created the page Help 3095 and Surround with simple intentions. A new Facebook page, like many others in pandemic-era Melbourne, to preserve a sense of connection.

Patricia Callinan (centre), Bec Russell (left) and Jennifer Niehues of The Help 3095 and Surrounds Facebook group.

Patricia Callinan (centre), Bec Russell (left) and Jennifer Niehues of The Help 3095 and Surrounds Facebook group.Credit:Eddie Jim

Someone nominates a deserving recipient and an appropriate package – books, pamper products or afternoon tea – and members donate the money to a local business to package up and deliver the gift.

“It’s putting money into local businesses because they’re struggling. And it makes the essential worker feel as if they’re noticed,” Ms Callinan says.

More than 20 packages have been delivered or are being assembled since R U OK? Day on September 10, and one very special moment has brought delight to all who learn about it.

Local resident Margaret Murphy turned 87 last month and likemany Melbourne seniors, had become increasingly isolated from her community during lockdown. Ms Callinan called on the power of the group to make her day special.

“All I did was ask people to write a card, deliver it to me, and then I’d deliver them to her, but oh, my God,” she says.

Eltham resident Jess Hoyle gets a care pack from Bec Russell, Jennifer Niehues, Patricia Callinan.

Eltham resident Jess Hoyle gets a care pack from Bec Russell, Jennifer Niehues, Patricia Callinan.Credit:Eddie Jim

Ms Murphy was inundated with presents, morning teas, flowers and helium balloons. Children and adults stopped by for socially-distanced hellos and chats. A talented singer, a group member, even lured Ms Murphy into the garden and sang her happy birthday from the street.

In a thank-you note, Ms Murphy wrote: “I woke up the next morning and guess what! That feeling of dread that had been in the pit of my stomach had disappeared.”

Now, Ms Callinan’s community has set out to create 1500 personalised care packages for year 12 students in the postcode.

The group has made up 1500 care packs, each containing a handwritten letter of encouragement, for every year 12 student in the area.

The group has made up 1500 care packs, each containing a handwritten letter of encouragement, for every year 12 student in the area.Credit:Eddie Jim

“It’s a mammoth task,” says Ms Callinan, who is currently living with 480 Curly Wurly bars in her living room.

“It’s also really bringing the community together, and I just love that.”

In a personal touch, each package will come with a handwritten letter of encouragement from a local stranger, including from residents in aged care.

Students will receive snacks and other goodies, including quality pens for the stark shift from home computers to hand-written exams.

Ms Callinan is organising the delivery of pledges from as far away as Queensland.

Group members have volunteered to assemble the packs in an unused section of local cafe, Platform 3095, and deliver them to the schools before the October 7 General Achievement Test.

“They have no graduation and no formal. The GAT may well be the last time all the year 12s are at school at the same time,” Ms Callinan says.

“We want the students to know that, number one, we acknowledge what they’re going through – that it sucks – and, number two, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and life does get better.

‘You bake with love and you bake with joy’

Every Sunday in Surrey Hills, Jennifer Aldous, a nurse of 47 years and still “bounding out of bed”, pours her heart out on an outside table.

Cupcakes, soups, biscuits, lamingtons and cakes of almost any variety, a market-stall bounty of freshly-made goodness, all of it free for neighbours or passers-by.

In the second or third week of stage four lockdown, when she began Windsor Crescent’s favourite new tradition, the theme was festive – mince pies and Christmas shortbread.

On Sunday and next week, she will give out “children’s packs”, including cookie dough they can take home, roll, cut and bake themselves.

“I guess I thought, ‘What can I do just to give some joy. Just a little bit, that’s all’,” says Ms Aldous, who turns 65 tomorrow.

“I believe you bake with love and you bake with joy. If someone sees that, they know someone’s made that, someone’s taken the time.

“It’s a little bit of joy in a real shite moment.”

The table, which Ms Aldous leaves unattended out the front, has hand sanitiser and extra masks, should anyone need them.

And while she asks nothing in return, people will sometimes leave flowers, kitchen presents and recipes.

“I’ve just said to them, ‘Please don’t give me money’,” she says.

“But one person left me so much money at once. I know some families who have not been working and not Australian residents, so any money that’s left I’ve been getting … vouchers for them to buy groceries.”

Ms Aldous, who lives with her husband and daughter, says it’s no fuss – the kitchen is her “place of solitude” after long hours at working helping mothers and children.

“It’s a joy to give,” she says.

“People out there are sad. You may not have any money, so just bake them a cake.”

The masked mowers of Cape Paterson

Geoff Boer has been invading backyards for more than a month.

He’s up to 48 now, more than he promised himself, and has even started going back for seconds.

