Australian News

Brownlow Medal live: Lachie Neale the favourite, AFL players and partners gather for different ceremony

The 2020 Brownlow Medal is here — but not as you know it.

Follow all the glamour and drama of the night, with Brisbane’s Lachie Neale the favourite to take home the medal.

Live updates

By Dean Bilton

What do we know about tonight? 


While much of how tonight will work is a mystery, there are a few things we know for sure. We know that players will be gathering in little mini-Brownlow events all over the country, so as to stay in line with coronavirus restrictions. We know that Lachie Neale is the favourite. That’s about it.


By Dean Bilton

A Brownlow Medal night with a difference 


Hello one and all and welcome, on this fine Sunday night in mid-October, to the 2020 Brownlow Medal. A strange season in a strange year has tossed up a strange Brownlow night, with so many of the event’s traditions made impossible by the rona and whatnot.


And so we are left with… whatever this is. A rearranged and rescheduled digital ceremony that, if nothing else, should at least allow us to crown and celebrate the best player of this AFL season.


How will it work? Not really sure! Will everyone still be wearing the fancy clothes? Don’t know! Can anyone stop Lachie Neale from winning? Probably not! But we’re going to have some fun finding out. Stick around for the night as we navigate this peculiar COVID Brownlow together.

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Local News - Victoria

Victorian politicians defy lockdown to gather in Parliament on Tuesday

Professor Sutton also advised the presiding officers of the Parliament’s two chambers that MPs and their staff from outside metropolitan Melbourne should stay away from the city.


“The prevalence of community transmission [of COVID-19] across metropolitan Melbourne poses an unacceptable risk of spread to other areas of Victoria via people travelling into the metropolitan area and then back into regional communities,” Professor Sutton wrote.

The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Labor’s Colin Brooks, acted on the Chief Health Officer’s advice and postponed the lower house’s sittings scheduled for this week until early September.

But in the upper house, where Labor does not have a majority, the Liberal-National Coalition and cross bench MPs combined to overcome government objections and force a short sitting on Tuesday, when Health Minister Jenny Mikakos will face a likely hostile question time.


The Liberals’ upper house leader, David Davis, said on Monday night that there had never been a more important time for parliamentary scrutiny.

“There is a time for MPs to stand up for their communities and ensure that governments are accountable for their decisions,” Mr Davis said.

“This is the most secretive and viciously powerful government in many years and there needs to be proper scrutiny, proper accountability.”

Mr Davis said the Chief Health Officer’s advice on whether Parliament should sit was inconclusive and that safety procedures would be in place to allow country and regional MPs to participate.

But the government’s upper house leader Jaclyn Symes said the Opposition and the crossbenchers who supported the sitting were ‘ignoring’ the clear advice of the Chief Health Officer.

“The CHO’s advice was to take some time to consider the safety of MPs and staff,” Ms Symes said.

“The fact that the Opposition has chosen to ignore the CHO’s advice at a time when we’re asking the community to heed the CHO’s advice is disappointing.”

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Local News - Victoria

To gather is human. In a plague, it can go wrong, whoever you are

Cake and cups and saucers and a pot of tea were laid out, often enough upon a fancy tablecloth, as if the visitation had been expected all along.

A batch of scones might magically appear, hot out of the oven, accompanied by strawberry jam and clotted cream. Conversation ensued. It could last an hour or so.

It was, in our rural area, a bulwark against the loneliness that lurked within empty distances. In the cities, the drop-in most likely offered a buttress against suburban desolation.

It would have seemed absurd to those of my parents’ generation to have to explain to anyone what “dropping in” actually meant.

It is a ritual, however, that has become for decades less observed among the younger generations of that older Australia, who tend to make their social arrangements by texting from mobile phones.

The new ritual has new protocols: some millennials consider it polite to text first and ask whether it might be okay to call.

The surprise factor may have been ironed out, but the urge to gather remains.

There were no mobile phones and no texting not so long ago. Phoning ahead was an elaborate arrangement: you needed to be at home, where your phone was tethered to the wall. Phoning ahead was often judged too formal for a mere social visit.

Deciding to drop in while “just passing by” was by its nature a surprise, and often enough, considered “a nice surprise”.

But now, in this time of plague, dropping by is suddenly unthinkable.

