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Local News - Victoria

Great Ocean Road walkers airlifted in dramatic rescue


Four coastal walkers have been saved in a dramatic air rescue in strong winds on the Great Ocean Road overnight.

Two 73-year-old men and two women, age 51 and 49, were walking from Castle Cove to Dinosaur Cove along the Great Ocean Road walking trail near Glenaire when they were forced to the water’s edge by a scrub fire, according to Victoria police.

The Victoria Police air wing was brought in to winch the group of four to safety.

The Victoria Police air wing was brought in to winch the group of four to safety.Credit:Justin McManus

As the group of four tried to reach Johanna Beach, they became trapped on a rock ledge by the rising tide.

As night fell and the temperature dropped, they managed to call emergency services.



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William Callaghan’s stepfather recounts anxious wait before miraculous rescue of son


“[William’s dad] Phil and I have talked lots over the last few days and, you know, Phil’s very magnanimous – he said to me multiple times over the years and the last couple of days that, you know, you’re just as much his dad as I am.

“The feelings that Phil will have been going through over the last few days are the worst for any of us.”

Mr Ezard said William enjoyed being reunited with the family’s dogs and headed straight for the swing set after arriving home from hospital on Thursday afternoon.

“Penny [Will’s mum] had to literally drag him inside out of the cold.”

Mr Gibbs found William off the main hiking track and gave him socks, a jacket and chocolate before carrying him out of the thick, dense forest.

Mr Ezard thanked the searchers for listening so carefully to all the instructions about how to approach William, issuing a special thanks to Mr Gibbs.

William's rescuer: Ben Gibbs.

William’s rescuer: Ben Gibbs.Credit:Justin McManus

“The fact that he let you carry him is a huge thing. Will doesn’t like being touched so you obviously made him feel very comfortable. Ben is just the picture-perfect person for everyone that was up there.”

Nathan Ezard carrying his stepson William.

Nathan Ezard carrying his stepson William.Credit:Justin McManus

Mr Ezard was shopping in Drysdale, where the family lives, when he was told William had gone missing.

He jumped in the car with Ms Callaghan and drove to Mount Disappointment.

SES volunteers searching for William on Tuesday.

SES volunteers searching for William on Tuesday.Credit:Chis Hopkins

“At the time I thought, ‘He will be found in 10 minutes … we will get a call in 10 minutes and told we’ve got him’,” he said.

However, the search lasted for almost 46 hours, with more than 450 volunteer and professional searchers out looking for the lost teenager.

“The time up there was excruciating,” Mr Ezard said.

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“From my perspective, I’ve been trying to tell Phil, I understand what you’re going through is horrible. The feelings he would have been going through are the worst for any of us.

“It’s any dad’s worst fear to lose a child in the bush or whatever like that.”

Mr Ezard was standing waiting for some food at a police marshalling area on Wednesday when the family’s nightmare came to an end; a close friend told him William had been found.

“I was stunned, I suppose I didn’t react,” he said.

Penny Callaghan greets friends after finding out her son had been found.

Penny Callaghan greets friends after finding out her son had been found. Credit:Justin McManus

He rushed to find Ms Callaghan. “She saw me coming in the four-wheel-drive. And I saw her face. I knew then that she had some inkling of what was going on,” he said.

“At that point, it was not about us.”

Mr Ezard said William has an “infectious smile” and “bops around the place” when listening to happy music, such as the theme tune to Thomas the Tank Engine.

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Police rescue two people off Illawarra beach as search continues for missing man and child after boat capsizes


NSW police are searching for a missing man and child thrown into the ocean after their boat capsized in the Illawarra region on Saturday night.

Wollongong Chief Inspector Darren Brown said police received a call that people were in the water off Bulli Beach on Saturday.

A police helicopter and three rescue boats searched the waters and found an upturned vessel.

“During that search, they located two persons in the water, alive, but very cold and exposed to the elements,” Chief Inspector Brown said.

“They recovered those people and brought them to shore.”

He said two men in their 30s were taken to hospital for treatment.

a helicopter and rescue vehicles on land at night
Police began searching the waters off Bulli Beach after reports people were in the water.(ABC News: Emily Laurence)

Chief Inspector Brown said conditions on Saturday night were not ideal.