Geoff Boer and "Tom", two of the masked mowers of Cape Paterson

Geoff Boer and “Tom”, two of the masked mowers of Cape Paterson

His mate Tom and handful of others lend capable hands. But more in Cape Paterson, which is about eight kilometres south of Wonthaggi, are at it too – he’s seen their work.

“The first thing to say is there’s no organisation,” Mr Boer says.

“But you can see the evidence. Houses that are vacant are suddenly mowed.”

If you have a property in the coastal hamlet and stuck in stage four Melbourne, just hope the masked mowers have stopped by your place, too.

Mr Boer, a 65-year-old part-time accountant, walks his mower up to four hours a day taming wild Cape Paterson nature strips. If the gate has been left open, as they most often are, he’ll also do the front and back yards.

He says the challenge in any foreign yard is navigating the hidden roots and rocks.

“Sometimes you get a bit of a surprise,” he says. “I just bought another two sets of blades and a new air filter.”

The beauty of Mr Boer’s kind gesture is that its recipients won’t even know about it for weeks or even months.

“I would say half [Cape Paterson houses] are occupied and half are holiday homes,” he says.

“These people are stuck somewhere. This is just something I can do. It’s not all that significant, but it makes a bit of a difference.”

Open water swimming, only when you can’t

Open water swimmers landlocked by restrictions on travel have found their next best fix: Pay a mate to swim it for you.

It’s the initiative of the Bay Open Water Swimmers, a group with 300 active members in normal times, but reduced by more than a third in Melbourne’s five kilometre ring of stage-four steel.

Charlie Evans (left) and Peter Hendriks at Half Moon Beach, Black Rock.

Charlie Evans (left) and Peter Hendriks at Half Moon Beach, Black Rock.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

While it doesn’t come with the spring and winter rush of an icy Port Phillip Bay, #swimforamate is helping strangers instead.

Peter Hendriks, a veteran open water swimmer and coach, says the group passed $3000 – all of it going to Lifeline – on Wednesday.

“With people struggling in these times, it seemed the most logical charity,” he says. “And I guess we’ll just keep it going until restrictions are lifted.”

The premise is both novel and simple. Swimmers who can’t access the water will nominate someone else in the group to swim on their behalf.

Charlie Evans (pink swim cap) with  Peter Hendriks at Half Moon Bay, Black Rock.

Charlie Evans (pink swim cap) with Peter Hendriks at Half Moon Bay, Black Rock.Credit:Luis Ascui

“It doesn’t matter how little or how much [you donate],” Mr Hendriks says.

“For me, every person I swim for I donate $10 or $20 and they’ve been reciprocating that.”

The lengths and types of swims are based on request and can be anywhere between four and 20 kilometres.

In the beginning, it was just Mr Hendriks and swimming mate Charlie Evans. Then the idea caught on.

“We’re picking up new people who are saying ‘I swam for four people who are out in the country’. Or ‘I’m swimming for people in the Dandenongs’. We’re getting to know more of our members through it too.”

The kernel of #swimforamate stems from Mr Hendriks’ plan to launch a website facilitating runs, swims or rides that raise money for the Cancer Council in the name of people who have passed away.

“I’m a cancer survivor and I got put in this category of ‘you kicked its arse, you fought it and you won’,” he says.

“But you know, I didn’t do anything. I just took my treatment and was lucky enough to come out on the other side.

“My sister and brother-in-law didn’t fight any less hard, but they weren’t as fortunate. I want to celebrate the people who couldn’t make it.”

Cooking for the vulnerable

For Lorena Ramos, a Colombian international student living in Melbourne, the opportunity to cook meals for some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged has given her a sense of purpose in COVID-19.

The 31-year-old has lived in Australia for two years, studying English and working as a chef at a Peruvian restaurant in the city – until the pandemic stole her shifts.

Chefs from the FareShare kitchen.

Chefs from the FareShare kitchen.Credit:Justin McManus

It was a blow, but she signed up to the Working For Victoria scheme and became one of the 150 chefs hired by FareShare to make meals for those doing it tough during lockdown.

FareShare is a charity which uses rescued and donated food to provide meals to thousands of Victorians experiencing food insecurity.

Partnering with Woolworths, ALH Group and the Victorian government, FareShare’s Melbourne kitchen has cooked nearly 1.3 million meals for people in Victoria since March and more than doubled their monthly meal output.

Ms Ramos, who worked as a teacher in Colombia, says cooking for FareShare is as rewarding as teaching because it gives something back to the city.

She says imagining strangers enjoying her culinary creations brings her joy.

“I don’t have enough words to express how happy I am here,” she says

It takes a village

Living through a pandemic is, on its own, an emotional rollercoaster.

