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Sydney bushfire causes evacuations, halts Big Brother production


An out of control bushfire caused evacuations on Sydney’s northern beaches on Saturday – and forced production crews to flee the Big Brother house.

The fire at North Head, near Manly, started as a hazard reduction burn before turning into an emergency when flames were blown past containment lines.

The blaze sent smoke billowing across Sydney Harbour, leaving a haze hanging over the city.

NSW Fire and Rescue said about 200 people were forced to evacuate from locations close to the fire in the national park, including the historic Quarantine Station.

That included the 50-strong production team from Big Brother – including host Sonia Kruger – which is working on the 2021 edition of the reality show.

“Due to the impact of a prescribed hazard reduction burn at North Head, the Big Brother crew onsite were safely evacuated,” a spokesperson for production company Endemol Shine Australia said.

“Filming is yet to commence and production will resume when it is safe to do so.”

Text messages sent to staff show filming was meant to begin on Saturday, when contestants were expected to arrive on site.

On Sunday the Rural Fire Service said the fire was “pretty much contained” after a night of backburning and rain.

It had burned through about 10ha of the national park by the time it was brought under control.



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North Head bushfire: Homes and businesses evacuated


Homes and businesses in Sydney’s northern beaches have been evacuated after a hazard reduction burn jumped containment lines.

Crews are working to control the blaze at North Head, which spotted past control lines around 2pm on Saturday.

A Watch and Act warning has been revoked with the fire burning towards the lookout in a south-westerly direction under north-easterly winds.

It is not currently threatening homes in the area.

Visitors to the national park, as well as commercial premises and residential properties nearby have been evacuated.

Anyone living in the area is advised to remain in their homes and shut windows until told to do otherwise.

Roads and tracks near the fire have been closed and police have requested people avoid the area.

Up to 60 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, with 26 trucks from NSW Fire and Rescue, the Rural Fire Service and National Parks.

Between 10-15mm of rain forecast on Saturday night is expected to help reduce the fire.



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Bushfire emergency threatens Tas town


An emergency warning has been issued for a bushfire threatening a coastal Tasmanian town.

Tasmania Fire Service says the blaze at St Helens-Stonyford Track on Saturday afternoon put the area at high risk.

“This fire will be difficult to control,” they said.

“Burning embers falling on St Helens-Stonyford Track will threaten your home before the main fire.

“Smoke and ash will make it difficult to see and breathe.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says winds of up to 50km/h will ease this afternoon and forecasts an 80 per cent chance of rain this evening.

Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker told the ABC the fire started from a fuel reduction burn earlier in the week which had jumped containment lines.

What to do:

* If your home is well prepared for high risk fires and you can actively defend it, it should provide shelter

* If your home is unprepared, go to a safer location now only if the path is clear

* There is a nearby safer place at St Helens Football Club

* If your family has made a bushfire survival plan, use it now

* If you don’t live near St Helens-Stonyford Track, stay away.

* Listen to ABC Local Radio or look at www.fire.tas.gov.au for more information.



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Bligh Park: Firefighters tackling bushfire


Fire fighters will remain on the scene of a bushfire, which is burning in Sydney’s north-west, into the evening.

Crews from Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW began working to put out the fire, which was about 3ha, in the Windsor Downs Nature Reserve at Bligh Park late Saturday afternoon.

A water bombing helicopter was also sent to assist crews.

Although a Watch and Act was issued for the area, the NSW RFS said there was no threat to homes.

The warning has since been downgraded to ‘Advice’ after the fire activity eased.

The NSW RFS took to Twitter with the update and said “Firefighters will remain on scene into this evening as they mop up and black out.”



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Local News - Victoria

Wild winds in warmest night since March, as bushfire burns near Ballarat


With an overnight minimum of 18.8 degrees in the city, it was the warmest city night since March 29.

Winds will persist throughout Tuesday morning and the temperature will rise to about 20 degrees before a cold front causes the wind to ease and temperature to drop.

“We’re expecting some showers around the metro area until the early afternoon, then easing in the evening,” Chris Arvier, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said.

A severe wind warning is in place for areas including Ballarat, Geelong, Melbourne, Wonthaggi, Bacchus Marsh and Falls Creek.

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The wind may make firefighting efforts more difficult near Ballarat where two fires are burning about 20km away from one another.