In some areas in Melbourne designated by postcode, you’ll stand a strong chance of copping a heavy fine if you choose to indulge in such behaviour.

It was inevitable that spontaneous and freeform social assemblies would be banned, of course, once transmission of the coronavirus kicked up again in suburban Melbourne, because large family gatherings are reported to be among the sources of recent outbreaks.

But the loss of the ability to gather — to drop by — is surely among the most crushing costs of the pandemic.

If dropping by for a cuppa was the glue that once held together an older Australia, it has long been the natural social fulcrum for newer communities, and continues to be so.

Migrant communities have gravitated together while making their way into Australian society ever since the first shiploads of displaced people from a war-wrecked Europe began arriving in 1947. How could they not?

While the older Anglo-Celtic population took scones and tea, migrant families entertained each other with more exotic fare and often, much more expressive celebrations of life.

In navigating their way into this new country, their strength was embedded deeply in the idea of community held together by family and age-old traditions.

The big, happy family and community gathering became the migrant bulwark against loneliness.

It has been so ever since, as wave after wave of new arrivals took up residence in Australian suburbs, sustaining themselves by gathering in each others’ homes and drawing strength and meaning from it.

By dropping in, you might say.

But as news spread that some of the new coronavirus outbreaks occurred within a few large family groups in Melbourne suburbs, it became far too easy for extreme media voices to start bellowing that multiculturalism itself had failed.

It’s an absurd proposition, considering that more than one-quarter of Australians were born overseas, making multiculturalism a large part of the national fabric. Multiculturalism, you might say, has become about as Australian as the pie and sauce used to be.


All major cities in Australia, it happens, have significant migrant communities.

If any halfway rational form of argument could be made that the recent outbreaks were somehow proof that multiculturalism had failed, then similar outbreaks would have had to occur in migrant communities across the nation.

They haven’t.

The loud-mouthed outburst against migrants is thus an extreme version of a fallacy commonly expressed wryly in Latin as post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”). You might sum it up in the nonsensical equation: “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”

Premier Dan Andrews, unsurprisingly flummoxed by the increase in community transmissions of the virus, has taken the sensible course of ordering an independent inquiry by a retired judge into the reasons for the outbreak.

It may be that along with the likely finding that the use of medically unskilled guards at quarantine hotels led to a chain of infections, the inquiry will also confirm that some families unwisely continued to hold large gatherings while ignoring the need for physical and social distancing, thus spreading the virus.

The truth is, however, we don’t know what the inquiry might find.

What we do know is that humans, whatever their social or ethnic backgrounds, harbour the urge to congregate.

It’s why the drop-in has always had the power to comfort and shelter and to give joy. To just about everyone.

And sometimes, it has the capacity to go wrong.

It’s called the human condition.


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Local News - Victoria

Hundreds gather to remember ‘brightest of lights’ Solomone Taufeulungaki

“If we’re not listening you need to tell us,” said Jeremy Nikora, a youth worker who spoke on behalf of the Maori community.

“You need to shake us. I would rather be shaken by one of our young people … than stand at the foot at another one of our future leaders and bury them before they have a chance to reach their potential.”

Laumape Taufeulungaki, Solomone’s elder brother, spoke briefly, thanking the community for their support and extending forgiveness to his brothers attackers.

“Yes we’re hurting, there are a lot of people hurting. But for all that hurt we still have love,” he said at the ceremony’s close.

“For anyone that was involved, we know and believe that if we love one another the world will be a better place.”

Two of Solomone’s former teachers, who could not attend the memorial, said on Friday they were in “absolute disbelief” over the killing, having known Solo and his “beautiful family” for many years.

Representatives from the Pacific Islander community spoke and gave prayers during the hour-long ceremony.

Representatives from the Pacific Islander community spoke and gave prayers during the hour-long ceremony.Credit:Joe Armao

“To say the news devastated us would be an enormous understatement,” they said.

“Solomone had a smile and laugh that could light up any room. He included all and was an excellent friend to his peers. We will always remember Solomone for his kind nature, his charisma, his deep love for his family, his love to laugh and his passion for sport.

“He was truly the brightest of lights and we will always remember him this way … the news has left all teachers who taught him and knew him heartbroken.”

There was a heavy police presence in Deer Park on Friday night, with at least two dozen officers and six mounted police at the memorial.

