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Luxury escapes: Aussies book Orpheus Island, Hamilton Island, Lord Howe Island and more


High-end travel is surging as direct result of coronavirus, with Australians who feel they deserve a special break post-lockdown trading up and splashing hard-earned dollars once intended for overseas trips on luxury domestic holidays.

Luxury lodges, retreats and hotels are filling up fast for months ahead, with some service providers recording a ten-fold jump in bookings year-on-year.

Luxury Escapes, who package special locations together with VIP inclusions, have booked more than 1000 trips with a nightly rate exceeding $1000 in the three months to September, compared to less than 100 this time last year.

Chief customer officer, Jason Shugg, said strong booking numbers show the Aussie desire for travel is alive and well — a trend reflected across the price spectrum and highlighted by the Go And Get campaign backing domestic tourism.

ESCAPE SNAPS LOGO

“The behavioural change we are seeing is twofold,” Mr Shugg said. “People are either upgrading their experiences within Australia or they’re travelling for longer, as this is now their primary trip of the year.

“In the end Australian tourism will be the winner as they’ve got a captive market for the next six to 12 months at least.”

Packages to the exclusive Berkeley River Lodge in Western Australia and Orpheus Island in Queensland sold out within a week and immediate weekend availability at Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the ACT was gone within a day.

Orpheus Island in Queensland.

Berkeley River Lodge in WA.

Demand has kept occupancy at the exclusive qualia resort on Hamilton Island at around 85 to 90 per cent and has led to an increase in flights with a daily direct flight from Brisbane recently added.

Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island has bookings well into autumn 2021 and Tim Stanhope of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains said the domestic market has filled the gap left by international visitors.

Supplied Editorial Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island

Capella Lodge at Lord Howe Island.

Emirates One&Only Resort Wolgan Valley in NSW.

The “trade-up” effect is being reported anecdotally at all levels of the travel market, fuelled by those whose incomes have not been impacted by coronavirus and who have saved money by reducing leisure activities in recent months. Janelle Boyd from NRMA Parks and Resorts said a new market of “five-star campers” has emerged, opting for glamping tents and cabins over campsites.

RELATED: Australia’s hot travel deals right now

However it’s at the top end that the figures are most noticeable.

View Retreats, an online travel booking service that focuses on grander properties, reports customers are paying double on this time last year.

“If we look at the average price people were paying per holiday before COVID-19, it was around $1400 to $1500,” said spokesperson Stoewie Van Den Bulk. “Now it is almost $3000. Property owners are telling us they are overwhelmed with enquiries and bookings, they’re taking bookings as far ahead as August and September 2021.”

Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the ACT has also been popular.

Mark and Jacqui Buckley of Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches had to cancel a family trip to South America this year due to COVID-19. They have turned their focus to exploring Australia and recently returned from a week at Elements of Byron at Byron Bay.

“We loved it so much there we have booked to go again in the Christmas holidays,” Jacqui said. “I’d love to visit The Pearle at Cable Beach in 2021 and Longitude 131 in the Northern Territory.

“Though it was disappointing to have our South America trip cancelled, Australia has so many amazing destinations.”

Join in the #EscapeSnaps celebration of Australia’s best holiday spots and experiences this weekend — part of the Go And Get It campaign to support domestic tourism. Share your favourite memories or future Aussie dream destinations on Instagram and tag @escape.com.au and #escapesnaps.





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Sofia Kenin beats Petra Kvitova to book French Open final against teenager Iga Swiatek


Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will get the chance to make it two grand slam titles out of three in 2020 when she takes on Polish teenager Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s French open women’s singles title.

Coming into the year, Kenin was 11-11 at the majors but has gone 16-1 in 2020, with her only loss coming in the fourth round of the US Open to Belgium’s Elise Mertens.

Not bad for a player who a little over one year ago was sent packing in the Roland-Garros fourth round by the eventual champion, Australia’s Ash Barty.

On Thursday (local time) the American displayed tenacity and nerve beyond her 21 years to defeat two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-5.

At no point in the match did it ever look like Kenin was totally in control but on the big points she was sublime, while Kvitova was erratic and ultimately frustrated.

Like so many of the 30-year-old Czech’s matches, this one was on her racket but her power was no match for the American, who used guile and court awareness to outplay her opponent.

Sixth-ranked Kenin was made to work for it though as she saved 10 of the 12 break points she faced.