Having another baby is a similarly life-altering experience.

So a month ago when Hannah Miflin gave birth to her daughter only to take her back into intensive care hours later, she was rightly overwhelmed.

When Ms Miflin’s neighbours and church community found out what she and her family were going through, they offered her all kinds of support.

Her friend in the area told others in the neighbourhood how the family was going and soon people she barely knew were offering a lending hand.

Hannah Miflin with her daughter Aisling, was overwhelmed by the support she received from her neighbours and church community when Aisling went into intensive care after birth.

Hannah Miflin with her daughter Aisling, was overwhelmed by the support she received from her neighbours and church community when Aisling went into intensive care after birth.Credit:Justin McManus.

Her church group banded together and got the family over $700 in food delivery vouchers and friends took in her toddler for a few days while she and her husband were tied up at the hospital.

Someone even dropped off their spare car so the parents could take shifts watching over their newborn, because COVID restrictions at the hospital meant they couldn’t be in the room at the same time.

With Ms Miflin’s family up in Sydney, she says it is the support of her community that is carrying her through this time

“Because we’ve got a three-year-old, we had to rely on our community heaps here and it was just incredible.”

Their neighbour, Maria O’Driscoll, came to the rescue to watch over their daughter while Ms Miflin and her husband went to the hospital during the night.

Ms O’Driscoll says she knew her neighbour would have done the same for her.

“It’s really nice to have that community feel and to support each other,” she says.

“We’ve got a great little group of mums locally and we all catch up and keep in contact with each other, so it’s really good to be able to provide that support.”

Ms Miflin says the experience her family has gone through during COVID reminds her that people want to look out for each other.

“We are not designed to live as islands in isolation,” she says.

“It takes a village, right?”

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Brisbane Lions beat Carlton ahead of AFL finals as Richmond, Melbourne secure wins


Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale has helped the Brisbane Lions give themselves the chance of finishing in top spot on the ladder with a 17-point win over Carlton at the Gabba.

The prolific Lions midfielder was shadowed by Ed Curnow for most of Saturday night but racked up possessions at will in his side’s 11.12 (78) to 10.1 (61) victory.

While the Lions already had a crucial top-two spot sewn up, their seventh successive win sent them to the top of the ladder ahead of Port Adelaide’s final match of the home-and-away season.

The Lions will claim their first McClelland Trophy — something Leigh Matthews’s famed triple-premiership team never achieved — if the Power loses to Collingwood on Monday night.

A win over the Magpies will be enough for the Power to clinch top spot, as they have a superior percentage to the Lions.

There was movement elsewhere inside the top eight on Saturday when Richmond beat Adelaide by 44 points to lock down third place, while the Demons gave themselves a chance of playing in the finals with a 19-point victory over Essendon.

At the Gabba, Neale had 29 disposals and five clearances, and defender Daniel Rich impressed for Brisbane with two goals and 22 disposals.

Brandon Starcevich, Jarryd Lyons and Dayne Zorko were also important for the Lions, who dominated general play for large periods after quarter-time.

Lincoln McCarthy, Cam Rayner and Mitch Robinson each kicked two goals.

Carlton veteran Kade Simpson copped the brunt of an accidental head clash with Daniel McStay in the opening exchanges of his final appearance.

The 36-year-old veteran had 19 disposals and kicked the first goal of the second half to spark a full-team celebration.

But Simpson did not get the result he sought before being given a guard of honour by both sides alongside fellow Blues retiree Matthew Kreuzer.

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The Blues could have rolled over in their final match of the year but stuck it out despite being outclassed by the Lions.

Sam Walsh was their best with 31 disposals and a mammoth 21 contested possessions.

Matt Kennedy and Curnow also found plenty of the ball, while Harry McKay kicked three goals.

Tigers claim top-four spot

Dustin Martin’s stunning 17-disposal first-half underpinned the Tigers’ 12.5 (77) to 4.9 (33) triumph at Adelaide Oval.

The reigning premiers will finish third on the ladder and meet Brisbane or Port Adelaide in a qualifying final.

The Crows’ loss in Adelaide meant they collected the club’s first wooden spoon since entering the competition in 1991.

The Tigers booted three majors to two in the opening term then added two more while holding Adelaide goalless to take a 14-point lead at half-time, 5.0 to 2.4.

Martin was significant in that gap, his first-half feats including three inside 50s and a goal. He finished the match with a team-high 28 touches.

A Richmond Tigers AFL player runs as he gives a high five to a teammate after kicking a goal against Adelaide.
Dustin Martin played a pivotal role in the Tigers’ triumph in Adelaide.(AAP: David Mariuz)

The Tigers accelerated in the third quarter with four goals to one to effectively seal the result.