There was a heavy police presence in Deer Park on Friday night.

There was a heavy police presence in Deer Park on Friday night.Credit:Joe Armao

Prominent figures in the Melbourne Pacific Islander community have condemned a culture of violence they believe led to the teen’s death.

Victoria Police West Metro Commander Tim Hansen said on Thursday police had a “dedicated tactical plan in place” across the western suburbs in case of reprisal activity in coming days.


They were also working with Solomone’s school, Victoria University Secondary College, and were discussing whether they would need to implement extra security measures going forward.

“If these kids or these street gangs want to come back into other western suburbs of Melbourne and get involved in a fight, we will be there ready, waiting for them,” he said.

Deer Park has been made a designated area, giving police special powers including the ability to search for weapons, remove face masks and move people on.

The stepped-up response came into effect at 2.30pm on Friday and will last until 2.30am on Saturday.

Solomone was killed as he walked home from school. He told his 14-year-old cousin, Aki Faiva, to run for her life, as they were allegedly approached by a group of up to 10 boys before the deadly attack.

Flowers and mourners pay tribute to the slain schoolboy.

Flowers and mourners pay tribute to the slain schoolboy.Credit:Joe Armao

Six boys, aged 13 to 16, have been charged with violent disorder and affray in connection with the incident.

No one has been charged directly for his death.

Students from Victoria University Secondary College perform a traditional dance at the service.

Students from Victoria University Secondary College perform a traditional dance at the service.Credit:AAP

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Die-hard AFL fans gather in homes, pubs and video calls as Collingwood and Richmond play out a draw

After two-and-a-half hours of yelling and screaming, you could have heard a pin drop when the final siren sounded.

Given the disappointments of 2020, perhaps it was fitting that the long-awaited return of the AFL would end in an anti-climax, leaving supporters from all sides deflated and numb.

For the die-hard fans, this was a Collingwood vs Richmond game like no other.

A packed MCG with a crowd of more than 70,000 would be the norm, but with crowds banned from Victorian stadiums, they gathered in pubs and homes for the so-called “iso-blockbuster”.

Jack Crisp runs with the ball in an empty MCG
More than 70,000 supporters packed the MCG the last time these two teams met in 2019.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

About a dozen members of Collingwood’s cheer squad watched on from Voula Bitsikas’ house in Northcote, surrounded by hundreds of pieces of Magpies memorabilia, artwork and trinkets.

With the exception of one match, where she was forced to go home sick, it was the first Melbourne-based Collingwood game Ms Bitsikas had not attended since 1981.

Ms Bitsikas, who is normally in charge of the club banner, summed up what Collingwood meant to her in one word — “Life”.

“It’s my world,” Ms Bitsikas said.

Early joy turns to despair

Voula Bitsikas smiles while holding up a Collingwood banner
Voula Bitsikas has endured the highs and lows of following her club, and been to 12 grand finals.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

The room roared to life when Taylor Adams opened the scoring in the opening quarter, kicking the competition’s first goal since March 22.

Chants of “C-O-L-L-I-N-G-W-O-O-D” soon followed as the Pies kicked four goals clear at the first break.

But Mark Baullo, also known as “Magpie Mark”, was remaining circumspect. As a lifelong fan, he had seen plenty of early leads blown before.

“You can never start thinking you’ve won until the last few minutes,” he mused.

The mood soured at the unofficial Magpies epicentre in the second quarter as Richmond clawed their way back into the game.

Richmond star Dustin Martin was the target of obscenities, and Brian Taylor’s excitable commentary on the television broadcast was evidently starting to become annoying.

“Shut the f*** up, BT,” one Collingwood supporter yelled at the screen.

Richmond fans innovate to stay connected

A Zoom call with multiple Richmond supporters
Richmond cheer squad members catch up via Zoom during the game.(Supplied: Gerard Egan)

Meanwhile, Richmond’s cheer squad was watching the game from their homes and staying in touch via a video call.

While it did not match the experience of watching from the MCG, cheer squad chairman Gerard Egan said the camaraderie and passion was still there.

“There was a lot of yelling, cheering and general banter. There wasn’t any chants as such — the players can’t hear us,” he said.

Kim and Dane laugh while watching the Collingwood vs Richmond game at the pub
Richmond fan Kim McAvoy and Dane Carollo enjoy a drink at the pub.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

At the London Tavern hotel, a Tigers-themed pub a few blocks away from the MCG, the normally heaving venue had its numbers capped at just 60.