“We’ve had big seas at the moment, but I’d say it’s hazardous and dark and there’s waves out there,” he said.

“Plus it’s a point with reef and the area we’re searching at the moment has got a lot of reef.”

The area is known to local surfers as Peggy’s, with the rocky reef also popular for fishing.

Police say the upturned boat was estimated to be between 4 to 5 metres in length, but they have been unable to find out why

Police Helicopter, water police, Marine Rescue NSW and a surf lifesaving boat have been involved in the search.

Chief Inspector Brown said the rescuers would continue the search as long as possible on Saturday night and would resume in the morning if they could not find the missing people.



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Gold Coast whale rescue hero donates money raised to pay off fine to marine group Sea Shepherd


The Gold Coast hero who jumped in his tinny to free a baby whale from a shark net has been spared from paying a hefty fine, and has instead donated the money he raised to a marine activist group Sea Shepherd.

The public raised a whopping $16,402.69 on a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of Django Hopkins’ expected fines after saving the whale calf, but the fine never eventuated.

RELATED: Animal activists face ‘heft’ fines for trespassing on animal farms

RELATED: Coast guard officers get up close and personal to orcas

Sea Shepherd are ecstatic about the injection of funds.

The organisation’s Australian shark campaigner Jonathan Clark said the money would be used to buy new equipment for their rescue operations.

“It [the money] acknowledges that the feeling of Queenslanders towards these shark nets, especially in relation to the way they are regularly entangling humpback whales,” he told the Brisbane Times.

“We’re able to get some much-needed equipment to help us to continue bringing transparency to the shark control program.

“We are about to buy some equipment that is going to help us work around the 20-metre exclusion zone … which has proven very challenging for us.

A whale calf was spotted in distress by a drone operator about 7am May 18 off Burleigh Heads and authorities were called in to help.

But a “suspected communication issue with the Department of Fisheries” delayed the rescue of the trapped mammal.

Frustrated, a civilian, Django Hopkins took matters into his own hands, jumping into his tinny and speeding towards the whale calf.

He helped free the whale, which then promptly swam away.

“I saw the whale and I was like ‘that’s pretty cool’. Then I saw he was in the net and I thought ‘that’s not that cool’,” Mr Hopkins told media after the incident.

“So I went over and had a look, and then the adrenaline kicked in.

“He [the whale] was really cut up … the actual net was going into his flesh.

“I had a knife, but I didn’t really need to use it, he just had his left pectoral fin wrapped up.

“Eventually, I got him enough out of the rope so he could just break free.”

But tampering with shark nets is an offence in Queensland that can attract hefty fines. So too is deliberately coming in close proximity to a whale.

On the way back to shore, Mr Hopkins passed the Department of Fisheries team responding to the incident. He said the government workers told him he would be fined for his actions.

Fines can reach as high as $55,000, according to the GoFundMe page.

“I’m in trouble,” Mr Hopkins said at the time. “It was an expensive day, but whatever. There are laws. They (fisheries officials) do a good job. It is what it is.

“I thought most people would have done it. You just got to pay the price sometimes.”

The possibility of a fine was met with outrage by the general public, and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner hastily clarified that the man wouldn’t be punished for his good deed.

However, Mr Hopkins was given two infringement notices.

“I encourage people to allow the professionals to do their job and make sure they release any marine life that may be unfortunately caught up in this equipment,” Mr Furner said.

“It is dangerous equipment, we have obviously seen loss of life of people themselves being entangled.”



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Scott Morrison reveals plans to rescue economy with cash grants for new homes


Scott Morrison has revealed he’s planning a renovation rescue for the economy with cash grants for new home builds and even some larger renovations to protect tradies’ jobs.

The Prime Minister has confirmed today that Cabinet is finalising a new home construction stimulus plan with details to be announced shortly.

Some state governments including New South Wales are also looking at stamp duty reductions, a move that could slash the cost of buying a home and even downsizing for retirees.

Stressing the focus was on new home builds, the Prime Minister did not rule out cash grants for some renovations but the details of which projects will qualify is not yet finalised.

The scheme is designed to expand the existing first home buyers schemes encouraging new home builds to families that have previously purchased a home and want to upgrade.