A bushfire 10km south of Buninyong is not yet under control. The fire is travelling from near River Road, Grenville in a southerly direction towards Mt Mercer. An advice warning has been issued for the localities of Cargerie, Elaine, Enfield, Grenville and Mount Mercer.

“There is currently no threat to communities, but you should continue to stay informed and monitor conditions,” a VicEmergency warning reads.

In Canadian, a suburb in the east of Ballarat, a grass and scrub fire is under control. Residents in the localities of Canadian, Mount Clear, Mount Helen, Navigators and Warrenheip have been advised to monitor the conditions.



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Victoria announces $110m long-term bushfire recovery plan


“With the clean-up almost complete, the State Recovery Plan now helps bushfire-affected communities turn to the next stage in the journey – getting back on their feet, getting works under way and getting things done,” Ms Neville said.

A further $34.3 million will go towards local projects led by councils, community recovery communities, businesses and other community groups. The extra funding takes the Andrews government’s bushfire response and recovery funding to about $420 million.

The Black Summer bushfires, the worst in Victoria since Black Saturday in 2009, affected over 120 communities and caused eerie images of orange skies in towns such as Mallacoota.

As fires raged in East Gippsland, the sky in Mallacoota turned deep red during the day.

As fires raged in East Gippsland, the sky in Mallacoota turned deep red during the day.Credit:Justin McManus

The government said it has removed almost 2500 destroyed or damaged structures from over 700 properties and is now offering planning advice and support to bushfire-affected families, including the option of modular housing for up to three years as their homes are permanently rebuilt.

In June, however, East Gippsland residents accused construction giant Grocon, the beneficiary of a $75 million state government contract to lead the bushfire clean-up effort across Victoria, of being responsible for lengthy delays in clearing away burned rubble and wreckage that was once their homes.

Families complained of being unable to get their permit approved to start building their new homes until Grocon cleared the land.

Bushfire Recovery Victoria has also encountered issues, with former police commissioner Ken Lay resigning from his role as chairman in July after six months in the job.

Sunday’s funding includes over $7 million to make East Gippsland’s Cape Conran Coastal Park “visitor-ready” again, $6.4 million for safety works in parks and forests and $3.6 million to “boost the capacity” of councils.

Roads Minister Ben Carroll said $8 million would go towards ensuring the safety of thousands of kilometres of freeways, many of which were closed for weeks over the summer and remain lined with burnt-out bushland.

“With the most urgent safety measures already complete, we’re now funding the next stage to protect the safety of locals and visitors,” he said.

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Daylesford residents recreate movie scenes for bushfire fundraiser


It would involve emulating actress Mena Suvari and being naked on a bed of rose petals, she told them.

There was silence, then Peggy Warren, 84, spoke up: “I’ll do it!” and the result is a degree of fame for Mrs Warren — at least in Daylesford.

'I laughed so hard': Peggy Warren, 84, in the American Beauty scene.

‘I laughed so hard’: Peggy Warren, 84, in the American Beauty scene.Credit:Kyle Barnes

“Peggy’s a goer. She’s what you’d call a good old stick,” says Ms Jones, qualities borne out during the shoot when Mrs Warren lay on her back, wearing underwear, while being showered with rose petals.

Mrs Warren, a great-grandmother, said there were “a lot of onlookers” and she was trying to look serious, “but I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself”.

Mrs Warren loves the photo, but feels the same about “everyone in the calendar, they all look so gorgeous”.

Hepburn House staff scoured opp shops, junk yards and their own wardrobes to faithfully stage scenes from films such as The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins and Risky Business.

Irene Hannah, 87, posed as Dorothy (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz

Irene Hannah, 87, posed as Dorothy (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of OzCredit:David White

A staff member’s husband provided a Cadillac for the Grease scene, and a Beaufort dog club member provided four dalmatians for a 101 Dalmatians scene.

Professional photographers Kyle Barnes and David White worked for free.

Joy Monssen, 90, dressed as Sally Bowles in the movie Cabaret.

Joy Monssen, 90, dressed as Sally Bowles in the movie Cabaret. Credit:David White

Ms Jones says the white dress that Dorothy Nock, 98, wore to re-enact Marilyn Monroe’s famous ‘standing over the subway grate’ scene from The Seven Year Itch, was bought for $4 in the Daylesford Vinnies opp shop.

