community – Michmutters

Woman stabbed multiple times in Hunter region, another woman in custody

A woman has been stabbed several times to the upper body in the New South Wales Hunter region.

Emergency services were called about 10am to Segenhoe Street at Woodberry near Maitland where they found a 39-year-old woman with multiple stab wounds.

She was treated at the scene and later transferred to John Hunter Hospital in a serious condition.

A 37-year-old woman was arrested at the scene and taken to Raymond Terrace police station for questioning.

Police officers went from door to door speaking to neighbours, who recalled hearing an argument before the alleged incident.

Police officers walking past a house on a suburban street
Neighbors recall hearing arguing before the incident.(ABC Newcastle: Giselle Wakatama)

Police say the women are known to each other, but there is no evidence to suggest they were in a domestic relationship.

Chief Inspector Rob Post, from Port Stephens-Hunter police, said officers were yet to establish if there was a motive behind the attack.

“There’s been a number of witnesses identified,” he said.

“We are appealing for anyone who has information to contact police, and anyone who might have any dashcam footage or CCTV footage.

“I believe this is an isolated incident and no one should be concerned.”



Kowanyama’s takeaway liquor license has good and bad sides for remote Cape York community

To legally buy alcohol from this Queensland pub you must blow in the bag – and you must blow zero.

Kowanyama, a remote town on western Cape York, was one of seven Indigenous communities in Queensland where prohibition was introduced in 2008.

In 2014, the local canteen reopened serving restricted amounts of alcohol.

This year the community has gained more freedom regarding alcohol, successfully applying for a takeaway license.

But that freedom is restricted.

Each person is limited to buying 12 mid-strength drinks per evening, and only from Wednesday to Saturday between 5pm and 11pm.

To enter the canteen patrons you must sign in, take a breathalyser test, and return a zero blood alcohol reading—even to buy takeaways.

A laminated sign hangs from a fence warning people not to bring alcohol on a premises in Kowanyama.
Some Kowanyama residents register their homes as ‘dry places’, with penalties for anyone who brings alcohol in.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby )

They can then, for example, have four drinks at the bar and take eight home.

Producing a members or visitors card at the bar allows staff to keep tabs on how many drinks people have had, while customers are kept informed of their limit by a flashing digital display on the cash register.

A similar canteen has this month opened on the opposite side of Cape York, at Lockhart River — another of the seven communities where prohibition was introduced in 2008.

Venues on Mornington Island and at Pormpuraaw, on western Cape York, are also in the process of applying for extensions of their existing liquor licences.

‘Hardly anyone here’

Many in Kowanyama gathered for the annual Rodeo Ball this month, hosted at the canteen.

Thomas Hudson, President of the Kowanyama Sport and Recreation Association which runs the canteen, said the aim of the ball was to bring the community together.

An Aboriginal man dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt stands under a string of balloons reading 'Rodeo Ball'.
Kowanyama Sport and Recreation Association president Thomas Hudson spearheads the annual Rodeo Ball.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)

“For people to dress up and be proud of themselves because we don’t do that every day here in our community,” Mr Hudson said.

Attendance at this year’s event, the first since its inception where takeaway alcohol has been available, was down on previous years.

The steady stream of people buying from the canteen takeaway counter before its 8pm closure confirmed what ball attendee Clive ‘Smokey’ Gilbert suspected – that many were choosing to drink at home.

“There’s hardly anyone in the canteen here,” Smokey said.

“When no takeaways were on this pub used to be crowded but you don’t see that now, they’re always going home now.”

Two Indigenous men stand side by side under fluorescent lights in a bar.
Clive ‘Smokey’ Gilbert (L) and Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Mayor Robbie Sands (R) attended this year’s Rodeo Ball.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)

Fellow Kowanyama resident Gwendolyn Dick said despite the below average attendance, the ball did succeed in bringing the community together during an extended period of sorry business.

“We had four deaths just recently, and another one in the last week or so,” Ms Dick said.

“It’s good to see all the families from in the community come together all in one because we often can’t during the sorry business and the funeral.”

Return of rights and responsibilities

Most in Kowanyama welcome the return of the canteen and of takeaway alcohol sales, including the community’s women’s support group.

Security providers and canteen customers said the increase in takeaway sales had resulted in a reduction in fights and anti-social behavior at the pub.

“It’s something good for the community,” Smokey said.

“It keeps them out of trouble and people enjoy their beers at home watching the football.”