“We are more interested in larger projects and new home builds and things like that,’’ the Prime Minister told 2GB radio.

“Because you get to the end of this year, about September when the economists are telling us … you are looking at a bit of a drop off. That’s not good for tradies and it’s not good for jobs.”

The Prime Minister insisted that the scheme to support new home builds would be different to the projects the Rudd Government rolled out during the Global Financial Crisis that were criticised by the Coalition.

“This is not building school halls, we saw that done through big contractors and small contractors not getting the work. So we want to make sure that whatever we do in this space, and there’s still a way to go here, we want to make sure the jobs get created locally,’’ he said.

Mr Morrison said the government was working to ensure that compliance was addressed.

“The challenge of all of these programs we are engaged with to get the economy moving is that you’ve got to try and avoid the rorting and people taking advantage of it,’’ he said.

“Even though Australians have been amazing during this crisis, there are still those that will try and do the wrong thing.

“We are not making announcements on that today. We’ve gone from the big, broad strokes of JobKeeper and JobSeeker but as time goes on we will be able to narrow it in and focus on those sectors that need support.”

The Prime Minister will also confirm today that the Western Sydney airport metro line will be fast-tracked in a joint announcement with the NSW Government.

“We will start it this year,’’ he said.

“We’re both excited about that. Getting these big projects moving even more quickly is something we have been working together on. There’s a lot of work going on out there and it’s great for jobs and it’s great for Western Sydney.”

The Prime Minister first flagged a stimulus package for the housing construction industry and the arts weeks ago.

“We’re very mindful of the challenges in the media and the creative arts area. We’re very mindful of the areas in housing construction or in parts of the country, whether it be in North Queensland or other places, that are deeply affected and will be more deeply affected than other parts of the country,’’ he said.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders has previously warned that urgent government support was needed for the construction sector.

“Building and construction is shaping up to be one of the industries worst hit in the long term by the COVID-19 economic crisis,’’ she said.

“We know from previous downturns that it takes four times longer for our industry to recover than the rest of the economy.”

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers welcomed the support for new home builds on Sunday warning the construction sector was under pressure.

“Already, before the crisis, construction was relatively weak and homeownership was at 60 year lows, so we had a challenge there,’’ he told Sky News.

“That challenge has been exacerbated by this coronavirus crisis. In two or three months, we are very worried that construction will fall off a cliff and that’s why we have been making very constructive suggestions about what the Government might do.

“We’re very worried about jobs for tradespeople, in particular in the building industry.”



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Local News - Victoria

Victory to the rescue with free, four-week PE classes for kids


There’s only so many times Michelle Candiloro’s three high school-aged children can walk around the block or shoot hoops in the backyard while cooped up at home in remote learning mode.

Her children Marco (aged 12, in year 7), Nathalia (15, in year 10) and Riccardo (17, in year 12) usually walk 30 minutes to-and-from Koonung Secondary College in Mont Albert North every day, as well as getting outside for PE class, recess and lunch play, and their usual sporting pursuits.

Nathalia Candiloro and brother Marco take part in Melbourne Victory's remote learning activities at home in Box Hill.

Nathalia Candiloro and brother Marco take part in Melbourne Victory’s remote learning activities at home in Box Hill. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

“Now they’re not getting access to any of that being at home,” Ms Candiloro says.

Delivering remote learning is tough. That’s not been lost on anyone with children, or teachers, in the time of COVID-19. The issue has been a tinder-box for debate at state and federal political level.



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Cash ‘down payment’ to rescue Victoria’s devastated arts sector


A resilient cultural and creative sector would be critical to the state’s economic recovery after the shutdown, Mr Foley said. Victoria’s creative industries are estimated to contribute $31 billion a year to the economy and employ 260,000 people.

The federal government has announced a $27 million national support fund for indigenous and regional arts. However its JobKeeper package does not cover thousands of casually employed or contracted creative and cultural workers.

The new state initiative includes a $13 million strategic investment fund to be shared by almost 100 non-government arts and cultural organisations including festivals, performing arts companies, museums and galleries.

Organisations can use the money immediately to cover urgent expenses such as rent, utilities and staff salaries, as well as investing in works and programs for the future.