She saved them in a variety of ways too — using the drop shot to great effect to expose Kvitova’s slower movement and frequently going big on second serves.

Importantly Kenin also converted on four of five break points herself.

Kvitova — who has come close in a couple of slams since returning to the WTA Tour from a stabbing to her left hand during a 2016 home invasion — put herself in a poor position from the beginning of the match.

Fourth-seeded Kenin took advantage of a slew of errors early to take a 4-1 lead in the opening set before the Czech seventh seed came roaring back to tighten things at 3-4.

She would then manage to get a break point on Kenin’s next service game but could not convert to get the match back on serve.

Kenin would later serve the set out.

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Kvitova was pushing hard — but if it appeared she was going to find her rhythm and get ahead early in the second it was not the case.

Every point was a fight, with Kenin’s guile and touch matching the fierce power coming from the other end.

At 2-2 a pivotal moment came as Kenin, using all the angles available to her, hit a forehand winner to take the break and lead 6-4, 3-2.

That break seemed to defy the trend of the match.

Still it was Kenin who kept producing winner after winner to save five break points in her next service game and convert the break.

The pair then traded easy holds to get the score to 5-4 to Kenin and leave her serving for the match.

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Kenin faltered and Kvitova got the break back before immediately dropping serve and when Kvitova send a forehand wide in the next game Kenin moved into a second grand slam final.

The American was jubilant post match.

Just weeks after being beaten 6-0, 6-0 in Rome by Viktoria Azarenka, Kenin said the win vindicated her spot at the top level of the game.

“I’ve done it in Australia, I have had really tough matches these past two weeks. I am excited to be in the final,” she said.

Polish teenager looking to make history

Standing in her way in the final will be her former junior sparring partner Swiatek, the first teenager to make the French Open women’s final since Kim Clijsters 19 years ago.

The Polish world number 54 earlier powered past Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday.

Iga Swiatek, wearing all white and an all white cap raises her fist in triumph at Roland Garros.
Iga Swiatek ended the run of Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska to make her first grand slam singles final.(AP: Michel Euler)

World number 131 Podoroska, who was looking to become the first qualifier to reach a final at a major in either the men’s or women’s singles draw, had no answer to Swiatek’s powerful groundstrokes and sleek movement on court.

Kenin knows just how tough Swiatek can be, recalling their only encounter, a juniors battle at Roland-Garros.

Swiatek was impressive in her rout of Podoroska.

She had broken serve 27 times en route to the last-four stage and added five more to that count before finishing off the one-sided contest on Court Philippe Chatrier in 69 minutes.

“I’m kind of surprised, really. I always knew that if I would be in a grand slam final, it would be at the French Open,” Swiatek said after becoming the first Polish woman to reach the Roland-Garros final in 81 years and the first at any major since Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon eight years ago.

“I wanted to play this match as a first-round match, I didn’t want to think of it as a semi-final otherwise I would have been too stressed. I just wanted to be aggressive like previous matches. I’m feeling good and like nothing hurts me.”

Swiatek managed to hit through the court well, both off the forehand and backhand, and painted the red clay with 23 winners in the victory.



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Netball’s rule book says umpires’ calls can’t be questioned — but how should the sport deal with increased scrutiny?


It is almost a taboo subject in netball. Written in the rule book as clear as day, it says “the decision of the umpire is final and given without question”.

But what happens when fans, players, coaches or pundits don’t necessarily agree with a decision?

After the defending champions — the NSW Swifts — bowed out of the Super Netball semi-finals last weekend, in a 67-62 loss against the West Coast Fever, their head coach Briony Akle had this to say:

“I’ll be honest — I don’t care.

“That was our season on the line and some of those calls were really obvious, there was about three replays … it is really disappointing.

“Definitely something was wrong, it was black and white. I don’t think there was one that was a 50/50 call.”

In the same post-match interview, Akle also spoke about her players’ inability to convert turnovers in the back end of the game.

A concerned looking Super Netball coach and one of her players watch the court during a game.
NSW Swifts coach Briony Akle made her frustration about the officiating plain after her team’s loss in the Super Netball finals.(AAP: Albert Perez, file photo)

But her comments around the umpiring caught people’s attention in a sport where everyone is expected to politely and respectfully accept the hand that has been dealt to them by the officials in a game.

Fans were divided online after reading Akle’s comments, with some labelling them as completely unacceptable and others defending them as completely warranted.