Richmond midfielder Shane Edwards made a seamless return in his first match since round five, with his 18 disposals featuring eight clearances.

Adelaide ruckman Reilly O’Brien capped his breakout season with 19 disposals, seven marks and 29 hitouts.

Midfielder Brad Crouch, now a free agent considering offers from rival clubs, gathered 27 disposals and eight clearances in what could be his last game for the Crows.

Former Crows captain Taylor Walker became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, passing Tony Modra’s tally of 440 with a first-term major.

Walker achieved the feat in his 203rd AFL match, while Modra took just 118 appearances.

Demons stay in finals contention

The 10.8 (68) to 7.7 (49) victory over the Bombers lifts the Demons to eighth, a position they will retain if the Western Bulldogs lose to Fremantle in Cairns on Sunday night.

The Bulldogs will leapfrog the Demons into eighth place, however, if they can beat or at least draw with the Dockers.

Both the Bulldogs and Demons sit on 36 points, but Melbourne has a superior percentage.

The Demons have already turned their attention to the Bulldogs-Dockers clash, cheekily backing Fremantle to get up for the win.

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Saturday’s defeat marks the end of John Worsfold’s coaching reign at the Bombers, with the 51-year-old finishing with 45 wins from his 107 matches at the helm.

Assistant coach Ben Rutten will take over at the Bombers, who won just one of their final 10 matches of the season and last triumphed in a finals match way back in 2004.

A Melbourne Demons AFL players handballs while being tackled around his upper body by an Essendon opponent on his right.
Melbourne’s Jack Viney (right) was under the Bombers’ defensive watch throughout the afternoon.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Jayden Hunt kicked four goals for the Demons, while Bayley Fritsch booted three as Simon Goodwin’s team did their bit despite a fourth-quarter fightback by the Bombers.

Melbourne appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win with a 34-point lead in the third term but a goal after the three-quarter time siren to James Stewart sparked the Bombers into life.

Stewart collected two more goals, and Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel all kicked fourth-quarter majors as the Bombers closed the gap to seven points.

With Melbourne’s chances of playing in finals hanging by a knife edge, Fritsch stood up with two late goals to halt the Bombers’ momentum and secure the win.

Stewart finished with three goals for the match, with Melbourne’s Alex Neal-Bullen (two) another multiple goalkicker.

Former Bomber Mitch Brown had 13 marks, while a trio of Bombers — Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett and Shiel — topped the disposals tally with 25 touches each.

Demons star Christian Petracca was the leading possession winner for his team with 23 disposals and he also kicked a bomb of a goal in the second quarter from outside 50.

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Pensioners will get payment boost but no JobSeeker decision


Older Australians on the age pension will reportedly get a payment boost within weeks but those relying on unemployed benefits won’t learn if they will get a permanent increase to their payments for months.

More than 1.6 million people on JobSeeker payments will likely have to wait until closer to Christmas to find out if the Morrison Government will extend the coronavirus supplement into next year.

To deal with the pandemic, Morrison Government boosted the base fortnightly unemployment benefit of about $560 with a $550 fortnightly supplement this year but this is due to end on September 24. After this time a reduced supplement of $250 a fortnight will be paid until December.

Many were hoping the government would reveal in the October Budget whether it would increase the rate of the unemployment benefit permanently, providing certainty about payments next year, however, this now seems unlikely.

While Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told the Sydney Morning Herald that it was “highly likely” the coronavirus supplement will be extended, the government is expected to hold off making a decision until closer to Christmas.

Senator Rushton did reveal the October Budget would include a boost to the age pension. This could be in the form of a one-off payment or ongoing increase, although this has not been confirmed.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has urged the Morrison Government to provide an extra $750 stimulus payment to pensioners after it was revealed that lower costs of living meant pension payments would not rise in September because the indexation rate was falling.

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However, COTA has pointed out that pensioners were covering increased costs because of the coronavirus, due to a reduced number of “specials” or “discounts” to the ticket price for many food items, as well as extra costs of home delivery.

“While the CPI (consumer price index) has gone down because of the impact of items like childcare this does not help age pensioners,” COTA chief executive Ian Yates said.

“There are range of other pressures on low income people in this pandemic, such as transport costs when it’s not safe to travel on public transport. Pensioners live very close to the poverty line, and in private rental, below it.

“And while the two previous $750 payments have been very welcome, pensioners have ended up with less income in this period than people on the increased level of JobSeeker.

“Accordingly, we urge the Government to provide an additional $750 stimulus payment as part of your economic stimulus measures, for the benefit of both pensioners and the economy.”



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