Australian News

Serena Williams loses in three sets to 116th-ranked Shelby Rogers at Top Seed Open

Serena Williams lost to an opponent ranked outside the top 100 for the first time in eight years, beaten by fellow American Shelby Rogers in the Top Seed Open quarter-finals.

Winning 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), Rogers took six of the last eight points after trailing 3-1 in the tiebreaker.

The American is the world number 116 and picked up only her third career victory over a top-10 opponent.

Rogers also reached her first WTA semi-final since 2016.

Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles who is currently ranked ninth, hadn’t bowed out against someone so low in the rankings since number 111 Virginie Razzano stunned her at the 2012 French Open.

Shortly after that, Williams teamed up with coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who still works with her and was among the few people in the stands.

Fans were not allowed at this, the first tennis tournament in the US since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shelby Rogers reaches for a shot
Shelby Rogers reached her first WTA semi-final in four years with the win.(AP: Timothy D Easley)

This was the third consecutive three-setter for Williams at the hard-court Top Seed Open.

She dropped the opening set of each of the other matches before coming back to beat Bernarda Pera in the first round, then older sister Venus in the second.

Starting after a rain delay of more than two hours, Williams seemed on the way to a much simpler route to victory.

She grabbed the opening set and never faced so much as a single break point until serving while trailing 5-4 in the second.

But that’s when things shifted.

Rogers, who is from South Carolina, earned three break points — each one a set point — and converted the third when Williams dumped a forehand into the net.

Serena Williams wears a black face mask with a white S on the side as she walks on to a tennis court
Serena Williams’ first two matches in the tournament also went to three sets.(AP: Timothy D Easley)

There were no breaks in the third set, and after Williams took the early lead in the tiebreaker, she was her own undoing with miss after miss, including a long backhand return to end it.

With social-distancing rules in place, the players didn’t meet at the net for the customary post-match handshake.

As they headed to their sideline seats, Williams smiled. Rogers simply sat down and quickly shook a fist.

Rogers will now face Jil Teichmann in the semi-finals on Saturday (local time).

The semi-final on the other side of the draw will be Jennifer Brady against 16-year-old Coco Gauff or number eight seed Ons Jabeur. Brady advanced by beating Marie Bouzkova 6-1, 6-2.


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Australian News

Queensland Police, ambulance on scene of D’Aguilar Highway crash

One person has sustained “life threatening” injuries in a two vehicle crash on the D’Aguilar Highway at Bracalba, as a rescue helicopter rushes to the scene.

Emergency crews were called to the accident site, north-west of Brisbane, before 11am this morning, where one person was reportedly entrapped in a car.

Now extracted, the patient is in a serious condition after suffering “life threatening” head and leg injuries.

A Queensland Ambulance Services spokeswoman said two others had removed themselves from the wreckage and were being assessed by paramedics, which includes critical care.

A rescue helicopter is en route and police are setting up diversions.

Queensland Police urged motorists to avoid the highway, citing lengthy delays.

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COVID crisis brings boom time for biotechs

Mesoblast boss and major shareholder Silviu Itescu won’t be the only one breathing easier now that the ASX-listed biotech’s flagship treatment has managed to get the green light from the US regulator’s advisory committee.

It was a close run thing by all accounts and for Itescu and investors in Mesoblast a no vote would have seen a decade’s worth of work come to a standstill.

For his part, Itescu says he wasn’t quite as spooked as investors by signs the US Food and Drug Administration’s drug advisory council was going to put Mesoblast’s treatment under severe scrutiny.

The coronavirus has thrust relatively obscure companies into the spotlight and turned some into multibillion-dollar businesses.

The coronavirus has thrust relatively obscure companies into the spotlight and turned some into multibillion-dollar businesses.Credit:Michele Mossop

“We have been very well prepared for this meeting, we have known what the issues are and we’ve known what the answers are,” he says.

Mesoblast’s stock, which plunged more than 30 per cent in a single session ahead of the USFDA meeting, roared back to life on Friday, up over 40 per cent.