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As the sport continues to grow in a professional capacity and in popularity, so does the scrutiny of its players, coaches and commentators.

So should the umpires be exempt?

Of course, there is a difference between abuse and constructive analysis and feedback.

But if the rest of the stakeholders in the game are aware that by participating at the top level of the sport they will regularly come under the microscope, should umpires also be willing to open themselves up for the same level of criticism?

Pay an important part of complex issue

Englishman Gary Burgess first took on his career as an umpire in 1998.

An international netball referee holds his whistle while making a signal during a World Cup match.
English netball official Gary Burgess says more pay, funding and support would result in improved umpiring.(Twitter: Gary Burgess)

He has been umpiring at the international level for 11 years, and actually left his career in PE teaching to pursue a role as head of officiating at England Netball.

Speaking with the ABC, he says the topic is actually a pretty complicated debate.

Especially when you consider that umpires are often asked to make huge sacrifices for the sport without genuine compensation.

“This absolutely isn’t about slagging someone, this is about holding someone to a higher level of account,” Burgess says.

“And people are always entitled to their opinion … so this sort of discussion is good, because it gets people drawn to the broadcast and it grabs people’s attention, but there is a fine balance needed there.

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“I think the wider issue here is that when the sport has been developed as quickly as it has over recent years, the funding and the money for umpires doesn’t correspond with the demands placed on them.

“You have to put in the money to reap the benefits, so if you’ve got a real well-supported program it increases the consistency of the umpiring pool and the consistency of the skill and application of those umpires.”

Burgess says it is important to remember that it is almost impossible for an umpire to have a flawless performance, but adds that if the sport worldwide stopped treating officiating as the ‘poor cousin’ and as an after-thought, the whole elite system would benefit.

“Because increased wages and more money being put into umpiring programs would allow for an after-care service to be paid for, from a psychological point of view.

“And that way umpires will be better equipped to deal with this sort of criticism.”

No rule, no fine for Akle outburst

In Australia’s leading football codes, coaches cop heavy fines if they criticise a referee or umpire’s decision in a post-match conference.

But some coaches are known for regularly flying off the handle and expressing their opinion on how the officiating may have cost their team a game.

There are cases too, in a sport that has a lot more money to play with, where coaches will be given a licence to say what they think because their club is happy to pay the fine to showcase their honest thoughts and create more of a spectacle around the game.

But Akle won’t receive a fine or any sort of penalty for her comments because netball simply doesn’t have a rule in place for this type of criticism.

And Burgess says he doesn’t think that type of result would be helpful anyway.

“It’s about how constructive that dialogue is. What is the best way forward?

“Is it that people make knee-jerk reactions on press conferences and say things that they might regret afterwards?

“Or is it better to have an open dialogue with the umpire about why a decision was made?”

Should umpires’ analysis be on the broadcast?

If it is true that nobody knows the rulebook inside and out quite like an umpire does, would it be worth featuring officials regularly on the broadcast to provide clarity around their decisions?

An international rugby union referee gestures and talks into a microphone during a World Cup match.
International rugby union referee Nigel Owens has been used in studio during TV broadcasts to explain decisions by officials.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

In rugby league, former referee Bill Harrigan has been used in a role like this before and in the UK, rugby union referee Nigel Owens has also been utilised in this capacity.

Burgess himself was once invited to give expert comments on a BBC international netball Test before, based on the premise of being able to offer a different perception and some clarity on the decisions in the game.

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He says someone like Australian umpire Michelle Phippard would be the perfect person to include on a Super Netball broadcast if the broadcaster decided to go down that road.

Despite being widely regarded as the best in the game, human rights lawyer Phippard won’t be umpiring the preliminary final or grand final in Super Netball this year — although she was involved in last year’s decider.

But aside from that, Burgess says she should definitely be considered for an on-air role in future.

“In my opinion, she’s the best umpire in the world,” he says.

“It probably wouldn’t be appropriate for us to head into a situation where, as active umpires in the game, we are passing judgement on whether it’s a wrong or right decision.

“But from an educational point of view and talking through what could be and what shouldn’t be, it might help viewers understand what the rule book actually says.”



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Book about rugby league named work of state significance in 2020 Queensland Literary Awards


A book about the Sunshine State’s relationship with rugby league has taken out the biggest prize at the 2020 Queensland Literary Awards.