Silhouetted figures bathed in fluorescent light in an outdoor bar.
Rodeo Ball attendance was down in 2022, with takeaway sales meaning more people are choosing to drink at home instead.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)

For Michael Yam, a former mayor of the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council the resumption of takeaway alcohol sales at the community’s canteen is a return of the rights and responsibilities of the townspeople.

“It’s about time they gave us something back,” he said.

“It’ll probably minimize the sly grogging because, as we know, in our community there’s always opportunists that are going to do it.”

And he said there were benefits to people choosing to drink at home, rather than at the canteen.

“Some families take their drinks home so that they can be home with their kids instead of drinking in the club all the time, away from their little ones.”

Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Major Wayne Butcher said that community’s newly opened canteen had been “14 years in the making.”

“It’s created 10 new jobs in the community overnight so it’s great to see a lot of young people working as crowd controllers, security or people serving alcohol behind the bar and preparing food,” he said.

“That’s the other side of the coin that we don’t get to look at too much or focus on.”



Community events cancelled, emergency services stretched as volunteer numbers fall

From the Dragon Boat Regatta in Broome to the Orange Mardi Gras festival on the other side of the country, community events are being canceled and emergency services are struggling to cope as the number of volunteers plummets.

The trend has triggered soul-searching among community groups and charities — is it a temporary blip linked to the COVID pandemic, or have Australians become more selfish?

“What we’ve seen is a longer-term decline in volunteering rates, and that’s been amplified by the COVID pandemic,” Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce says.

Paramedics gather around a person on the ground in a park with an ambulance parked nearby
Emergency service crews are staffed mainly by volunteers in many parts of regional Australia.(Supplied)

“There are also changes in how people want to volunteer and participate — there’s increasing demand for flexibility that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the structure of formal volunteering programs.”

The 2021 census data recorded a 19 per cent drop in volunteering since the last snapshot in 2016. The finding is backed up by more regular, in-depth social surveys done by the ABS.

A graph showing a reduction in numbers of a decade period
The number of Australians volunteering has reduced significantly in recent years.

The biggest decline has been recorded in the 15-24 year old age group, the same age group posting an increasing number of controversial ‘good deed’ stunts on social media.

The depletion of the volunteer brigade is affecting sports clubs, emergency services and long-established organizations like Rotary and Lions, that help run events and raise funds for local charities.

Country towns suffering

The impact is most noticeable in regional areas, where event organizers and first-responders are more likely to be unpaid.

As a result, some events are being cancelled, such as the annual Dragon Boat Regatta in Broome.

A wide shot of stalls, people and dragon boats lined up along turquoise waters of a bay.
The Dragon Boat Regatta sees dozens of teams race in Broome’s Roebuck Bay.(Supplied: Abby Murray Photography)

It has been a popular fixture in the town for almost 20 years, and raises tens of thousands of dollars for charity. But this year there weren’t enough people to organize or run it.

“The practical impact in regional and remote Australia is that social activities and the cohesion that takes place by community coming together is lost or significantly reduced,” Mr Pearce says.

“And that has implications for the livability of these communities in which people choose to spend their lives.”

The Dragon Boat Regatta is usually organized by the local Rotary chapter, which currently has only a handful of members.

It is hoping to find enough local people to help with the nine-month organizing process to revive the regatta in 2023.

A group of drag queens blows kisses and laughs.
The Drags on Boats team debuted at the 2015 Dragon Boat Regatta, where most ended up in the water.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

Events fighting across the country

Meanwhile in Alice Springs, organizers are struggling to pull together enough volunteers to hold the beloved Henley-on-Todd Regatta, which raises money for local Rotary Club projects.

Every August, teams of people race on the dry Todd River in boats without bottoms in front of a crowd of about 4,000 people.

Secretary Ron Saint said getting the right number of volunteers had been “tenuous.”

“We would like to have 130 but we’ve got about a hundred. So we’re at that point where we’d like to have 12 people doing a certain role but we’ll have nine or eight,” he said.

Three men stand in a home-made cardboard boat ready to race down a dry riverbed.
Organizers are hoping more locals will get involved to ensure the future of the Henley-on-Todd river race.(ABC News: Alexandra Fisher)

“It’s not going to stop the event … but you’d want a few more [people] in case someone can’t make it.”

Mr Saint believed some people who might volunteer were now trying to make up for paid work lost during COVID lockdowns.

“People are time poor and as we try to get the economy kick started again it’s difficult to commit the discretionary time for volunteer work,” he said.

In March, a proposed inaugural Mardi Gras celebration in Orange, in central west New South Wales, was canceled for the third year in a row when the small team of people organizing the Rainbow City Festival event became “exhausted” from repeatedly having to postpone it .

