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MS diagnosis changes Joshua’s dream, ‘but life is so much richer’ as an accessibility advocate


The biggest dream for Joshua Marshall is to watch his young children play sport.

The 37-year-old dreamed of becoming a registered nurse as a teenager, but a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis four years ago derailed his career path.

“I’ve got two young kids, one of which is a six-year-old boy who loves to play soccer. I cannot get courtside to watch him actually play,” Mr Marshall said.

“I have to stay at the top of the hill to watch him. I want to be part of my son’s soccer game.”

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system, interfering with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

Joshua now uses a wheelchair full time and said he has come to a new-found understanding of disability.

A man in a surf-friendly wheelchair with giant wheels grins as he is wheeled into the water by surf lifeguards.
Toowoomba’s Josh Marshall lives life to the fullest with regular visits to the beach with family when a specialised sand wheelchair is available.(Supplied: Josh Marshall)

“I thought I understood what it meant to have a disability until I found myself in a wheelchair,” Joshua said.

Joshua is the founder of a new disability charity, Inclusion Access, dedicated to improving the accessibility and inclusive practices of venues in Toowoomba and South-East Queensland.

‘Good access means good business’

Inclusion Access is insured and up and running, with the help of board director, Kim Stokes.

“We are here so that one day there will be a situation where, as a dad, you would always be able to get onto that soccer field and that generation would never know any different than ‘My dad came to watch my game every Saturday’,” Ms Stokes said.

While the cost of access is a barrier, Ms Stokes believed it made business sense for venues to make the change.

“With one-fifth of our population having a disability and requiring better access and people who use other walking frames or other walking devices, for instance, better access is needed,” she said.

‘Life is so much richer’

Today is International Day of People with a Disability, an event that aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 4.4 million Australians had a disability, or 17.7 per cent of the population, in 2018.

The likelihood of a person having a disability increased with age, with one in two Australians over the age of 65 having a disability.

ABS data also showed that participation in social activities away from home decreased with age, while one-third of people with a disability avoided situations because of their disability.

Joshua is now focused on expanding Disability Access and reaching as many people who need help as possible.

“When I left work as a registered nurse after doing that job for a long time I thought ‘What am I going do with my life? What has life dealt me?'” he said.

“But life is so much richer because you are really helping the situation, helping society, you’re helping enable people to live a better life and that makes my life so much richer.”



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Australian News

F1 driver Romain Grosjean credits halo with saving his life after horror crash at Bahrain Grand Prix


Formula One driver Romain Grosjean says he has had a change of heart about recently introduced safety technology after it saved his life in a horror crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 34-year-old’s car was cut in two and exploded in a fireball after ploughing through a steel crash barrier on the opening lap of the race.

Grosjean climbed out of the burning wreck and back onto the track and was flown to a nearby military hospital, where he was treated for burns to his hands.

Hours after the accident, Grosjean’s Haas team posted a video of the Frenchman speaking from his hospital bed, with his hands bandaged.

Grosjean admitted he had not been a supporter of the new “halo” technology which was made mandatory in 2018.

The system, designed to protect drivers, includes a curved titanium bar to safeguard the head in crashes.

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“Just wanted to say I am OK — well, sort of OK,” a smiling Grosjean said. “Thank you very much for all the messages.

“I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but [now] I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve had in Formula One and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.

“So, thanks to all the medical staff … hopefully I can write to you quite soon some messages and tell you how it’s going”.

Marshals use a hose to try to put out a fire burning fiercely in a F1 car in Bahrain.
Romain Grosjean’s Formula One car burned fiercely after crashing through a barrier on lap one in Bahrain.(AFP/DPPI)

Grosjean had veered to his right to avoid another driver crashing, then clipped the wheel of Daniil Kyvat’s car before spearing into the barrier.

The impact cut his car in two, with the back half flying off to the side but Grosjean still inside the front half.

Footage appeared to show a halo-shaped hole in the crash barrier.