Journalist Joe Gorman’s non-fiction book Heartland: How Rugby League Explains Queensland has won the $25,000 Premier’s award for a work of state significance.

The winners across 11 categories were announced in an online ceremony on Friday night.

“It’s probably not that often you see a book about sport, and particularly a book about rugby league, winning such an award. So that makes me really happy and really proud,” Gorman said.

“What I’m trying to do with this book is to say it’s more than just a sport, it’s more than just a game, it speaks to Queensland society and culture as well.”

Heartland charts the history of rugby league in the state and explores how the game is entwined with Queensland’s identity as an underdog and outsider.

“I think rugby league is probably one of the best ways in which Queensland gets its own back,” he said.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why State of Origin has had such an enduring appeal — both because Queenslanders can beat their southern rivals but also because it’s a statement of affirmation about being a Queenslander.”

State first, club second

Gorman said the historic all-Queensland 2015 NRL grand final between the Cowboys and Broncos was one of the key moments that inspired him to write the book.

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys (left) and Justin Hodges of the Broncos during the 2015 NRL grand final
2015 was the first ever all-Queensland NRL grand final.(AAP Image: Paul Miller)

“It was north versus south, little brother versus big brother, but there was a really genuine respect and friendliness between the two sides which I think speaks to what is different about rugby league in Queensland,” he said.

Gorman combed through 40 years’ worth of Rugby League Week magazines and criss-crossed the state for 18 months while researching and writing the book.

“It was an incredible privilege to be able to speak to guys like Wally Lewis, Chris Close, Kerry Boustead, Laurie Spina. These are real legends of Queensland and of rugby league,” he said.

He penned a “fair chunk” of the book in the Cairns Library and eventually moved to the city after it was published.

‘The cockroach of sports’

Gorman said it was a bit ironic the book was receiving an award while the state’s three NRL teams were floundering in the bottom four.

“This year has been the worst year for Queensland rugby league in living memory,” he said.

But he did not believe that undermined the importance of the game to Queenslanders.

Queensland Maroons celebrate with the State of Origin shield after winning the 2013 series
Gorman said State of Origin was the one time of the year when Queensland could “level the scales”.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

He thought faltering junior participation numbers posed a bigger threat to the sport than the coronavirus pandemic.

“There were real fears at the very beginning of when the pandemic hit about the future of the game, but I think rugby league’s emerged pretty strong from that,” he said.

“People have been predicting the death of rugby league for a long time and it tends to be the cockroach of sports which is impossible to kill, so I don’t have too many fears about the professional game at all.”

2020 Qld Literary Award winners

Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance:

  • Heartland: How Rugby League Explains Queensland by Joe Gorman (UQP)

Queensland Writers Fellowships:

  • Sara El Sayed, ‘The Blind Pussy Cat’
  • Anna Jacobson, ‘Anxious in a Sweet Store’
  • Amanda Niehaus, ‘Relativity’

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards:

  • Zenobia Frost
  • Yen-Rong Wong

The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award:

  • Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe (UQP)

The University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award:

  • Olive Cotton: A Life in Photography by Helen Ennis (HarperCollins)

Griffith University Children’s Book Award:

  • As Fast As I Can by Penny Tangey (UQP)

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award:

  • Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller (UQP)

University of Southern Queensland Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection:

  • Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui (Text Publishing)

Judith Wright Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection:

  • Heide by Pi.O (Giramondo Publishing)

David Unaipon Award for an Emerging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Writer:

  • The Space Between the Paperbark by Jazz Money (poetry, NSW)

Glendower Award for an Emerging Queensland Writer:

  • If You’re Happy by Fiona Robertson

The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award:

  • A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird



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Gabriel Bergmoser, The Hunted: New book extract


Welcome to the second chapter of our exclusive two-part extract from critically acclaimed new Australian novel The Hunted, by Gabriel Bergmoser. Outback roadhouse owner Frank, granddaughter Allie and two passing customers — Charlie and Delilah — have just seen a blood-spattered woman pull up in a car then collapse. Far worse is to follow …

Frank had picked the girl up and was walking back through the roadhouse entrance before he even realised what he was doing. She was limp in his arms, her eyelids fluttering. He could see that the source of at least some of the blood was her right leg, deep lacerations obvious through a rag serving as a makeshift bandage.