A scene from a mardi gras event.
The Rainbow City Festival will focus on providing more smaller-scale events in the future. (ABC News: Kevin Nguyen)

What’s causing the decline?

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that people aged 40 to 54 are most likely to volunteer.

Women and men participate at a similar rate, with the greatest number of people volunteering with sporting clubs and religious groups.

People living in remote areas are most likely to volunteer, but the rates in regional and urban areas are almost identical.

Social researcher Hugh Mackay has been monitoring Australian attitudes and lifestyle habits for six decades.

“This is a weird period we are in at the moment, that helps explain the decline of volunteering,” he says.

“We’ve been changing in ways that have made us more individualistic, much more concerned about ‘me and my rights and my entitlements and my identity’.

An elderly man leaning against a tree and smiling.
Ever the optimist, social researcher Hugh Mackay sees a silver lining in the COVID cloud.(Supplied)

“And that’s all working against our natural proclivities to be kind and compassionate and cooperative and help each other out.

“But it’s also worth noting that organizations that want volunteers have probably not been quite nimble enough, and not understanding all these societal shifts and the changing culture.”

dr mackay says the main change has been a withdrawal from community involvement.

This has been caused by an increase in the use of social media to stay “connected’; people living alone; and the trend for having fewer children, resulting in fewer opportunities to develop local friendships through schools and kids’ sporting clubs.

“We’ve also become too ‘busy’, and being ‘busy’ is a kind of hiding place, a barrier between us and others,” he says.

“It’s the enemy of social cohesion and the enemy of volunteering, because as long as we can convince ourselves we’re too busy to help other people, we can get away with it – we have made being busy a virtue.”

Are young people the problem?

Dr Mackay rejects the notion that young people are too selfish to volunteer, saying a more nuanced shift has occurred.

“Millennials have grown up with a deep sense of impermanence and have adopted a mantra of ‘let’s keep our options open’,” he says.

A large Chinese dragon performs for a crowd of people with palm trees in background
Every year dozens of volunteers are needed to be the ‘legs’ of Sammy the Dragon, as part of Broome’s Shinju Matsuri.(Supplied: Abby Murray Photography)

“Committing to anything long-term runs against the ethos of this generation, so they will be happy to help out, but reluctant to join up to anything that requires a weekly meeting or a long-term program.

“One of the favorite occupations of older people through history has been to bash younger people and complain about them.

“But it’s worth remembering that the rise of individualism is not a generational phenomenon, it’s happening right across the age ranges.”

All at sea as volunteers jump ship

Some organizations are adapting by asking people to help out with one-off events, or ramping up social media recruitment campaigns.

But sometimes the challenge is retaining the volunteer recruits who do sign up.

In the waters off Broome, it is a matter of life or death — every few weeks the volunteer Sea Rescue team is called out to save a sinking or stranded vessel.

A group of men in fluro shirts sit in a boat.
Volunteer skipper Gareth Owen briefs crew on a planned training exercise.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

Skipper Gareth Owen says cyclones, crocodiles and big tides make it a hazardous job.

“It’s vital we’re able to crew the vessel, because the calls can come at any time,” he says.

“It’s always very close as to whether we have enough people.

“It’s a major problem, because we’re low on numbers and the commitment to training is quite high, so it can be difficult to maintain people’s enthusiasm.”

Mr Owen, who originally signed up to learn marine skills with his young sons, says he’s not surprised the latest census data shows a drop in volunteer numbers.

“I think we’ve seen over the past few years that some people have become a bit more self-centered and they don’t go out as much because of COVID,” he says.

“So I guess a lot of people have prioritized families, and that has put pressure on volunteer groups like us.”

Annie Stephenson has been volunteering with the group for two years, and coordinates recruitment.

A woman in a fluro short stands smiling in front of a boat.
Annie Stephenson says she benefited from volunteer organizations as a child, so is keen to contribute.(ABC News: Erin Parke )

Ms Stephenson says a recent advertising campaign attracted more than 20 people, but the numbers dropped away as they realized the commitment involved.

“It’s one thing to recruit people, but retaining them can be hard,” she says.

“Because there’s so much training involved, we’re looking for people who can commit for two years minimum, but people’s circumstances change, they’ll get a new job or have family commitments, which is totally understandable.

“The key thing for us is to have a big enough pool of qualified crew to share the load and fatigue management, and to make sure people don’t get burned out.”

One of the new recruits is 18-year-old Byron Schaffer.

He says he doesn’t know many people his age who volunteer regularly.