A close-up of Romain Grosjean's Formula One car, including the protective halo around his head.
The titanium halo, seen on Romain Grosjean’s car in Bahrain, sits in front of the driver to protect the head from crashes or projectiles.(AP/Pool: Giuseppe Cacace)

More to come.



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Local News - Victoria

Bright sparks plug new market giving old cars an electric lease on life


“And there’s just been massive, massive interest. It’s taken us by surprise to be honest,” business development manager Emma Sutcliffe said.

Converting classics to electrics now accounts for about 30-40 per cent of the business and EA’s crew of coders, high-voltage electricians and fabricators have seven vehicles finished or in the intricate process of conversion.

Emma Sutcliffe and EVolution Australia founder Russ Shepherd with a client's 1979 Toyota landcruiser. They have been set the unique challenge of giving it a 500km battery range.

Emma Sutcliffe and EVolution Australia founder Russ Shepherd with a client’s 1979 Toyota landcruiser. They have been set the unique challenge of giving it a 500km battery range. Credit:Darrian Traynor

“I think it’s more interesting to have something with a story behind it rather than something new,” said Mr Shepherd, who takes particular pleasure in the contradiction of state-of-the art technology beneath worn and weathered panels.

“People love the look of classics, but they’re often terrible to drive and not particularly safe. So it’s not just about putting in a new motor, it’s re-purposing, up-cycling, giving it a new lease on life – fundamentally, it’s making them daily drivable.”

One of the cars in the Clayton South shop is a 1963 EJ Holden wagon that Ms Sutcliffe bought out of a paddock for $6000. By the summer, she will be driving it every day to visit customers or to trade shows.

Another in the shed is a 1979 HJ47 Toyota Landcruiser, still in good condition, owned by Perth-based client Chris Bausor, who is paying about $100,000 for the conversion.

Much of that price is down to a unique challenge he set EVolution Australia: instead of the standard 300 kilometre range, Mr Bausor, a keen off-roader, wants 500 kilometres.

“I just love the body, the shape – everything about that era of Landcruiser, whether it’s a ute or troop carrier – they are an absolute work of art,” Ms Bausor said.

“I was looking at recommissioning the diesel engine and taking it around Australia. Then I came across the EV guys and I started looking into it more and more and it just looked like a fun solution.”

When he moves back to Melbourne early next year, Mr Bausor hopes to rent it to other enthusiasts on the weekends he is not using it for himself.

While the new 2.5 cent per kilometre tax announced in the Victorian state budget last week was an industry-wide blow, Ms Sutcliffe said there was no stopping the rise of electric vehicles.

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“The writing’s on the wall with this stuff but there are still petrol vehicles being made and sold to the Australian market,” she said.

“So we’re going to see this group of vehicles in Australia that essentially no one’s going to want to buy. I don’t know when that point is going to be, but I think probably 2022-23.”

She said EVolution Australia was now focused on lowering costs and time frames so that everyday Australians with more common cars could ultimately save money by choosing a conversion over a new electric model.

“Toyota Corollas, for example, can we get it to $5000 and where it takes a day to do and gives you a similar range to a petrol vehicle,” she said.

“That’s where I think the market is for us in the 5-10 year mark.”

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Australian News

Surf Life Saving Australia asks beachgoers to Adopt an Hour


Lifesavers across Australia are asking beachgoers to donate $1 for every hour they spend at Australia’s beaches this summer in an ambitious plan to thank volunteers.

In the new Adopt an Hour ad campaign, patrons are urged to consider making a donation in recognition of the 1.4 million hours surf lifesaving volunteers dedicate on patrol each season to keep people safe at the beach.

It comes after 125 people drowned in Australian coastal waters in the 2019-20 season, of which 86 per cent were men.

There are more than 180,000 volunteers at 314 clubs across the country, making Surf Life Saving the largest volunteer movement of its kind in the country.