“What the hell …” Delilah was on her feet, Charlie trailing behind her. Allie hadn’t left her seat; she just stared as Frank laid the girl down on one of the tables.

“Call an ambulance,” Charlie said. “Now.”

Delilah ran for the counter. Charlie stood across from Frank, looking the girl over. He reached down and touched her injured leg. She stirred, slightly. He examined what he could see of the wound with a grimace.

“Not good?” Frank said, feeling like an idiot as soon as he did.

“I’ll need to get it clean to take a look,” Charlie replied. “But it looks pretty bad … I have no idea how she was driving.”

“You a doctor?”

“Nurse. Del?” Charlie looked over to the counter. “How you going?”

Delilah was looking down at the phone in her hand, frowning.

“Delilah,” Charlie urged.

“The line’s dead.” She looked up at them. “There’s nothing.”

Frank hurried over and snatched the phone from her. He put it to his ear. There was only silence.

“Is that … Does that happen sometimes?” Delilah asked.

Catch up: Part one of the exclusive extract for The Hunted

Gabriel Bergmoser: How The Hunted almost never happened

No. “Yeah. Line must be down or something. Who’s got a mobile?”

Delilah looked embarrassed. “We drained it playing music in the car, and the

charger’s busted. We were going to replace it in the next town but … do you

have a Samsung charger?”

Frank bit back his frustration. He turned to Allie. She was already on her feet, phone in her hand.

Then —

“No,” the girl on the table croaked. Allie stopped dead. ‘Keep still,” Charlie said. “We’re going to call help.”

“No help.”

Frank was taken aback by the force in her voice. The girl’s eyes were open, locked on Charlie, wide and desperate. “No ambulance. No police.”

“You’re hurt,” Charlie said. “Look, you —”

“No.” The girl sat half up, her arm shot out. Her hand closed around Charlie’s wrist so tightly he yelled out. Frank moved instinctively as the girl rose from the table, breathing heavily, eyes boring into Charlie’s. “No ambulance. No police.”

Her grip loosened. Her eyes lost focus. Charlie caught her as she fell back.

“Stay with me,” Charlie said. “Come on, stay with me. What’s your name?”

Her eyes closed. Charlie put his ear to her mouth, listening. After a moment, he nodded and with Frank’s help gently laid her back on the table.

“How’s she doing?” Frank asked Charlie.

“The same,” Charlie said. “She’s breathing, but that doesn’t mean much until I can get her cleaned up and take a better look.”

After a couple of minutes, Charlie spoke again: “What do you think happened to her?”

Frank didn’t reply. It was the question that had to have been on all their minds from the moment she collapsed out the front of the roadhouse. The few ideas he did have were either ridiculous or terrifying, or both. He looked down at the girl’s prone, filthy form. Who are you?

After the other three took the woman to Frank’s house, Allie heard the shop’s screen door swing open. She looked up, surprised. There’d been no sound of a car.

A man stood in the entry, hands on his hips and eyes scanning the room. He was tall and thin. His skin was weathered and leathery. He wore a filthy suit jacket over a plain singlet tucked into his jeans. The fact that his grey hair was receding hadn’t made him think twice about growing it long.

He stopped about a metre from the counter. He raised an eyebrow. ‘‘You didn’t happen to see a girl pass through here, did ya?”

Gabriel Bergmoser’s The Hunted, published by HarperCollins Australia, will be in all good bookstores from July 31. It is our Sunday Book Club’s Book of the Month for August — and as a special offer, readers can pre-order or buy it for 30 per cent discount at Booktopia with the exclusive code HUNTED



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Eleanor Wasserberg’s new book The Light At The End Of The Day


One man’s tragic miscalculation in Nazi Europe and a family story lost then found again were the sparks for new novel The Light At The End Of The Day, reveals author ELEANOR WASSERBERG.

The painting is captivating, but it’s hard to pinpoint why.

The little girl stands in a scarlet dress with ballooning short sleeves, her hand resting on the back of a dining chair. A glossy cascade of blond hair pours over her shoulder as she looks into your eyes with an expression that is hard to read. Her name is Alicia. She is nine years old. And her world is soon to be dismembered by forces which are horribly familiar to us: the extreme right is on the rise, minorities are being scapegoated, and political strongmen are flexing their muscles. This is Alicia’s story: the story of my grandfather’s aunt.