The grate was a drain in front of the home, and for realism, Ms Jones wielded a leaf blower to flare up the dress.

Joy Monssen, 90, who impersonated Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, complete with stilettos, bowler hat, and black tights, reckons she got the job because she likes a drink.

“And I’ve always had good legs.”

Ms Monssen said during the shoot, “we were laughing our heads off, it was real good fun”.

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Ms Jones said during the pandemic, residents, until a week ago, couldn’t go out and visits were restricted.

The calendar stimulated conversation and joy, helping ease the isolation.

“The residents that were in the calendar have all got them in their rooms. And they’ve gone to all their relatives and friends. It’s been great.”

The calendar, A Day at the Cinema at Hepburn House, has raised over $3000 for Bendigo Bank’s bushfire appeal.

It is on sale for $20 at the Daylesford Bendigo Bank branch and at Daylesford’s Terry White Chemmart.

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Cricket Australia wants answers over how almost $8m in bushfire donations to the Red Cross is being spent


Cricket Australia has sought a briefing about how millions of dollars in donations it poured into bushfire relief and recovery efforts have been spent by the Red Cross.

Red Cross Australia received $216 million in donations from individuals, businesses and organisations, including almost $8 million raised by Cricket Australia.

Cricket Australia put together several matches and initiatives over the summer to raise funds for the bushfire recovery effort.

The centrepiece of those efforts was the Bushfire Bash charity appeal, which encouraged international fans to pledge to donate for every wicket taken and boundary scored across four matches.

The cricketing body has been thrown into turmoil after the resignation of chief executive Kevin Roberts yesterday.

But at the start of this month, when he was still CEO, Mr Roberts penned a letter to National Bushfire Recovery Agency coordinator Andrew Colvin.

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The correspondence, obtained by the ABC, raised concerns that some communities still had residents who were struggling after their homes were damaged or destroyed.

“Recent media reporting has brought attention to the issues still confronting fire-affected regions, particularly regarding the disbursement of charity funds and the lack of temporary accommodation available to impacted residents,” Mr Roberts wrote.

Sachin Tendulkar, wearing a yellow kit smiles as he runs between wickets, Ellyse Perry has her back to him.
Cricket Australia recruited some of the sport’s greats, including Sachin Tendulkar, for the Bushfire Bash.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“Notwithstanding the complexities involved in the recovery effort and acknowledging the support that has already been delivered to many regions, it is concerning that victims of the summer’s bushfires are still said to be without adequate accommodation.

“As an organisation that raised considerable funds for charities supporting bushfire-impacted communities, Cricket Australia has a vested interest in the ongoing rebuild and recovery effort.

“We would welcome an update on the recovery, particularly as it pertains to the disbursement of charitable funds and temporary accommodation in fire-affected regions.”

In the letter, Mr Roberts said he had been contacted by the owner of a pub in one of the worst-affected communities, Cobargo.

He said publican David Allen provided him with a first-hand account of the issues facing residents.

Mr Allen last week told the ABC his community was still struggling with accommodation problems.

“They really need the help of good, decent, dignified, temporary accommodation,” he said.

“It just bewilders me that we can’t do better with this charity money.”

Meeting with Cricket Australia set for next week

Mr Colvin said a meeting had been arranged with Cricket Australia for next week.

“We welcome the engagement with Cricket Australia,” he told the ABC.

“I think Cricket Australia are reflecting concerns the community have about the recovery and the accommodation and disbursement of funds.”

Mr Colvin said charities had been responsive to the unprecedented bushfires and met with his agency every couple of weeks to share information and work out how to better target relief.

“It is complex, and the charities have to balance what they do now with what is a longer-term recovery need,” he said.

“We have to have an eye to the long-term recovery needs of these communities.”

Red Cross welcomes Cricket Australia questions

A Red Cross spokeswoman said the charity organisation enjoyed a “positive, open relationship with Cricket Australia”.

“We regularly engage with Cricket Australia and share updates on our work supporting bushfire-impacted communities and their recovery. Support from our partners, like Cricket Australia, enables our work with communities.”

So far Red Cross has spent $115 million of the $216 million in funds raised, including grants to 4,254 people.

“We share concerns about people in bushfire-impacted communities in temporary accommodation,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr Colvin said the challenge of finding people suitable accommodation also rested with state and local governments.