Surf Life Saving Foundation CEO John Brennan OAM said the Adopt an Hour campaign compared the 1.4 million hours that volunteers dedicated each season with the seconds it took for someone to get into trouble or drown.

“Ahead of this summer, we’re asking the public ‘what’s an hour of safety worth to you and your family?’ Mr Brennan said.

“Our volunteer surf lifesavers dedicate over 1.4 million hours each year on patrol to keeping our beaches safe and are there for the public in the longest few moments of their life.

“We’re asking the public to consider donating $1 for every hour … so that when you need them the most, they’re there to help.”

The campaign also targets young men who are the most at risk of drowning, with “bravado” blamed for their over-representation in beach drowning deaths.

SLSA general manager coastal safety Shane Daw ESM said the ad campaign featuring a male drowning victim was designed to highlight that males continued to be over-represented in drowning data year after year.

“Over the last 16 years we know that young males have become the major group who is at risk and involved in drowning incidents,” he said.

“We know that with young males there is a little bit of bravado, there’s a little bit of risk taking – a lot of it isn’t deliberate, we get into positions that we don’t realise can cause us harm.”

SLSA has a $1.4 million target, and beachgoers can donate via adoptanhour.com.au.



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Local News - Victoria

Teen fighting for life after Healesville car park brawl


“The details of what has occurred are not yet fully clear and that’s part of our investigation,” he said.

“There was a male who was assaulted and is currently at the Royal Melbourne Hospital receiving treatment.”

He said police were investigating whether anyone else was hurt in the brawl. They are unsure what started the fight and how those involved are connected.

“Where the victim was located was where it all occurred,” he said.

“There is CCTV of the incident, we will be reviewing that CCTV so we are urging anyone with information in relation to this offence and what’s occurred there to please come forward and tell us what you know.

“We are reviewing all CCTV and will identify all people involved.”

Leading Senior Constable Austin said this kind of violence was devastating for victims and their loved ones.

“I think we live in a very good community however sometimes these things occur and it’s up to individuals to take responsibility.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident or who recognises the man is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or file a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au



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Local News - Victoria

When quarantine hastened the end of an ancient people’s way of life


They had already experienced quarantine, too, after a false start from Scotland, when their ship hit rocks and had to be taken back to harbour for repairs. Over several weeks in port, scarlatina (scarlet fever), measles and at least one case of smallpox were detected. They were finally allowed to sail, though seven children had died.

The sorry saga is told by Olive Moore, a descendent of one of the ship’s immigrants, in her 1990 book Flying the Yellow Flag.

Eleanor McGlinn's 1870s painting of Melbourne as it looked from the south bank of the Yarra in 1840, based on an 1840 sketch by George Henry Haydon.

Eleanor McGlinn’s 1870s painting of Melbourne as it looked from the south bank of the Yarra in 1840, based on an 1840 sketch by George Henry Haydon.Credit:State Library

As the ship came through Port Phillip Heads in 1840, it was either typhus, spread – like the plague – by fleas, or typhoid fever, from contaminated water or food.

Ten of the 157 immigrants who had left Greenock, on Scotland’s west coast, were dead, and 50 were listed as sick.

Melbourne had no quarantine facilities when the ship, the barque Glen Huntley (later usually written as Glen Huntly in Melbourne), arrived on April 17.

Encircled by sea, Australia had been concerned from the start of European settlement about the necessity of a quarantine system to make the most of its natural border.

Early European settlers had witnessed what happened when disease, introduced from Britain, scythed through the Indigenous population.

In fact, the arrival of the Glen Huntly would hasten the destruction of Aboriginal culture within fast-growing Melbourne, though not through infection.

First, however, the newly-appointed superintendent of the Port Phillip District, Charles La Trobe, ordered the Glen Huntly to anchor off what is now Elwood – distant from settled Melbourne.

Melbourne’s first medical man, Dr Barry Cotter, hastily organised a quarantine tent camp at what was known as Little Red Bluff, now Elwood’s Point Ormond.