The company had been talking up hopes that its flagship product, remestemcel-L, used to treat acute graft-versus-host disease in children, a severe immune response which can occur after a bone marrow transplant, could also be used for respiratory distress caused by COVID-19. The link with COVID-19 may have played a part in raising the stakes for investors prior to the US hearing.

The vote by the advisory council on Friday morning Australian time means experts believe remestemcel-L is effective for graft-versus-host disease. This paves the way for the FDA to approve the treatment for use in the US for this illness, which would be a regulatory first. The FDA will make a final decision by September 30.

Mesoblast chief executive and major shareholder Silviu Itescu is back in front of potential investors.

Mesoblast chief executive and major shareholder Silviu Itescu is back in front of potential investors. Credit:Josh Robenstone

The rollercoaster three days for Mesoblast is a salutary lesson in how quickly the ground can shift under the feet of biotech companies and their backers. Even before this week’s gyrations, Mesoblast’s share price has bounced around this year, from as low as $1.02 to as high as $4.87 over the last six months.

Itescu says he hasn’t been paying much attention to the share price. It’s not a bad idea, especially when it comes to the biotech sector, where high risk, high reward is par for the course and regulators can make or break a company.

“I mean, volatility is just other people’s perception of risk,” he says.

Long time Mesoblast backer and executive chairman of Thorney Investment Group Alex Waislitz says the opportunities offered by Mesoblast have never been in doubt but adds that putting money in biotechs isn’t for those looking for a sure bet.

“It leaves itself open for a lot of volatility. You need to have a long-term perspective on it — you need to have the capacity to deal with the long time between announcements and trials,” he says.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted.”

A COVID-19 launch pad

The coronavirus pandemic has fuelled extraordinary volatility in the markets but the fight against the virus has also thrust relatively obscure companies into the spotlight and turned some into multibillion-dollar businesses.

The biotech sector, which includes diagnostics, novel drug development and medical devices, is big business. The top 10 healthcare companies on the ASX are worth more than $200 billion alone.

‘If you can make substantial differences to patients and their outcomes, you have the ability to create a new industry.’

Silviu Itescu, Mesoblast chief executive

Australia is renowned for its cutting edge research, and its largest life sciences companies such as CSL and ResMed have grown into multibillion-dollar exports with sustained share price growth.

Beyond these household names, there are more than 80 listed smaller pharmaceutical and medical device companies working, often under the radar, to turn brand new therapies into reality.

And there are big rewards on offer for investors but as Itescu says, the sector also presents significant risks. “Investors should understand that biotech is a highly regulated field — it requires patience, diligence and ultimately you’re in the hands of regulators.

“Having said that, there’s got to be more of an understanding of the hurdles but also the rewards, if the tech works and it’s patented and has an exclusive area of focus, really if you can make substantial differences to patients and their outcomes, you have the ability to create a new industry,” Itescu says.

While the sector hasn’t traditionally been on the radar of many investors, experts say the pandemic has generated awareness of the role of drug and treatment supply chains, which has in turn led to money flowing into the sector.

Atomo Diagnostics’ experience since listing on the ASX in April illustrates the new-found enthusiasm of investors in punting on stocks involved in testing, treating and eradicating COVID-19.

Atomo Diagnostics founder Dr John Kelly.

Atomo Diagnostics founder Dr John Kelly. Credit:Kate Geraghty

The rapid diagnostic testing startup pitched itself to the market with a test for HIV but quickly shifted its focus to developing a COVID-19 test. Atomo’s rapid antibody test was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration last week, launching it into the Australian market. As the pandemic put biotech companies front and centre, its share price jumped. Sitting at 38¢ on Friday, the business is trading 90 per cent above its initial public offer price.

Managing director John Kelly says the swift pivot has served the company well and while investor interest in biotechs is welcome, it’s what happens once the virus is contained that will be crucial for the sector.