If I invite you over for dinner with my family, be warned, it tends to go like this: we have wine, and then we start talking about the Holocaust. Most of the time my family has a sarcastic allergy to the serious, so when I try to warn friends and boyfriends, they rarely believe me. It’s only when we’ve each sunk half a bottle that a morbid undercurrent starts pulling us inexorably into the past and towards Eastern Europe. Then my guests realise I wasn’t joking.

I grew up with only a vague sense that my paternal grandfather, who we all knew as George, was from some other place across Europe, somewhere cold and far away. Confused by our surname, when I was very young I would tell people he was German. My dad soon corrected me: George was Polish. Grandad spoke with a beautifully lilting accent and it made me laugh when he insisted the plural of sheep was sheepses.

I was a happily self-absorbed child and only half-listened to his stories, which would meander between a childhood in Krakow, the RAF in Egypt, moving to the UK. Sometimes he spoke of Karolina, his mother and a poet who, he told us, had let herself be blown up in Warsaw rather than let the Nazis take her.

George’s real name was Jerzy. He died in his nineties, but not before my parents, aware time was running out, sat with him over a week or two at his home in Sussex and recorded all of his stories. At some point the tapes were lost in a house move. I had never made time to listen to them.

In my early twenties, years after George’s death, I moved to Paris. My parents came to visit, and between eating patisserie and sweating up the endless flights of stairs to my apartment we went to the Holocaust memorial. There’s a huge black marble wall with the names of the victims deported from Paris engraved in gold. There was our name: Wasserberg, Ignace. George’s father. My dad stroked the letters on the black marble and went uncharacteristically quiet.

Later, in a tiny bistro in Pigalle, we talked through the details, my mum supplying things George had told her when they recorded the tapes. Ignace had been safe in Switzerland, but inexplicably travelled to France in 1942, into the mouth of the tiger of his own accord. Perhaps to check on a property there, George had thought. He was arrested as a Jew, sent to Paris, then Drancy, and then on to Auschwitz. We sat breaking crusty bread into little pieces, dipping it in oil, obsessing together over the moment Ignace realised his catastrophic mistake. Was it as soon as he was asked for his papers? In the train to Paris? At Drancy? Or did he think, up until the last moment, that this was all some administrative error, that someone would be waiting for him in a car beyond the barbed wire? These questions joined fragments of other family stories as my novel The Light At The End Of The Day was taking shape.

The painting of Alicia is called The Girl in the Red Dress. It hangs in the Museum Narodowe in Kielce, Poland. Alicia was the sister of my grandad’s mother, Karolina, and her real name is Josepha Oderfeld.

Josepha survived. On a trip to Krakow in 2016, I met Josepha’s grandson, and her great-granddaughters, my cousins. We ate bagels and made small talk in broken English and French, and looked at photographs and family trees with branches that broke off again and again in 1942. I felt we were scattered shrapnel from an explosion long ago. Back home in England, I hung a print of the painting, the red brightening my tiny kitchen, and began writing about her. She became Alicia, and around her and the painting I told a story.

I hope reading The Light At The End Of The Day is a little like having dinner with my family: enjoyable and rich like good food and wine, before realising you’ve been pulled unexpectedly into a world that’s already gone, filled with orphaned voices and unquiet images that echo down the generations.

The Light At The End Of The Day, by Eleanor Wasserberg, will be published by HarperCollins Australia on August 8. Tell us if you like the sound of it at the Sunday Book Club Facebook group. In the meantime our Book of the Month is Karin Slaughter’s The Silent Wife. There’s a 30 per cent discount for readers of this masthead at Booktopia with the code WIFE.



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Four New Zealand Warriors players book flights home after NRL fails to secure exemptions for families


Four homesick Warriors players will depart midway through the NRL season after booking flights home to Auckland.

The club confirmed Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu’a, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa will leave their Terrigal team base on July 27, two days after the round 11 match against the Sydney Roosters.

It will come nearly three months after the squad began their historic relocation to Australia to play out the season.

In that time, the NRL has been unable to convince government agencies to grant an exemption for the players’ Kiwi families to join them.

The club had originally designated this Sunday’s match against Cronulla as the last before the players were free to return home.

However, it is understood they have been unable to secure an Auckland flight until a week later, leaving the four players clear to face the Roosters.

people in masks getting off a plane on a runway
The New Zealand Warriors arrived in Australia on May 3.(ABC News)

Warriors boss Cameron George said the players left with the full support of the club and the remaining players.