The Comedy Festival, cancelled at the last minute and left with a multi-million dollar black hole where its ticket receipts would have been, will be one of the beneficiaries.

La Mama Theatre, which was unexpectedly stripped of its federal funding by the Australia Council at the start of April, will also benefit, as will Heide Museum of Modern Art, the Melbourne Fringe, the Ballarat International Photo Biennale and Clunes Booktown Festival.

Fringe creative director Simon Abrahams said the coronavirus lockdown would cost them $370,000 in revenue “which is a lot for our organisation, we’re seeing cuts everywhere”.

The new money would help them support artists and push ahead with their rescheduled festival in November.

Robyn Gawenda, executive director of the Footscray Community Arts Centre – another beneficiary – said their financial outlook had become “scary” under the lockdown.

They had projected a loss of around $350,000 in the next six months without revenue from box office, workshops, NDIS or venue hire, while costs such as utilities, security and maintenance continued to mount.

The organisation employs around 32 full-time staff and normally pays more than 500 artists for their work each year.

“I had to focus on survival,” Gawenda said. “If we disappear a giant pipeline of work would evaporate.”

The new money “will allow us all to sleep a bit more comfortably knowing this will help underpin the survival and longevity of Footscray [arts centre]”, she said.

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The government has also set up a new $2.2 million fund to distribute grants of $10,000 and $5000 to ‘micro-organisations’ and individual artists, in addition to $1.6m in arts grants due to be announced on Monday.

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Buenos Aires rescue flight brings stranded Aussies home


More than 150 Australians who’ve been stranded in South America since the coronavirus outbreak are being brought home on a rescue flight, with one of the pilots paying tribute to his World War Two veteran grandfather on Anzac Day.

The jet, QF7028, departs Buenos Aires in Argentina at 2pm local time on Saturday bound for Melbourne.

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Qantas captain Nick Thorne will proudly have on the flight deck a photograph of the late Keith Thorne, who survived the sinking of SS Somerset and HMAS Canberra, and a kamikaze attack on HMAS Australia.

He said his grandfather, a Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman, was the last member of his family to visit Buenos Aires in 1940 when it was a neutral port.

“Anzac Day is all about remembering what happened,” he told News Corp.

“And I know that my grandfather, he’d be pretty proud of the fact that his grandson is doing something like that on Anzac Day.”

Captain Alex Passerini, who is leading the flight, said the crew volunteered to be part of the federal government-coordinated effort to bring those stranded home.

“I’m really proud, along with the whole crew who volunteered for this service, to be playing our part to bring these people home,” he said, the NZ Herald reported.

“It’s a real privilege representing the national carrier on such a special flight on Anzac Day.

“I also look forward to seeing the look on people’s faces as they approach the aeroplane and see that kangaroo on the tail and hopefully make them feel like they are just about home.”

There are also 20 New Zealanders on board the 15-hour, 11,600km flight.

It is due to land at 7.30pm on Sunday.

RELATED: Pilot’s special Anzac tribute flight

On its Smart Traveller website, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges those who have decided to return to Australia to check their route carefully and stay in touch with their airline or travel agent.

Earlier this month, the government announced a partnership with Qantas and Virgin Australia to bring Aussies home and has since facilitated other flights from regions such as Lima and Buenos Aires in South America.

“We know many Australians overseas are facing real difficulty getting flights home,” Smart Traveller states.

“In recent weeks, there have been fewer international flights available as countries have introduced travel restrictions and closed key transit hubs.”

Executive Traveller reports Australians stranded in South Africa will board a rescue flight from Johannesburg to Melbourne on Wednesday, April 29.

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Fresh food exports, medical supply imports assured by $170 million Government COVID-19 rescue package – Politics


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April 01, 2020 06:00:32

The Australian Government will re-launch hundreds of flights to deliver fresh produce to key international markets as part of a $170 million boost to an export sector grounded by the coronavirus emergency.

Key points:

  • The Government unveils a $170 million support package for the international export sector to deal with pandemic-driven supply chain issues
  • Hundreds of flights to key markets are expected to deliver freight stopped by coronavirus air travel restrictions
  • Flights will also allow medicines and medical equipment to be imported

The support package includes $110 million to coordinate flights from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to deliver fresh produce to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Return flights, under the program, will provide an opportunity for Australia to import medical equipment and medicines.