Two men in fluro shirts on a boat at sunset
Byron Schaffer (left) is training as a Sea Rescue volunteer in Broome.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

“I think some teenagers see it as something that ‘adults’ do, people who are a bit more settled down,” he says.

“I really enjoy it, it’s something to do in your free time that makes you feel good.”

What does the future hold?

Volunteering Australia says there has been a small increase in participation rates this year, following the easing of COVID restrictions.

But they are still well short of the volunteer numbers of five years ago.

Volunteer skipper Gareth Owen hopes recent natural disasters might prompt Australians to sign up and offer their time and expertise.

Volunteer Qld firefighter from the Rural Fire Brigade
Thousands of Australians volunteered during recent bushfires and floods.(Supplied: Queensland Department of Community Safety )

“With the floods and the firefighters you see so many awesome volunteers doing things, and I think people forget they are volunteers because they’re doing such an excellent job and they’re at it for so long,” he says.

“Sometimes people might think it’s part of the service we get for being Australian, and not realize we need to put our hand up and look out for each other by volunteering.”

Dr Mackay, now aged 83, remains optimistic.

“I think this rise of individualism marks a really weird, aberrant period in human history, and it’s not actually who we are,” he reflects.

“I think our true nature as communitarians, cooperators, and kind and compassionate people who look out for each other will re-emerge.”

“The pendulum is going to swing back, I am sure of it.”

Additional reporting Steven Schubert



Fixing weekend discharge key to improving capacity at South Australia’s hospitals

A senior doctor at Adelaide’s biggest hospital says the health system is under “siege” and pinpoints Mondays as the busiest day.

SA’s struggling health system was again in focus this week due to the death of a 47-year-old man while he waited for an ambulance in suburban Adelaide on Monday.

Problems around ramped ambulances, overcrowded emergency departments and full inpatient hospital beds, trouble doctors and nurses on any day of the week.

But each Monday a perfect storm of complications aligns, cranking up pressure on health staff and patients.

So, what makes Monday the busiest day in SA’s hospitals, and what can be done about it?

Headshot of Dr Peter Subramaniam at an Adelaide hospital
Dr Peter Subramaniam says having fewer doctors working and community services unavailable on weekends leads to lower discharge rates.(ABC News: Ethan Rix)

A weekend hangover

As medical lead of the surgery program at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and chair of the Australian Medical Association Council, Peter Subramaniam knows South Australia’s health system well.

He says it is under “siege”.

“The system is under pressure and there is a significant demand and our capacity to meet that demand is not working,” Dr Subramaniam said.

The qualified vascular surgeon pinpointed Mondays as the busiest days for hospitals.

“You can see from the data we have that ours are lower on the weekend compared to weekdays,” he discharge said.

“So that contributes to the log jam that occurs on a Monday.”

A masked nurse adjusts their blue plastic glove in an operation room.
Experts say more resources are needed every day of the week, including weekends.(Rawpixel: Chanikarn Thongsupa)

Dr Subramaniam said fewer doctors working to patients over the weekend had an impact discharge.

“Most acute care hospitals operate on reduced staffing,” he said.

But that’s not the only thing bringing down discharge numbers.

“We rely heavily on community services to be available and accessible over weekends and often that’s difficult to organize,” Dr Subramaniam said.

“You might need a rehab bed or a step-down bed or a community nursing service to be able to manage the patient once they’re discharged.

“Once we’ve discharged the patients, they need to go somewhere.”

Elizabeth Dabars stands outside a hospital in Adelaide
Elizabeth Dabars says a criteria-led discharge policy was never fully implemented.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

monday blues

Chief executive of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association’s SA branch Elizabeth Dabars said the “absence of senior clinicians” on the weekend was driving up ramping times.

Professor Dabars wants to see nurses, allied health professionals and junior doctors able to discharge more acute patients under something called criteria-led discharge (CLD).

“It’s a win for the people wanting to go home and it’s a win for the broader community who would have better access to hospital beds,” the qualified nurse said.

CLD has been hotly debated for decades and was a policy directive issued by SA Health in 2019.

A car drives past an emergency department building
The state’s emergency departments have been under extreme pressure.(ABCNews)

Professor Dabars said it was never fully implemented.

“That has not really seriously been put in place and that is a blocker to people being discharged,” she said.

“It doesn’t actually make sense for it not to be enabled.”

But the former president of the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, Dr David Pope, said the number of patients that would fit the CLD criteria was small.

“Item [CLD] works quite well in some areas but I defy anyone to go around and find patients sitting around in the hospital for want of a doctor to come in on a Monday morning,” Dr Pope said.

“That just doesn’t happen.”