“I think for a company like Atomo it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, it’s increased interest in the sector, but at the same time there has been such a level of media saturation.

“We’d rather grow a steady share price over five years rather than spiking over one year.”

Atomo is not the only small biotech that has rocketed in recent months. Real-time lung function tracking company 4D Medical soared on its ASX debut in the second week of August, up 117 per cent on its 73¢ offer price to $1.59.

Meanwhile in the US, companies such as vaccine developer Moderna skyrocketed from $US19.23 in January to a high of $US94.84 in July, a 393 per cent increase.

‘Take the emotion out of it’

Even fund managers that have benefited from the growth of vaccine stocks in recent months urge caution about evaluating investment opportunities in the space.

Platinum Asset Management’s international healthcare fund portfolio manager Bianca Ogden has been watching companies like Moderna for years. Platinum has been invested in the US biotech since the company’s IPO in 2018, when it bought-in at $US23.

Ogden says there has been a lot of money flowing through US biotech stocks, but she is also watching closely for when the fuel of vaccine enthusiasm wears off.

Dr Bianca Ogden says she is looking beyond the headlines for healthcare buying opportunities.

Dr Bianca Ogden says she is looking beyond the headlines for healthcare buying opportunities. Credit:Louie Douvis.

“I wonder if the next data point is where they run out of puff.”

The global pandemic has given local investors a better insight into research processes and medical products, particularly around diagnostics and tests, she says. But cautions that despite there being strong companies both here and abroad, investors shouldn’t be jumping into stocks without considering their long-term risks and rewards.

“You have to take the emotion out and look at ‘what can this company realistically generate in sales?’,” she says.

Ogden says there are plenty of up and coming Australian-founded biotechs that will grow beyond the pandemic but the challenge will be competing with some of their cashed-up US peers.

“I think there are some good companies — one of the issues here is the funding environment, it’s sometimes a bit challenging. For larger trials, for example, you often need $20 million-$50 million.”

Her team is currently focused on finding investment opportunities with inventions that will be of use beyond the pandemic.

“We tend to gravitate to things that are less discovered, less in the headlines.”

Securing the research pipeline

However, investors believe Australia has the power to further capitalise on rising appetite for biotechs post-COVID, although there will be some hurdles.


Melbourne was ranked among the top 40 startup ecosystems in the world this year by global research firm Startup Genome. Its debut on the list was based largely on the strength of the city’s life sciences sector, which Startup Genome believes generates close to $17 billion in economic activity each year.

“There’s going to be great careers in being a research scientist, because more than any time perhaps in history, we will find funds being dedicated to this area,” Mr Waislitz says.

However, Paul Kelly, who oversees the $170 million healthcare fund at OneVentures, says the country will have to face up to local challenges. COVID-19 has hit Australian universities incredibly hard, having implications for research projects that might one day be spun out into successful companies.

Dr Paul Kelly is managing partner at OneVentures, which has a $170 million healthcare fund.

Dr Paul Kelly is managing partner at OneVentures, which has a $170 million healthcare fund.

“That significant impact runs the risk of really gutting research and development. There may be impacts we won’t see for the next five to 10 years.”

Atomo’s Kelly agrees that Australia’s challenge will be improving the commercialisation pipeline. “The research is brilliant, we could do better at turning that research into businesses that can grow globally,” he says.

Despite the commercialisation challenges, he’s hopeful the pandemic has reframed the sector. “It has been a bit unloved in Australia at times — the appetite is not always patient enough and sophisticated enough,” Kelly says.

“With the pandemic, one positive that might come out of it is these types of businesses are more investable.”

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AFLW hopeful 14-year-old Tayah Palmer proves gender is no challenge in her dream of playing at the top

At just 5’3″, Tayah Palmer is one of the shortest players on the Chapman Valley under-16 side.

She is also the only girl on the team, because before this year the Great Northern Junior Football League (GNJFL) did not have a junior girls competition for her to join.