“At least we’re open,” publican Ben Perry said.

“You can still hear the scream of ‘ball!’.

“There’s an atmosphere but it’s not the same.”

Among the crowd were friends Kim McAvoy and Dane Carollo, who was proudly sporting a dramatic “iso-haircut”.

“Footy’s about being around good people and the team you love,” Ms McAvoy said.

“When we were walking to the pub we could see the lights of the MCG and it was pretty exciting — footy’s back.”

‘A draw’s a funny feeling’

Nervous Richmond fans at the pub
The tension was too difficult to bare for some, as Richmond fought back to draw the game.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

As the fourth quarter entered its final minutes, Richmond had shut down Collingwood’s forward line and levelled the score.

Some at the pub buried their heads in their hands, others wildly gestured as Collingwood scrambled the ball out of defence.

Having trailed the entire game, the Richmond fans willed their side on to take a last-gasp lead but they were beaten by the siren. Both teams were locked at 36 points apiece.

It was the first time in 103 years that Collingwood and Richmond had drawn a game.

“A draw’s a funny feeling at the best of times,” Mr Egan said, ruing his side’s missed opportunities.

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Local News - Victoria

Families of fallen officers killed in Eastern Freeway tragedy gather at fundraising relay run

The idea spread quickly as more and more officers jumped on board and on Sunday, after a final relay run in the autumn sun, First Constable Peak and dozens of others were able to present a cheque for $374,193.41 to Victoria Police Legacy.

The final group in the relay run down St Kilda Road on Sunday afternoon.

The final group in the relay run down St Kilda Road on Sunday afternoon. Credit:Darrian Traynor

The money will go to the families of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Kevin King and constables Glen Humphris and Josh Prestney, who were killed on the side of the busy Melbourne freeway.

In emotional scenes at Melbourne’s Police Memorial on Sunday afternoon, Senior Constable King’s partner, Sharron Mackenzie, and three sons, Constable Prestney’s parents, Andrew and Belinda, and Constable Humpris’ partner, Todd Robinson, came together to remember their loved ones.

Family members of the police officers who were killed in the collision attended the final leg of the relay run.

Family members of the police officers who were killed in the collision attended the final leg of the relay run. Credit:Darrian Traynor

“It’s an honour to have them here today,” First Constable Peak told The Age. “I can’t imagine how difficult this would be [for them].”

Police members started their relay run at 8am at the Police Academy in Glen Waverley, holding four bright blue batons engraved with the names of the four officers.

They then passed the police stations where the four members worked during their careers.

First Constable Peak hugs a family member at the finish line.

First Constable Peak hugs a family member at the finish line.Credit:Darrian Traynor

At 11.20am, they stopped by the side of the Eastern Freeway and a minute’s silence was held opposite the spot where crash occurred.

“We created a platform for people who wanted to grieve and needed a way to channel their grief. And the community that has been created has been really heart-warming,” said First Constable Peak.

The four blue batons were inscribed with the names of the fallen officers.

The four blue batons were inscribed with the names of the fallen officers. Credit:Darrian Traynor

“I didn’t think what I did would be this big.”

The chief executive officer of Victoria Police Legacy, Lex de Man, said he had never seen this much donated to the remembrance fund.

“It tells me the support from the public for the families, and the public want to say, ‘we are with you’, and also for what Victoria Police does in general,” he said.

A minute's silence in held at the site of the crash.

A minute’s silence in held at the site of the crash. Credit:Darrian Traynor

“[Today has] been emotional, very humbling to receive such an amount of money and for some of the families who have been able to come along, to see the appreciation on their faces.”


Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said he was exceptionally proud of his members, who had naturally come together to support each other.

“[First Constable Peak] is in her 20s and it just goes to show that the measure of a police officer is not in their years of service, it’s in the character,” he said.

Mr Gatt said he was supportive of creating a permanent memorial at the site of the crash on the Eastern Freeway, given it was a loss of “such significant scale”.

“It’s touched Victoria in a way that would make having a memorial in the vicinity of that location not only special, but fitting.”

Truck driver Mohinder Singh, 47, has been charged with culpable driving causing death over the crash and will face court again in October.

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