Headshot of Doctor David Pope
David Pope says elective surgery admissions make Mondays busier than other days.(ABC News: Ethan Rix)

He said a crowded start to the week was a side effect of elective surgery.

“That worse effect on a Monday is purely a function of when elective surgery patients arrive,” he said.

The doctor said the idea that senior clinicians were unwilling to provide care on weekends was damaging to an already stretched workforce.

“Doctors are in the hospitals 24/7, so if there’s a need for a doctor to be in the hospital they will be there if they exist,” he said.

What will change?

The state government said it was looking to make criteria-led discharge “a regular part of hospital operations.”



Site of fatal Walhalla road accident set for safety upgrades

The site of a fatal car accident in Victoria’s east, where a 4WD carrying four teenagers plunged over a cliff, is set to be widened and have safety barriers installed.

The crash in June this year on Walhalla Road just outside the historic town of Walhalla, claimed the life of a 19-year-old passenger.

There have been at least two similar accidents at the corner — one a fortnight later, while the other in 2017 prompted community calls for safety barriers at the time — to no avail.

Local Mayor Michael Leaney, who runs a hotel in the town, said the upgrade was something the local community and visitors to the historic town would “welcome wholeheartedly.”

“This has been a long process to get to where we are but we are pleased that we’ve been able to get the solution of having barriers installed at what is a dangerous corner on the Walhalla Road,” he said.

Tire marks show where the car left the road.
A 19-year-old man died when the car he was traveling in left the road and plunged over a cliff in June.(ABC Gippsland: Kerrin Thomas)

“We hope with the installation of these barriers, and the other safety measures that have been installed at this location, that we won’t see any further incidents at this place, and there won’t be any further fatalities or serious injuries.”

Barriers to be installed in coming months

The planned upgrades come after Regional Roads Victoria and Victoria Police visited the site last month to investigate how safety could be improved.

Walhalla 2017 crash
Locals lobbied for safety barriers to be installed after an accident in 2017, to no avail.(Supplied: Michael Leaney)

“New signage has been installed following a recent safety audit and we plan to widen the road and install safety barriers to further improve safety,” Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said.

The new signage includes advice to drivers to reduce their speed to 25 km/h. Road-side foliage has also been trimmed.

Specialized safety barriers will be needed to suit the narrow section of road, with work to install them expected to start in coming months, following completion of detailed planning and site assessments.

Line marking and road resurfacing is also on the list of jobs.

Walhalla town sign
The remote hamlet of Walhalla is a popular spot for tourists.(ABC Gippsland: Kerrin Thomas)

Mr Leaney hoped it would be completed quickly.

“We hope that this will happen before the busy summer season, although there have already been a number of improvements at this corner,” he said.

“There’s been big warning signs installed, there is some road treatments that are going in as well at the same location.

“Certainly, people are more aware of the dangers of this corner and adding a barrier will just finalize the matter and hopefully, will make it safe for locals and visitors alike.”



Almost 200,000 Australians don’t have safe drinking water, new report finds

Almost 200,000 Australians are often forced to drink water containing unsafe levels of uranium, arsenic, nitrates, fluoride and E.coli, according to the peak body for water suppliers.

A further 400,000 people across Australia regularly drink water that fails aesthetic standards, a new Water Services Association of Australia report has found.

Researchers discovered unsafe drinking water in 115 locations, while hundreds more had water that failed aesthetic standards.

Towns and communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia returned the worst water quality results, with remote Indigenous communities found to be the most affected by unsafe drinking water.

Jackie Mahoney and Pam Corbett, who live in Alpurrurulam, 500 kilometers north-east of Alice Springs on the NT-Queensland border, say poor water quality causes a wide range of illnesses and problems.

“It makes you itchy … and causes kidney problems and makes you sick in the stomach,” Mr Mahoney said.

“People with sensitive skin were treated for scabies, but it wasn’t scabies. Children’s scalps were dry and itching, and lots of calcium on the taps and clogged pipes caused problems.”

A calcified shower head
Hard water in remote areas causes plumbing problems and contributes to chronic health issues. (ABC Alice Springs: Steven Schubert)

The community recently installed a filtration system which, they said, had helped to improve the water quality, but it did not remove everything and many people still suffered health issues because they had been forced to drink poor quality water for years.

“Before that it was worse,” Ms Corbett said.

“We didn’t know we were drinking no-good water. It made our stomach sick, and… our kids.”

Ms Corbett said she and her partner had approached governments, the Central Land Council and other funding bodies for a new water bore for the community but progress had been slow.