Already Tayah has advanced too far to play in the girls league, which debuted on the weekend, and the five-year veteran has been given an allowance by the club to not only play with the boys, but to play in the top division.

“The skill level with the boys is a lot different to the girls,” Tayah said.

Action shot of Tayah Palmer in the number 3 blue jersey, tackles a boy in a red jersey on a football pitch.
Tayah Palmer is not treated any differently on the field.(Supplied: Bec Devlin)

AFLW a dream for young footballer

Growing up, Tayah’s mum Bec Devlin said she always had a ball in her hand.

“She lives and breathes football,” she said.

“She’s forever kicking it around the house, kicking it at people when they aren’t ready for it.”

Tayah Palmer, wearing white T-shirt, stands next to West Coast Eagle Josh Kennedy, wearing black T-shirt.
The young footballer, here with Josh Kennedy, is a passionate West Coast Eagles fan.(Supplied: Bec Devlin)

The young West Coast Eagles fan has big dreams of getting a scholarship in Perth to boost her hopes of getting to AFLW.

She said watching the AFLW on television has made her even more determined to get there.

“It makes me want to play AFLW more and more,” she said.

“It makes me want to push harder and pursue my dreams of playing AFLW.”

Tayah is not the first AFLW prospect from the region — one her idols, Fremantle Dockers player Roxanne Roux, is from the neighbouring town of Dongara.

Gender not an issue

According to her coach David Kidd, Tayah has a strong chance of those dreams becoming a reality.

“She brings a lot of skill,” he said.

He said he encouraged her to play up an age group.

“I think for her, development-wise, it is going to bring her up and keep her going down this path,” he said.

“I think if she stopped and wasn’t given the opportunity to keep progressing it would have been a lot harder for her to grow.”

While Tayah boasts a small stature, her speed, balance, and ball handling skills are what makes her a future prospect.

She said while she was initially nervous to face-up against boys twice her size, after the first game she was no longer concerned.

“I am tackled,” she said.

“The boys just pretend I am a normal football player. I’m tackled, they tackle me, I tackle them like a normal game of footy.”

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Local News - Victoria

Victoria records 303 new coronavirus cases, four more deaths

Victoria has recorded 303 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, continuing the state’s downward trend in daily infections.

A further four people were killed by the virus in the past day.

The death toll could still be high for the days to come but Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton has said he believes new case numbers should fall as mask-wearing and the stage four lockdown restrictions begin to show in the statistics.

Professor Brett Sutton said on Friday he felt the state had passed its peak. A man in his 20s became Australia’s youngest victim of coronavirus as Victoria recorded 14 deaths and 372 new cases on Friday.

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Australian News

Victoria records 303 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths

Victoria’s death toll has risen by four as 303 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours to Saturday.

It’s a decrease from the 372 new infections the state recorded on Friday, and one of the lowest daily death tolls in previous weeks.

It comes after Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the stage 4 lockdowns had seen the state turn a corner in controlling the devastating second wave.

Concerns remain about regional Victoria after Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo all record new virus infections.

RELATED: Australia’s coronavirus blame game could be deadly

RELATED: How Melbourne’s strict stage 4 restrictions will be lifted

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to address the media later on Saturday today to provide more information.

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Australian News

Last-minute ban on crowds at English racecourse carries warning for Victoria’s Spring Carnival amid coronavirus

The last day of England’s Goodwood Races, affectionately known as ‘Glorious Goodwood’, was supposed to be the start of fans returning to sport in the UK.

The start of some kind of normal, after weeks of behind-closed-doors competition and even the unthinkable crowning of Liverpool as Premier League champions for the first time in 30 years without anyone there to see it. Goodwood was the start, a test organised as part of a government pilot program.

Just 5,000 members were supposed to attend the course on August 1. The race had been divided into zones, ensuring attendees couldn’t mix.

But the night before the event, spooked by a growing number of cases in the UK, the Government pulled the pin.

“It would probably have cost a six-figure sum to put on the event for Saturday, and sadly that wasn’t able to happen at the last minute due to a government change of plan,” Hermione Fitzgerald of OTI Racing said.