There were two separate camps – the “healthy camp” for those not displaying signs of sickness, and the “sick camp”, overseen by the ship’s doctor, Surgeon Superintendent John Brown. Three men died in the sick camp within days of landing – the only fatalities in quarantine.

Security was the first concern. While a “Revenue cutter” – a Customs boat – kept other craft away from the Glen Huntly, five members of the military stood guard at the camp. Furthermore, according to a document signed by La Trobe, “a mounted trooper of the Border Police will … act as a means of communication between the Constable and the authorities when necessary”.

The tiles at Elwood Pier commemorating the quarantine of the Glen Huntley at Little Red Bluff.

The tiles at Elwood Pier commemorating the quarantine of the Glen Huntley at Little Red Bluff.

The Border Police were less police than thugs established in late 1839 to “protect” squatters from the Aboriginal people whose land was being stolen. They were convicts, former military men jailed for criminal behaviour, and were unpaid apart from being supplied with horses, rations and equipment.

If you were to visit Elwood Pier at the end of Head Street, Brighton, you would be able to view a set of tile panels created in the 1990s by artists Hedley Potts and Tony Hutchison commemorating the old quarantine station. One of them features a scruffy fellow on a broken-down horse – the unnamed, unpaid convict who was Melbourne’s link between its first quarantine set-up and the town’s administration.

Somehow, this arrangement did not lead to transmission of fever to Melbourne’s wider population, unlike the mayhem caused when COVID-19 escaped from hotel quarantine in the city this year, possibly borne by a low-paid security guard.

The unfortunate passengers and crew from the Glen Huntly had no shelter as luxurious as a hotel, of course: they had nothing but flimsy tents as the chilly days and colder nights turned from autumn into winter.

Supplies were brought to them from the market gardens then established inland around what is now called Ripponlea. The track to the quarantine station became known as Typhus Road. Today, it is Glen Huntly Road.

Those carting the supplies did not enter the camp: they left the provisions at a distance, marked by a barrel.

But the Indigenous people of the area, the Yalukit Willam clan of the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, had gathered food in the area forever. Eels and vegetables came from swamps nearby, and three times a week women collected shellfish from the reef off Little Red Bluff – which had suddenly become the quarantine site. They refused to believe they were at risk from a disease they believed only affected white people.

La Trobe settled the matter by issuing an edict on April 19, 1840, ordering the assistant protector of Aborigines, William Thomas, to expel all Aboriginal camps from Melbourne.

The city seen from Point Ormond in modern times.

The city seen from Point Ormond in modern times. Credit:Vince Caligiuri

And so the ghastly story of the Glen Huntly morphed into the even ghastlier story of the destruction of Indigenous culture.

The last of the Glen Huntly’s passengers left the quarantine station on June 13, 1849.

The bluff itself was gone, levelled for landfill, by the early years of the 20th century.

But the effects of quarantine, it seems, go on forever.

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Local News - Victoria

What human rights advocate Nyadol Nyuon learned about life in Melbourne’s lockdown


We all live parts of our lives stepping up to the “world”. What I learned from the lockdown was to step down into myself.

The philosopher and poet David Whyte writes about the act of living as a series of invitations to have certain conversations, with ourselves, at different stages and thresholds of our lives. He calls this the “conversational nature of reality”.

The loneliness that came with lockdown gave Nyadol Nyuon a chance to reflect on her life.

The loneliness that came with lockdown gave Nyadol Nyuon a chance to reflect on her life.Credit:Justin McManus

The pandemic forced a conversation I had been waiting to have but in the busyness of turning up to modern life, to work, to community, and to motherhood, I had run out of time to be alone.It took the aloneness of isolation, the silence of the world shutting down, to hear that invitation into myself, an invitation into a deeper consideration of that ever-present question: what is my life?