“I’m worried because of our kids, their future, the next generation. We need to fix this. We need new water soon, ASAP,” Mr Mahoney said.

“It’s our homeland. We’re there for life and we should have good water.”

600,000 rely on poor quality drinking water

The Water Services Association of Australia report shows 115 locations across remote Australia exceeded safe guidelines at least once in 2018-19, while 408 locations did not meet aesthetic standards, affecting more than 600,000 people.

More than 40 per cent of all locations surveyed were remote Indigenous communities, the report said.

A sign in Yuelamu about using water wisely
Many remote Indigenous communities struggle with drinking water access, including Yuelamu north-west of Alice Springs. (Supplied: Adam Lovell)

But association executive director Adam Lovell said the number of locations and breaches of the guidelines actually could be much higher because there was not enough testing being done.

“There’s hardly any data to understand what the water quality looks like,” he said.

“When we talk about closing the gap, we don’t know what that gap actually looks like right now.”

Unacceptably high levels of elements like uranium or arsenic could result in long-term chronic health issues, Mr Lovell said, but the most common risk was E.coli.

“It’s immediate. If a water supply is not being disinfected properly then there’ll be gastrointestinal problems in the house,” he said.

“Over the longer term you’ll see that the chemical impacts build up and build up and build up and they’re the chronic impacts, which are much harder to see immediately and then much harder to treat.”

A man drinks water in a remote Indigenous community.
Adam Lovell tests drinking water in Yuendumu, NT. (Supplied: Adam Lovell)

‘Blame shifting’ over water quality

Mr Lovell said in Australia’s major cities there were usually hundreds of water samples taken a day, testing for microbial contaminants like E.coli and chemicals.

“Australian drinking water guidelines should preferably be legislated and regulated across all states and territories, which currently it is not,” he said.

Report author Eric Vanweydeveld said there were too many government departments and other organizations involved in service provision for remote communities, which led to blame shifting and inaction.

Two men stand in a desert community.
Eric Vanweydeveld and Adam Lovell say there’s too much bureaucracy in managing water in remote Indigenous communities. (Supplied: Adam Lovell)

“If there is a water leak in the street, and you are a member of a remote community and you try to understand ‘who do I need to talk to fix this leak?’, you will deal with probably seven or 10 different departments ,” he said.

The report has recommended that the federal government spend $30 million to establish a national water monitoring program.

“That will help us understand what closing the gap looks like,” Mr Lovell said.

Steven Porter, from the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, said it had been working with the Central Land Council to secure $5.2 million from the National Indigenous Affairs Association to bring two new bores online but there was still a $1 million shortfall.

“In doing that we can access better sources of water and improve the quality of water for the local community,” he said.



Good Samaritans thanked by Melbourne mother after stepping in during roadside toddler seizure

The mother who pulled her unconscious son from a car and cradled him on a busy north-west Melbourne roadside has been reunited with the good Samaritan couple who rushed to help her.

Madeleine Crawford, and 20-month-old Stirling, met Thi and Cindy Le of North Sunshine at an emotional weekend reunion.

It was the first time they had come together since Ms Crawford put out a call to find them so she could finally say thank you.

Suffering a fever, chesty cough and struggling to breathe, Stirling was being driven by Ms Crawford to the Royal Children’s Hospital emergency department on August 3 when he started having a seizure in the back seat.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

PlayAudio.  Duration: 8 minutes 48 seconds

Melbourne mum searches for ‘good Samaritans’ who came to her aid when her son had a seizure

A clean bill of health

Desperate for help, Ms Crawford pulled over on the corner of Churchill Avenue and Ballarat Road in Maidstone, grabbed Stirling from the back seat, and stepped onto the median strip.

Ms Le and her husband had been driving only a few vehicles behind and did not hesitate after spotting Ms Crawford gesturing wildly at passing traffic.

“I immediately knew something was wrong,” she said.

“I didn’t know what else to do so I told Madeleine I’d hold baby Stirling while she drives to the closest hospital.

“Thankfully my husband was a quick thinker and drove in front with hazard lights on to escort us to the hospital safely.”

They made it to Footscray Hospital where Ms Crawford ran inside and Stirling was immediately triaged by the nurses.

Reunited via radio

There was no time to exchange details.

Ms Le said when the pair arrived home, she could not stop thinking about what had happened.

“As a mother myself, I knew how distressing it would’ve been to have experienced that,” she said.

“But I would never have thought Madeleine would try to find us. I just did what I could at the time to help.”

Both families were reunited on Sunday after Ms Crawford put out the call to find them via ABC Radio Melbourne.