“For it to be stopped at the 11th hour was a real dent in everyone’s confidence moving forward — for all sports, not just racing.”

It also serves as a cautionary tale to racing administrators in Australia.

The race that made Winx famous, the Cox Plate, is celebrating the 100th running of the race. What was supposed to be a celebration of former champions in front of thousands of people will most likely happen without any crowds at all.

Jockey Hugh Bowman salutes the crowd on Winx after winning the Cox Plate
The Cox Plate is due to be run on October 24, but getting any fans in at all will be a challenge.(AAP: Julian Smith)

The Cox Plate is still more than two months away but Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown means administrators’ ambitions for crowds are modest.

“There’s a 70 per cent chance there will be no crowds, 25 per chance chance we could have up to 1,000 people and a slim chance we could have more than 1,000,” Michael Browell, chief executive of Moonee Valley Racing Club, said.

Browell is very aware of Goodwood’s experience and that the Government or COVID-19 could scupper any event plans at any time, even if Melbourne is in a better position by the time the Cox Plate is run on October 24.

Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 200 race meetings and 1,700 races in Victoria without a positive case in the industry — and, of course, without spectators.

“If we had a racing-related outbreak, say in the 24 hours beforehand, we’d have to postpone the Cox Plate — whether it’s 24 hours or 48 hours — but we would still run the event,” Browell said.

“We’re not really hung up on having crowds here. It would be a good outcome if we could have 1,000 or even up to 5,000 but our focus at the moment is just making sure we can deliver the event.”

A jockey in green and white silks pumps his fist while riding a horse.
Lys Gracieux won the 2019 Cox Plate.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Racing Victoria is hopeful that if Stage 4 restrictions ease as planned in September, the Spring Carnival might have a chance of welcoming patrons to the only sport in Victoria that has continued throughout the crisis.

“We have no idea what the world looks like in two months’ time in the middle of Spring,” Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said.

“We remain optimistic, we’re planning for the best and we’re planning for the worst.”

Victorian sporting fans, starved of any live sporting events to attend, are hoping for the former.

“We do need to keep things in perspective here. There’s a much bigger issue that Victorians are dealing with other than crowds attending race meetings,” Browell said.

Indeed there is, but the prospect of live sport to watch — not just on TV — is a tantalising hope.

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Australian News

Samantha Jayne on relationships, dating amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a two-fold impact on Australians romantic relationships, prompting a rise in deeper, more emotional connections as well creating more opportunity for “ghosting”, with potentially harmful impacts.

Dating and relationships expert Samantha Jayne, who has worked in the field for over 15 years, said the global pandemic had resulted in a host of interesting patterns, revealing the way single Aussies have found, or struggled to find, love in lockdown.

With a science and psychology background, Ms Jayne works with men and women to ensure they have the tools to form meaningful relationships.

Among Australian millennials, she said the COVID-19 pandemic has actually changed the way dating apps are used. Lockdowns and social distancing measures has all but put hook up culture to bed, paving the way for more meaningful emotional connections to form.

“Before the pandemic it was very much a swipe, meet, let’s get physical type thing, but that’s been prevented with lockdowns,” she said.

“I’m noticing more people using dating apps are meeting genuine people and forming more meaningful connections because they’re forced to communicate.

“My clients are finding people online who are more serious about relationships, more so than in the past where people are looking for physical things… they’re not online anymore, they’re more likely to text someone they already know than to meet someone new online.

“The success of ‘players’ is reduced because people are in lockdown.”

Ms Jayne said the pandemic had also been the catalyst for a lot of people to realise what they want, prompting many to start looking more seriously for a lasting relationship.

“People were by themselves and they realised that relationships are really important… it created a spike in people going ‘I want to meet the right person, this pandemic has made me realise what’s important’,” she said.

“There’s also been a lot of break ups of toxic relationships because people have raised their standards and said I actually want someone who has my back.”