“We fully understand the predicament they have been in and we’re so appreciative of what they have done in committing to the cause for as long as they have.

“When we travelled to Australia we promised the players everything possible in our control would be done to secure travel exemptions for their families to join them there.

David Fusitu'a of Tonga runs into the tackle of Australia's Cameron Munster and Paul Vaughan.
David Fusitu’a has scored one try in five appearances this season.(AAP: David Rowland)

“There hasn’t been any sign of a favourable result, which we accepted was always a possibility. Given those circumstances David, Ken, Agantius and King are free to go home.

“As well as thanking them for all they’ve done, we would like to thank Peter V’landys and the NRL for all the work they’ve put in for the players and their families.

“I would also like to thank the RLPA staff for their support of the players during this time.”

The Warriors will seek four loan replacement players from other clubs, adding further disruption to a season that has been far from smooth sailing.

AAP/ABC



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UFC champion Alex Volkanovski pens children’s book to debunk ‘thug’ image


Australia’s only UFC champion, Alex Volkanovski, is working on a children’s book he hopes will debunk the perception of fighters as thugs.

The 31-year-old became the first fighter born in Australia to win a UFC belt when he defeated the previous featherweight champion Hawaiian Max Holloway, considered one of the greatest fighters of all time.

Volkanovski has been spending the COVID-19 lockdown adding another feather to his cap — children’s author.

“A lot of parents will come up to me and say: ‘My kid looks up to you’.

“This book is something I can be proud of and is what I’m all about. If I can give back to kids it means a lot to me.”

Alex Volkanovski laughing.
Alex Volkanovski wants to change the perception of UFC fighters as thugs.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Mixed Martial Arts or MMA is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world but its premiere competition, the UFC, has been marred by high profile controversies.

It is a tarnished reputation Volkanovski hopes can be repaired.

“People always ask me: ‘What is your image?’ or ‘What is your brand?’ In this career you get told what to do a lot. They want a blueprint of Conor McGregor,” he said.

Alex Volkanovski fighting
Alex Volkanoski is putting down the gloves to pen a children’s book.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Volkanovski trains in Windang on the NSW South Coast where he lives with his young family. He says the tough guy image is the opposite of his experience of the MMA community.

“Some of the most respectful guys I’ve ever met are in this sport, but sometimes we don’t get portrayed that way,” he said.

“You go into a gym anywhere in the world and it’s all about respect and discipline and I don’t want people to forget that.”

Fight Island rematch

Volkanovski will return to the Octagon on July 11 as part of the UFC’s much-hyped Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, where he’ll be defending his title against vanquished foe Holloway.

The rematch was initially set to be held in Australia but COVID-19 has scuppered those plans.

“It would have been nice having my title fight in Australia but obviously that can’t happen,” Volkanovski said.

“I’ve done a lot of strength and conditioning, so I feel more explosive and powerful than ever.

“That’s why I think I’m finishing Max inside five rounds.”



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New book cover shot by Jesse Lizotte


It is impossible for Jimmy Barnes to sit still.

The rocker and author is like the battery bunny, constantly vibrating even when he’s not on the move.

Jesse Lizotte, his nephew and sought-after photographer for GQ and Vogue, was acutely aware he had to work quickly to shoot Barnes for the striking cover image of his new book Killing Time.

“He has the attention span of a fly,” Lizotte said with a chuckle. “I knew it had to be a completely seamless experience, so we booked a studio about five minutes from his house.

“And we had the music blasting as loud as we possibly could because he’s quite deaf.”

Friendly family sledging aside, Lizotte says he was more nervous about the prospect of shooting his uncle than he’s ever been in his career.

The 29-year-old self-taught photographer, whose portfolio includes Billie Eilish for Vogue Australia last year plus covers and fashion spreads of Jason Momoa, Ben Simmons and Troye Sivan for GQ, has waited years to work with Barnes.

They finally collaborated for the first time with a shoot for his My Criminal Record solo album, which was released last year.

Barnes had been captivated by his nephew’s evocative portraits of Yakuza and Los Angeles street gang members taken early in his career as he practised his craft.

“I was actually terrified of working with him; there isn’t that sense of detachment, it’s very personal,” Lizotte said.

“Our family is very close and it was extremely vulnerable for him to sit in front of my camera for the first time.