“It was incredible to be able to express our gratitude in person,” Ms Crawford said.

“It was a very special afternoon — lots of hugs and smiles.”

Two woman hugging, smiling and looking at the camera.
Ms Crawford wanted to thank the couple who came to her aid.(Supplied: Madeleine Crawford)

A clean bill of health

Stirling was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus but has since been issued a clean bill of health.

Ms Crawford said it was his seizure that had caught her off guard and urged other parents to learn how to respond to a similar situation.

In a twist, the Le family revealed their own granddaughter, Aria, had been through a similar experience only months ago.

Their daughter, Anita, had phoned them for help after her sick toddler started having a seizure.

According to the Victorian government, about one in every 20 children between six months and six years old will experience a febrile seizure while suffering a high fever. While alarming, it is not epilepsy and it does not cause brain damage.

“It is absolutely terrifying if it happens to your child,” Ms Crawford said.

“I would recommend parents read the guidance so they can be as prepared as they can if or when it happens.”



Mount Isa man in custody over alleged murder of 13yo girl

Mount Isa man Trevor Caulton has been arrested and charged with murder after he allegedly drove a vehicle into a crowd of people, hitting and killing a 13-year-old girl.

Emergency services were called to the corner of Delacour Drive and Dent Street in the Mount Isa suburb of Pioneer after midnight on August 6 and treated the girl for critical head injuries.

Police confirmed she succumbed to her injuries and died at the scene.

Mr Caulton’s lawyer appeared on his behalf via phone at the Mount Isa Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

A full brief of evidence was being prepared and the case would appear for mention at Mount Isa Magistrate’s Court on September 26.

The victim was identified and her family had been contacted, police said.

Dent and Trainor
Paramedics treated the victims at the site of the incident near Dent Street in Pioneer.(ABC North West Queensland: Emily Dobson)

Fears of retribution prompt police warning

Police have called for calm in the community after the tragedy.

Police man talking in front of microphones at press conference.
Mount Isa Police Acting Superintendent Smith asked the community to assist investigators.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

“I do have concerns about unrest in the community — this is a distressing case and this poor girl’s life has been taken,” said Mount Isa Police Acting Superintendent Jason Smith.

“We acknowledge the grief in the community and we implore everyone to remain calm around this incident and to assist police with the investigation.

“Sometimes in our community there can be an urge from some to seek retribution. Please know the law has been executed, the alleged offender is in jail and police have done as much as they can.”



Hundreds of Victorian renewable energy projects in limbo after program funding ceases

A decision to cease funding for a successful statewide community renewable energy program is leaving hundreds of projects important to Victoria’s de-carbonisation targets in limbo.

The Victorian government has not re-funded the Community Power Hub program, which ran in six areas across the state for the past 12 months.

Program leaders say the abrupt end to the program will create an uncertain future for the community renewable energy projects it was designed to help progress.

Not-for-profit organization Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions (BREAZE) led the Community Power Hub for the Grampians region, which supported 40 projects through the feasibility stage.

President Mary Debrett said many active community members would continue driving their projects to completion, but others would struggle to get off the ground without external support.

A group of people stand in front of a banner on green lawn with trees in background.
Grampians Community Power Hub worked on a renewable energy project with the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens.(Supplied: Mary Debrett)

She said she was disappointed the program was not re-funded.

“It will be those communities that have proactive people that will be the ones advantaged and those that don’t will be disadvantaged,” Ms Debrett said.

“For those organizations and communities where we have done feasibility studies, they are going to be needing some extra support.

“They are slow-burn projects that take a lot of work.”

Grampians Community Power Hub staff and volunteers worked with communities in Ballan and Pomonal to investigate community battery options and residents in St Arnaud on a renewable energy hub.

A group of people stand on mulch between sculptures of colorful people with trees in the background.
The Pomonal Power People group worked with the Grampians Community Power Hub on a community battery feasibility study.(Supplied: Keith Ward)

They facilitated energy audits at Grampians Health and J Ward in Ararat and the installation of solar panels at golf clubs, disability services, schools, community halls, and sporting clubs.

Slow, complex projects

Natimuk Community Energy president Edwin Irvine said their community solar farm project had been progressing for 14 years, but the Grampians Community Power Hub assisted them through crucial steps.

An aerial shot of Natimuk in the Wimmera region of Victoria.
Natimuk residents are working to create a solar farm owned by the community.(ABC Back Roads: Dai Cookes)

He said Grampians Community Power Hub staff and volunteers helped them through a complex design and approvals process as well as governance and finance decisions, which they could not have done on their own.