Among her clients and on a wider scale, it appears the pandemic is having a positive impact on romantic relationships, with people more inclined to “keep it real”.

“There’s been a massive reset where all that superficial stuff doesn’t really matter as much,” she said.

“People are becoming much more concerned with how their partners make them feel, they want a sense of security.”


The other impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Aussie singles is potentially more damaging, with lockdowns and social distancing creating the perfect environment for ‘ghosting’.

Ghosting, the term used to describe the sudden cut-off of communication without notice, can have detrimental impacts on the person ghosted, and Ms Jayne warns the uncertainty of the world could heighten the fallout.

She noted the problem was particularly apparent in places that had experienced tougher lockdowns, where rather than continue to form an emotional connection that could become physical once restrictions ease, people cut off contact without explaining to the person that they would not like to meet.

“Ghosting is a form of self-protection but it’s at the expense of the other person… being ghosted can be really serious as a trauma. It can have dire consequences making the person scared of it happening again because there’s no answers and no closure.

“It can be really harmful to a person’s self-esteem, it causes anxiety, and makes the person thing ‘what did I do wrong?’

“With the pandemic right now… humans love certainty, and there’s a lot of uncertainty around the world and that’s enough anxiety. More and more people are seeking certainty and dating can be very uncertain, so if they are suddenly ghosted, that is going to heighten anxieties.”

Sarah* from Queensland has been ghosted twice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March, resulting in heightened insecurities and anxiety.

“The pandemic made me realise I wanted something strong and stable, as I would like to start a family one day,” she said.

“So back in March and April when everything was really heating up, I was using Tinder and Hinge to try and meet someone genuine, and I started chatting to this guy.

“We spoke for a bit over a month, every day we would text, and then when it looked like restrictions were starting to ease we started planning a meeting, we were just going to go for a walk and a coffee to maintain social distancing.

“The day we were supposed to meet I sent him a text asking where I should meet him and he just didn’t respond.

“I sent him a message the next day asking for an explanation and never got a response… he kept following me on Instagram until I blocked him.”

While she said it bruised her pride, the easing of restrictions saw her return to dating applications to find someone else.

“I met this other guy and we hit it off, we were messaging on Hinge for a couple of weeks and then went out on a date,” she said.

“We saw each other a handful of times, we slept together and were texting constantly.

“Then after about a month, we were pretty much in the middle of a conversation and he just stopped replying.

“That really hurt, I felt so self-conscious and started thinking about all the things I might have done wrong to make him act that way. I was anxious enough about the world but that just brought it so much closer to home.

“It’s made me really scared to put myself back out there. I know not all men are ghosters, but I’m having a bad run.”

Ms Jayne said her advice to those who’d fallen victims to a “ghoster” amid the pandemic was the same she’d given to clients for years.

“Never rush into anything, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, take your time and work on emotional connections,” she said.

“If you have been ghosted, if your self-esteem has been impacted and you have anxiety around dating, love and nurture yourself and cut off bad behaviour early.”

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Local News - Victoria

Kids find new ways to stay active in lockdown


The nine-year-old has also taken it upon herself to train for cross country by running with her dad around her Malvern East neighbourhood.

Georgie’s mother, Caroline Gurvich, said exercise was an everyday essential for all three of her children.

During term two, when students were first sent home under a stage three lockdown, School Sport Victoria set up a range of outdoor virtual challenges, including soccer, netball, track and field and basketball.

But those programs have been scrapped under Melbourne’s tougher stage four restrictions, reducing opportunities for school-led participation in sport.

According to Department of Education guidelines, schools should include 30 to 45 minutes a day of play-based learning and physical activity for students in prep to grade 2, and 30 minutes of physical activity for students in grade 3 to year 10.

The department’s Learning from Home website features links to a series of videos for housebound kids, including 30-minute workouts, yoga and skipping rope exercises.

According to VicHealth programs executive manager Kirstan Corben, the Gurvich family has the right idea about staying as active as possible during the state’s latest lockdown to tackle the second wave of COVID-19.