As life slowed down, not travelling to work, not catching up with friends and family, I had many extended moments of silence. I read poetry. I wrote. I went for long purposeless walks.



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‘Life threatening’ thunderstorms to hit Qld voters


Queensland is on Saturday afternoon being lashed with “life threatening storms”, as nine storm cells make their move over southeast Queensland.

The Bureau of Meteorology said hail of 13cm had been reported at Hillcrest, south of Brisbane, and almost 30,000 properties are without power on Saturday afternoon.

West of the city, the Queensland Police and QFES have declared an Emergency Alert for Lockyer Valley, Ipswich, Laidley, Jimboomba and Amberley residents, where severe thunderstorms are forecast which would bring destructive winds and giant hail.

Another alert has been activated for parts of the Gold Coast, namely Woodridge, Beenleigh, Southport and Coomera as a dangerous storm tracks over the city.

Massive hailstones were detected in Logan, south of Brisbane.

Trains were suspended on the Beenleigh and Gold COast lines between Helensvale and Kuraby due to overhead powerlines being down, prompting delays of up to 60 minutes.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned people in southeast Queensland to prepare for more dangerous thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon and night.

“The Bureau is warning the situation is volatile and continuing to change quickly, and for their own safety people should actively monitor the Bureau and Emergency Services for updates and warnings as they will continue to change.

“Some of these storms are fast-moving and fast-forming, so people should consider whether they need to be outside or on the road.

“The threat will continue throughout the afternoon and into tonight.”

In Springfield Lakes, one car was completely damaged.

One Brisbane resident made the best of a bad situation, subbing out his regular whiskey stones for hail stones.

ABC Queensland’s weather guru Jenny Woodward said it was the “first time” she has seen nine storms in a warning area.

Energex said at least 1000 customers had lost power in Brisbane, nearly 12,000 on the Gold Coast, and more than 16,000 in Logan.

The election day storms prompted a polling booth to shut down during Saturday’s state election.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland confirmed a polling booth in Ipswich had been shut down after a hailstorm lashed the electorate.

EARLIER:

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned people to prepare for giant hail and locally destructive wind gusts as three storm cells move towards the coast.

Two are classified as very dangerous, while all three are expected to move over Ipswich towards the Gold Coast.

Ipswich is expected to cop the brunt of the storms about 2.30pm.

Hailstones 5cm in size have already been recorded at Seventeen Mile, while some up to 7cm in size were recorded near Gatton.

The Sunshine State can expect temperatures significantly above the October average as its residents decide between incumbent Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and LNP leader Deb Frecklington.

Bureau meteorologist James Thompson said overall Queensland could expect warm and sunny weather but areas south of Rockhampton were set to be battered by storms.

“There’s a lot going on in our big state today,” he said.

Mr Thompson said people living in areas including Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast were in for destructive winds, giant hail stones, heavy rain and the potential flash flooding after days of rainfall.

Meanwhile the state’s eastern fringe will experience temperatures three to five degrees higher than normal for this time of year, with Brisbane to hit 31, Mackay 32, Townsville 32, Cairns 34, Longreach 33 and Mt Isa 35.

NSW and ACT

Parts of northern NSW are also advised to brace for severe thunderstorms that could carry high winds and hail to the region.

BOM meteorologist Shuang Wang said towns from Taree to Lismore could expect the worst of today’s weather, while Sydneysiders should also be prepared for Halloween storms.

Sydney is expected to remain cloudy throughout the day and hit a maximum temperature of 22 degrees, while also copping up to 20mm of rain.

Severe thunderstorms that could bring flash floods are also possible in Newcastle, the Central Coast and Wollongong, while Canberra is set for a downpour.

VICTORIA

Melburnians can expect cool to mild temperatures with a top of 18 degrees on Saturday, as parts of the state’s northeast could see severe thunderstorms causing heavy rainfall, according to the BOM.

Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup is set to be blessed with clear skies and a top of 28 degrees.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Perth is expected to peak at 25 degrees on Saturday with heavy rain predicted across WA’s southwest for the weekend, mostly on Sunday.