“Before doing this, I didn’t know anything at all about energy regulation or the physics of a solar farm and how it connects with the grid. I needed that help,” Mr Irvine said.

“I can imagine there are a lot of other community groups that are going to need that help.

“If that help is not there, those other community groups are going to find it really, really hard.”

energy revolution

Experts say community renewable energy projects will play an important role in Victoria’s renewable energy transition.

A portrait photo of a man with glasses.
Professor Pierluigi Mancarella is the energy systems program lead at the Melbourne Energy Institute.(Supplied: Pierluigi Mancarella)

Melbourne Energy Institute’s Professor Pierluigi Mancarella said sharing energy on a community level made sense because of cost and efficiency.

He said smaller renewable-based power plants with batteries and storage should replace “gigantic” fossil fuel-based plants and community-level batteries would be more efficient than household ones.

Professor Mancarella said supporting community renewable energy projects would be fundamental to Victoria’s decarbonisation process.

“There is so much learning… it is a competing revolution,” he said.

“It completely destroys the business models, commercial models and regulatory environment, which we have operated in so far.”

New funding scheme

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the successful Community Power Hub program had been funded for 12 months and progressed 200 proposed projects in that time.

“We hope these local success stories inspire more renewable energy projects in the community, taking advantage of our rebates and programs for households, community groups, and businesses,” she said.

A group of people watch wind turbines being installed
Hepburn Wind has been a community energy pioneer, establishing a community-owned wind-farm near Daylesford.(Supplied: Amy Kean)

The Victorian government has created a repayable grants program, where at least $50,000 is available for community group renewable energy projects, but loans must be repaid in five years.

The money is a low-interest-rate loan to help groups secure third-party funding.

The Victorian government has legislated a target of 50 per cent renewable energy for the state by 2030.



These plane enthusiasts track flights near Melbourne Airport, and more people are joining

For Liz Carnuccio there is nothing quite like the sound of a plane flying directly overhead.

“You can really hear the roar of the engine and feel the wind hit your face, it’s pretty amazing,” she said.

She’s part of a plane-spotting group in Melbourne with hundreds of members.

These enthusiasts spend their free time traveling to viewing areas outside Melbourne Airport in Tullamarine, where planes fly right above, on their way to land or take-off.

“I am a fan of the whole thing,” Liz explained.

a woman is smiling at the camera.  She is holding a phone and wearing a red jacket.
Liz Carnuccio says she enjoys every element of plane spotting.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

“Traveling to the airport, watching plans, tracking them… and imagining where people are going.”

She shares her aviation passion with her cousin Kieren Andrews.

“It’s something that my parents used to do when they were younger and then took us out as kids as well,” he said.

At the viewing area, plane spotters track flights on apps on their phones. Members each have a favorite plane model to spot.

A man in a black jacket who is smiling.  He is holding a camera.
Kieren Andrews says his parents used to spot plans.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

“At the moment the 737 is pretty good,” Kieren said, although he does miss the 747s.

Fellow plane spotter Linda Ramage has loved planes since she was a small girl but said she didn’t always get a positive response when telling people about her passion.

“They look at me weirdly,” she laughed.

“But to me it is no different to anyone liking cars, trucks, trains. We just love planes.”

a woman with short hair holding a red camera.  She is smiling and wears a black jacket.
Linda Ramage says some people are judgmental when she tells them about her passion for plans.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

There are two dedicated viewing areas outside of Melbourne Airport.

Plane spotters say they are so popular they have become a local tourist attraction in Melbourne’s north-west.

Here, children flock to the food trucks serving hot chips and ice cream, while couples rug up around steaming cups of coffee and look to the skies.

a person holds a phone with a map open on it.
Plane spotters use phone apps to track flights.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Linda said since lockdowns ended and flights returned, the viewing areas had become busier and busier.

“The more people that get involved with our hobby, our passion that is great,” she said.

“The more the merrier.”

Chris has seen nearly half a century of aviation

While train and bird spotting are more recognized pursuits, plans have always been Chris Daley’s love.

It has been nearly fifty years since he first started plane spotting.

He said when he first started, the jets “were a lot louder, a lot smaller, a lot smokier.”

a man with a beard and glasses who is smiling.  he is holding a camera.
Chris Daley hopes plane spotting will keep growing in popularity.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Chris has watched nearly half a century of aviation history from right under flight paths.

He can’t even estimate how many photos he has taken of plans in that time.

“It would be impossible to count them, just in the last 10 years it would be multiple tens-of-thousands,” he said.

Like his fellow enthusiasts, he hopes his hobby continues to dream of popularity.