The Red Cross has recently extended grants to help people trying to find or build new homes, with an additional $30,000 available to home owners, on top of $20,000 provided in emergency payments.

“We will continue to work with governments and others to identify gaps in support so we can together ensure people’s needs are being met,” the Red Cross spokeswoman said.

The Red Cross and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency have urged anyone who still needs support to request help.



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Australian Reptile Park welcomes first koala joey since bushfire season


The next generation of Australia’s koala population is being born in captivity after last summer’s devastating bushfire season wiped out thousands across the country.

The Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast has welcomed the arrival of Ash, the first koala joey born on-site since last the bushfires.

Zookeeper Dan Rumsey said Ash was born in January, but joeys stay in the pouch for up to seven months and it was not safe to check on her wellbeing until recently.

Ash is joined by other new koala arrivals this year at Taronga Zoo, Wildlife Sydney and Melbourne Zoo.

“They’re ambassadors for koalas in the wild: the ones who truly suffered in the bushfires,” Mr Rumsey said.

“Koalas are iconic … and even though ours are bred in captivity, we like to think we’re helping the fairly decimated population.

“Ash represents the start of what we’re hoping to be another successful breeding season.”

Mr Rumsey said there were at least another three joeys in koala pouches at the Central Coast zoo – meaning the Australian Reptile Park is on its way to beating the seven births seen last year.

Mr Rumsey said Ash’s arrival was timely with the Australian Reptile Park reopening on June 1 after two months of lockdown for the public to see.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic to open our doors again. While I’ve been at work everyday, we know the animals have been missing the visitors,” Mr Rumsey said.

“We’re taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and animals and have implemented our COVID-Safe reopening plan.”



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Decision made on Celeste Barber’s $51 million bushfire fund


The NSW Supreme Court has handed down its decision on the mammoth $51.3 million raised by Celeste Barber, declaring the funds must stay with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Supreme Court Justice Michael Slattery said the massive sum, which had already been transferred by Paypal into the RFS Trust, could only be used on the volunteer organisation and could not be passed on to other charitable causes.

“Some donors may have intended or hoped that the money they donated would be used for purposes beyond those which the court has now advised are permissible,” Supreme Court Justice Slattery told the court.

“Despite the (RFS’) wish to honour those intentions or hopes, the law provides principles that make sure a degree of certainty in the application of trust funds, including charitable trust funds, and the court has applied these principles, and giving its advice and these reasons.”

Barber in January prompted an outpouring of goodwill and donations from across the world when she launched the “Please help anyway you can. This is terrifying” appeal on Facebook.

She nominated the NSW RFS as the beneficiary of the campaign and set a funding target of $30,000.

Barber – who boasts 7.1 million followers on Instagram – raised $51.3 million, the largest charity drive in Facebook’s history.

After far exceeding her fundraising goal, she subsequently stated on social media that the money would also be distributed to rural fire services from other states, including Victoria and South Australia, victims of the summer bushfire crisis as well as wildlife funds.

But the terms of the RFS Fund trust deed limit the donations to being spent on purchasing and maintaining firefighting equipment and facilities, training and resources as well as administrative expenses.

Lawyers acting for Andrew MacDonald, the chairman of the NSW RFS and Brigades Donations Fund, asked the court whether the money could be donated to other charities, brigades in states other than NSW, firefighters injured in the line of duty or the families of firefighters who have been killed.

Jeremy Giles SC told the Supreme Court on Monday that the RFS would give “anxious consideration” to a trust benefiting injured or fallen firefighters.

“This application is not about Ms Barber’s appeal and what was said during that appeal to the public,” Mr Giles said.

“Ms Barber’s appeal was a spectacular success and the citizens of this state, of Australia and more broadly throughout the world were extremely generous in a time of considerable need.”

The court heard there was agreement among lawyers for the RFS and NSW Attorney- General Mark Speakman that the money could not be contributed to other charities and interstate rural fire brigades.

Court documents reveal a high level of confusion among people who donated. While many posted on Barbers’ social media supporting her drive to raise funds for the NSW RFS, others expressed a desire for their donations to go elsewhere.

“Is all this money going to the fire services or is it actually going to the victims who need this money????” one person said.

Another wrote: “My family and I donated because we love animals”. Justice Slattery said he would deliver his decision either late this week or early next week.

“I know the funds are there and people want to use them,” the judge said on Monday.



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