“It’s one of those things you have to be asked to do rather than me saying ‘Uncle Jim, can I take your picture?’

“But it was important for him to do it with someone he felt comfortable with.”

His fierce yet pensive, straight-down-the-barrel image of Barnes, which stares from the cover of Killing Time, was captured in the final five minutes of their collaboration after an hour or so of “letting him do what he does”.

“With both My Criminal Record and now the Killing Time book, he wanted the same gritty and raw and real vibe of my early work and that’s what I love to do,” Lizotte said.

“He’s got the face for it. He’s at that point in his career where his face tells the story.”

Killing Time, published by HarperCollins Australia, follows Barnes’ best-selling, award-winning memoirs Working Class Boy and Working Class Man.

To be released in October, it is a collection of stories from Barnes’ life on the road and the myriad characters and often hilarious circumstances of five decades spent in the service of rock’n’roll.

As the 64-year-old author explains in the book’s introduction, the title was partly inspired by all those countless and often frustrating hours spent trying to get to the next gig.

In Cold Chisel’s early career, that often became mission impossible when their van broke down in the middle of nowhere and later on, when flights were delayed by the whims of the weather.

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To perform for just 90 minutes or so a night, there were interminable hours wasted just waiting around in cars or vans, hotel rooms or lobbies and backstage dressing rooms.

“Musicians kill time in different ways. Some write songs, watch television or catch up on sleep (always a good thing to do),” Barnes writes.

“Others keep fit by heading to a local gym or going jogging. Or take in the local tourist attractions.

“In my early days, all of that seemed a bit dorky, not rock ’n’ roll enough. And sleep was definitely overrated.

“I preferred to go out drinking and looking for trouble.”

Now, he spends that spare time reading and writing books.

Don’t kill time in a queue. Pre-order your copy of Jimmy Barnes’ Killing Time here.



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Peta Credlin responds to Malcolm Turnbull’s new book ‘A Bigger Picture’


Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff has hit back at suggestions they had a “truly bizarre” relationship when he served as prime minister.

Peta Credlin was mentioned a number of times in Malcolm Turnbull’s new book A Bigger Picture, where the former PM addresses everything from his childhood to his ousting as the leader of Australia in 2018.

Mr Turnbull also addressed the working relationship between Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin on ABC’s 7.30.

“It was as though she felt, ‘I’ve created you, you’re my creation’, and she felt she owned him. It was a bizarre – a truly bizarre – relationship,” he said.

Ms Credlin hit back on her Sky News show last night saying she would not “climb into the gutter” with the former PM.

“It’s all about character and his character has been exposed by this book and I’m not going to climb in the gutter with him,” she said.

“I never felt there was an ounce of conviction in him.

“To be fair, I think that (the prime ministership) was a box that he had decided at 10 or 12 years of age to tick … make a lot of money, tick, have a lovely family, tick, being prime minister.

“Enough people had said to him, ‘you should be prime minister’ and he went into it thinking he had the sweetest skills, but the biggest skill you have to have is judgment and his judgment was one of the biggest problems he had.”

Ms Credlin continued to fire back at the former PM claiming “he couldn’t campaign to save himself” but he could “charm” people when he wanted to.

“His language was pretty robust, pretty filthy I have to say, but he could turn the charm on as well if he thought someone was within earshot,” she said.

“He was one of those politicians, there’s a class of politicians, where when you’re having a conversation with them they look past you, past your ear to the next person to catch their eye and move on.

“He is that sort of politician, that sort of player that’s always looking for the next chess move in the game of politics.”

Mr Turnbull’s memoir, out today, has not been well-received by those still in politics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr Turnbull’s successor, appeared to take a thinly-veiled swipe at the former PM in a press conference yesterday afternoon when he was asked to comment.

The Bigger Picture is especially critical of Mr Morrison and his government.

“On this issue I will remain focused on the actual bigger picture, and that is dealing with the response to coronavirus,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

After snatching the top job from Mr Abbott in 2015, Mr Turnbull was knifed in 2018, paving the way for Scott Morrison to become prime minister.

Earlier, Tony Abbott defended his former chief-of- staff, saying Ms Credlin had been an important part of his government.

“I am aware of some pretty odious comments that one of my successors made,” he said.

“She was a fine thinker, a great organiser, and she was a trusted colleague. I think she deserves a great deal of credit for what she did.”



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