Showers are predicted over the Kimberley, eastern Pilbara, North Interior, northeast Gascoyne, Goldfields and over southern and eastern parts of the South West Land Division.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Top of 21 for Adelaide with slight chance of morning showers on the coasts of the Peninsulas, Kangaroo Island and the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Cool to mild in the state’s south to warm in the north and far west. Moderate to fresh southeast to south-westerly winds.

TASMANIA

Highs of 19 in Hobart and 20 in Launceston expected on Saturday.

Mostly fine across the Apple Isle, with some light showers predicted.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Darwin should be partly cloudy and hit a top of 31 today, while Alice Springs will be 30 and sunny.

Tennant Creek could hit 36 degrees on Saturday.



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Cautious optimism as Melbourne springs back to life


Uncertainty also continued to surround the biggest date on Victoria’s economic calendar – the state budget – with Premier Daniel Andrews declining to say when it would be delivered.

But Mr Andrews said on Wednesday that the government, which has secured a $24 billion line of credit in response to the crisis and says it is prepared to embark on an unprecedented spending program, will announce the date for the budget when it is ready.

The Age was unable to obtain any real-time figures on consumer spending for Melbourne’s first day of freedom but data on pedestrian movements in the CBD on Wednesday points to better times ahead for city retailers, after months of keeping their doors shut.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, 1916 people were logged walking through Bourke Street Mall, almost five times more than the average foot traffic at that time over the past month, with above average foot traffic also recorded outside Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations, at Melbourne Central and on Lygon Street.

Mr Gandolfo said it was too early to say how quickly the “real economy” might bounce back and start to have an impact on Victoria’s soaring jobless levels.

But he said that many small firms, particularly in the building and construction sectors, would be able to pick up where they left off when the pandemic and lockdowns struck. Things were also looking positive for retail and hospitality outlets which had managed to survive the long shuttering, he said.

Council of Small Businesses Director David Gandolfo is cautiously optimistic for Victoria's economic recovery.

Council of Small Businesses Director David Gandolfo is cautiously optimistic for Victoria’s economic recovery. Credit:Josh Robenstone

Mr Ganodlfo, who works as a business lending consultant, said the conditions for businesses seeking loans were reasonably buoyant in stark contrast to the 1990s recession.

“It’s not like the early ’90s when there was no money around, there is plenty of money around, capital markets have money, interest rates are low,” Mr Gandolfo said.

“We’ve got clients who have are loading up with approvals for acquiring assets to grow their businesses because its been like they’ve been waiting for the green light to go.

“The lenders are a little bit cautious apart from the first-tier banks, but there are certainly good second-tier lenders out there, who’ve got a good appetite to lend.”

RMIT economist Leonora Risse said the performance of other state economies in bouncing back from their lockdowns provided clues to Victoria’s prospects, but that economic forecasting was very difficult in the present environment.

“It’s about those industries that were hardest hit, accommodation, food services, arts and recreation, they took the biggest hit,” Dr Risse said.

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“The recovery of the Victorian economy depends on the degree to which those industries have stayed afloat.

“It is my expectation that we will see a recovery but that recovery will plateau, it won’t go back to the full force pre-pandemic levels because we don’t have that international [visitor] market.

“We still have higher levels of joblessness, so you don’t have that spending capacity in the economy.”

Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said the reopening was a good sign for Victoria’s economy.

“There’s plenty of pent-up demand in Melbourne to do things and go places,” he said.

But he said some Victorians may have become accustomed to online shopping during the lockdowns and could be slow to return to bricks and mortar stores.

Two weeks ago the Bourke Street mall was deserted.

Two weeks ago the Bourke Street mall was deserted.Credit:Jason South

“Online retail sales increased threefold during lockdown and online stores have had an enormous number of consumers come through who had never tried purchasing online, who are now doing it very regularly,” he said.