Today’s announcement by Trade Minister Simon Birmingham also waives $10 million in Commonwealth fishery fees and adds almost $50 million to the Government’s existing export grants program to reimburse marketing costs to exporters.

The exports lifeline follows months of uncertainty for the seafood sector, hit hard when markets in China collapsed early in the COVID-19 crisis.

Other winners include red meat, dairy and horticulture exporters that have relied on cargo in passenger aircraft to deliver their produce.

Since new regulations on air travel were introduced to curb the spread of the pandemic, exporters, fishers and farmers have struggled to maintain access to high-value overseas markets.

The Government has appointed former Toll Holdings managing director and former Linfox chief executive Michael Byrne as its international freight coordinator to oversee the program, working with airlines and exporters.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“Necessary public health restrictions are already placing massive pressure on business viability and job security,” Senator Birmingham said.

“We can’t afford for our farmers, fishers and exporters to be under similar pressure just because they can’t get their goods onto a plane.

“When these flights return to Australia there will be capacity for them to transport vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment, which will be critical to the ongoing health response.”

West Australian abalone exporter Brad Adams has seen his sales plummet since Hong Kong, Singapore and China went into lockdown.

Approximately 80 per cent of his product is sent overseas, with the remaining 20 per cent sold around Australia.

Before the pandemic, his ASX-listed company, Ocean Grown Abalone, had a market value of $30 million. That’s now halved.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

He said the Government freight assistance wouldn’t solve all his financial problem, but it was a lifeline.

“The market we had in Australia has collapsed because there’s no restaurants open, there’s no Chinese tourists, so that important market is gone and probably will be gone for a long time,” he said.

“Overseas, obviously demand isn’t what it used to be, but at least we can now get some out.”

Mr Adams said, with restrictions lifting in Asia, he had already started to receive orders from customers.

But the lack of commercial passenger flights in and out of Australia had left his product stranded.

“As the COVID-19 restrictions have been reasonably successful, people are now on the streets, eating out as usual, so we’re seeing our customers start placing orders again,” he said.

“So we thought great, we’ll send you some product. Then we started finding out about the options of getting air freight — there was no way of getting it out.”

Jennie Franceschi sources fresh fruit and vegetables from around Australia, to send to customers overseas, mainly in Asia.

In the past four weeks her export business has ground to a halt.

While she did not expect much improvement in the months to come, she said the Government freight assistance would be an important tool to help secure ongoing trade.

“By keeping Australian exporters exporting and keeping our produce out there, what it will do is secure the position for Australia in those countries,” she said.

“Because if other countries move in, then we’ve got to try and win it back, which is hard slog.”

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RAAF pilots facing hellish conditions in rescue mission


Spooky video from inside the cockpit of an army aircraft shows the hellish conditions pilots face as they try to reach bushfire affected communities.

The footage shared by Air Vice-Marshall Joe Lervasi shows a RAAF transport plane flying through red, smoke-filled skies in near-zero visibility as it tries to land.

“Our people are highly trained and professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” Air Vice-Marshal Lervasi said in a post on Twitter.

He revealed heavy smoke prevented some flights from reaching Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in NSW.

A barge is on its way to Mallacoota to rescue the remaining few hundred people cut off after fires destroyed access.

About 300 people who want to leave the holiday town near the NSW border remain in the fire-ravaged town.

“We know it’s frustrating for them, we made several attempts yesterday to get Blackhawks into them but visibility was too poor and it was too dangerous,” state response controller Gavin Freeman told Nine today.

“We have got a barge on its way in there now so we will be able to get some people out. That should arrive early this morning and we will be able to get people on a boat and get them out.”

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On Sunday more than 400 people were rescued from the town by military helicopter.

Supplies such as food, water and diesel for power generators have also been delivered.

On Saturday the MV Sycamore and HMAS Choules helped about 1100 people escape the town.

Firefighters and the defence force are working to open up the roads and clear access to the community.

About 4000 people became stranded on the Mallacoota beach last week when fire suddenly cut off the town.

Communities across East Gippsland had been told to get out before fire hit, but Mallacoota was not one of them.





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