“We’re acutely aware that coronavirus has caused huge disruption; we’re seeing the loss of organised sport, loss of school environment play opportunities and we’ve lost a lot of that incidental movement, around and to and from school,” Ms Corben said.

“Now more than ever, we need to pay attention to physical activity; we know it gives us great gains for our physical health but it’s also really good for the social and emotional health for young people.”

Ms Corben said schools, families and sports clubs should be applauded for thinking up new ways of keeping kids moving during restrictions, including online dance and gymnastics classes, skill drills over Zoom and at-home push-up challenges and running time trials.

She said she had challenged the children in her extended family to a make a Ninja Warrior obstacle course in their backyards and compare their completion times which was met with much enthusiasm.

“They love it — it keeps them active but it also keeps them connected to each other,” Ms Corben said.

Lola Crawford (centre) with her sisters, Eadie (left) and Daisy.

Lola Crawford (centre) with her sisters, Eadie (left) and Daisy.Credit:Jason South

For Lola Crawford, 8, daily exercise in her backyard and the Newport streets around her house have helped her stay happy throughout Victoria’s two hard lockdowns.

“We can go on the trampoline and we walk the dog a lot,” she said.

Her mum, Eleanor Crawford, said exercise and getting fresh air were a vital part of the family successfully getting through remote learning.

“We break it up throughout the day. I can’t keep them focused on work otherwise,” she said.

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Uyghurs call for 2022 Beijing Winter Games to be relocated due to rights abuses

The largest group of exiled ethnic Uyghurs has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider holding the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, citing what it says is evidence of crimes against humanity committed in China’s Xinjiang region.

The IOC, contacted about the submission by the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement to Reuters that it must “remain neutral on all global political issues”.

It said it had received assurances from Chinese government authorities “that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected in the context of the Games”.

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the World Uyghur Congress of having “multiple ties with terrorist organisations”.

It said the group’s “ridiculous assertions are not worth rebutting” and added that preparations for the Winter Olympics are progressing smoothly.

UN experts estimate than more than a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been detained against their will for several years in camps in the far western region.

Media and watchdog reports have also documented human rights abuses including forced labour and the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women.

China denies mistreatment of the minority group and says the camps holding many Uyghurs provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

It dismisses reports of rights abuses in Xinjiang as “fabricated” and “fake news,” and insists the Government treats all ethnicities equally.

Men and women in matching outfits sit in a classroom.
China says its so-called vocational training centres are important for fighting extremism.(Reuters: Ben Blanchard)

Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement that it had submitted a formal complaint to the IOC’s ethics commission on Thursday.

It held that the IOC had “acted in breach of the Olympic Charter by failing to reconsider holding the 2022 Olympics in Beijing following verifiable evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity taking place against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims by the People’s Republic of China”.

The complaint, submitted by London-based lawyer Michael Polak, included evidence that it said proved that crimes against humanity are taking place such as mass sterilisation, arbitrary detention in internment camps and torture.

Growing calls to boycott Beijing 2022

Some commentators have suggested that the United States may boycott Beijing 2022 altogether, amid sharply escalating bilateral tensions worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Trump administration, with congressional support, should begin working now to build an international coalition that will call on the IOC to move or cancel the Games unless China closes the camps and ends abuses in Xinjiang,” wrote Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank, late last year.


US Senator Rick Scott earlier this month wrote to the IOC’s President Thomas Bach, calling upon the organisation to “stand up” to Beijing over the crackdown in Hong Kong and “genocide against Uyghurs living in Xinjiang”, or “find a new home” for the 2022 Games.

Politicians from Canada have also called for the event to be moved. Australia has been a vocal critic of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

This week, more than 70 interfaith religious leaders from around the world condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, which they said constituted “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust”.

“After the Holocaust, the world said ‘never again.’ Today, we repeat those words,” said the statement, signed by imams, rabbis and Christian leaders.



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