He said it was hard to say when Victoria’s economy would rebound, but expected consumer spending to return to something similar to pre-COVID levels in November.

He said the reopening would be a boost for employment statewide, but that the gains would be seen in hours worked among staff who were temporarily stood down during the lockdown rather than new jobs being created.

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Temple & Webster keen on life outside the bubble as e-commerce lights up


“Within a week, the business started doubling, and in the first few months we were scrambling, really,” he says. “We even artificially slowed our growth in the first couple of months to make sure the customers who were shopping with us for the first time would have a good experience.”

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Sales were doubling, sometimes near tripling, month on month, and so too were Temple & Webster’s shares. In March, the retailer’s stock price hit a low of $1.52. It closed the session on Wednesday at $10.65 a share, growth of over 500 per cent.

The bump has placed the retailer firmly into the ‘market darling’ category and enter the club of a select few e-commerce superstars such as Kogan (up 400 per cent) and Redbubble (up more than 950 per cent).

Like many chief executives, Coulter claims he’s not one to watch the company’s share price, however, he does admit that with greater size comes more pressure, along with a greater duty to investors.

He’s also dismissive of the concept of there being a ‘bubble’ in the e-commerce market currently, even as investors have flocked to smaller online retail stocks such as MyDeal and Adore Beauty, buoyed by the performance of other retailers during the COVID period.

“None of these companies are just overnight successes, they’ve been around for a very long time,” he says. “What is happening is that there’s an acceleration of trends that have already been going on.”

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Temple & Webster CEO Mark Coulter.

“These companies have listed and taken advantage of good market conditions, but this is the next generation of retail. It was always going to happen eventually, coronavirus has just accelerated it.”

Coulter does admit that there will come a time where the heady growth figures seen by e-commerce retailers over the past 12 months will slow, but he still expects digital retailers to maintain solid growth rates for a significant time yet, arguing that the adoption rate for online shopping has been vastly, and irreversibly, accelerated.

“We’ve had a bunch of customers, who would have eventually discovered online one day, suddenly experiencing it very quickly. And once that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he says.

He points to US online furniture company Wayfair, which continued to grow at 40-50 per cent year-on-year even after the initial boom of online shopping adoption in the country, as an example of where e-commerce retailers might sit following COVID-19.

A lockdown boom in demand for home furniture has catapulted Temple & Webster firmly to 'market darling' status.

A lockdown boom in demand for home furniture has catapulted Temple & Webster firmly to ‘market darling’ status.Credit:Louise Wellingtin

While Coulter is confident about the continued growth prospects for his company and its e-commerce peers, the former McKinsey analyst is far less sanguine about the prospects for traditional retailers such as Myer and David Jones.

Myer has been quick to tout its online division as not only growing quickly but bigger than some of its close competitors, including Temple & Webster. At $422 million, this is factually accurate, but ignores the “albatross around the neck” of traditional retailer’s expensive leases and sizable store footprints, Coulter says.

Successful omnichannel retailing, which the likes of Myer, JB Hi-Fi and Adairs aspire to requires a thriving store network, Coulter says, something which department stores are especially struggling with.

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“The key is that you have to do both. If your store network isn’t performing and no ones going into the stores to buy … you’re left with all those costs. And no matter how many online sales you do, you’ve still got all these costs,” he says.

“In some categories, that’s easy to do, because there are reasons why people want to go into a store. For department stores its harder, because a lot of their categories online retailers already do very well.”

“So they really have to reinvent what their stores are for, and if they can’t do that then it doesn’t really matter what they do online.”

Coulter believes this will mean online-only retailers could start to have small bricks and mortar presences as traditional retailers thin out in shopping centres, bringing up companies such as Apple as examples of well-executed omnichannel stores.

However, customers won’t be seeing Temple & Webster rolling out a flagship location anytime soon, Coulter says.

“We need to stick to our knitting, and our knitting is being an online retailer.”

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