SIMON WALKER: Topping off the guru lists

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive
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THERE are certain times in every life when one wonders if one has been successful.

That time might arrive with a glance at one’s superannuation balance, and the dazzling lack of zeroes at the end of it.

Or it might be a glance at one’s waistline and how it’s impeding one’s view of one’s less-than-dazzling super statement. This might not be a bad thing.

Or it may come with a glance at one’s kids, who may or may not get out of juvie within the month.

We’re all different and it’s natural to look for ways to measure up, preferably with a sense of humour, because you might need it.

Inevitably, if you wonder long and hard enough, you’ll end up on the internet reading “guru lists”.

Those scientifically compiled tables of signs, omens, psychopathies arranged in no particular order by people who may have sold pyramid schemes in a former life.

Designed to inform if you are successful “in the now”, or likely to be in the soon-to-be-arriving now – that’s guru talk for “the future” – prior to death, which is a sure indicator you need a new guru.

You know the lists I’m talking about.

Guides like: “10 things you need to stop doing if you are going to be successful”.

I’m always surprised No1 on this type of list is not: Stop taking the piss out of these lists.

Or: “11 things you need to start doing if you are going to be successful.”

Getting off your arse and doing something rarely seems to get spelt out.

Then of course there’s the “12 signs you are successful and simply unaware of it.”

Often cited in the “13 hard-core pieces of evidence you’re in denial” list.

And rarely referred to in the “14.5 sociopathic tendencies of millionaires”.

That’s because millionaires are focused, they think big, they make mistakes (often with other people’s money) before making truckloads of their own.

Based on that standard they may be totally unaware that they are successful, but you’re not, courtesy of the guru lists you might want to copy in your darker moments.

Like when you contemplate your super balance.

Yes, you can get can transported out of your comfort zone reading these lists.

And usually, moving out of your comfort zone is No9 on such lists.

It’s all about manipulating misgivings. I mean, moulding mindsets.

That’s why I warmed to one I stumbled across the other day on a business-type “yeah baby, go for it” website.

It was called “20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires”.

This was a list I could get my teeth into because it combined the idea of being probably not that successful in the now with the possibility of being hopefully a bit more successful sometime in the soon-to-be-arriving now, prior to death.

I noticed early on that chewing your fingernails did not rate a mention as one of the habits.

But I read on anyhow because the suspense was killing me.

According to this particular guru it’s all about “Taking one ray of light and combining them all to become the sun”.

In fact, one was urged to put that concept to one’s 20-year-old self and ask him or her what constitutes success.

Knowing my 20-year-old self, I believe he may well have asked what I’d been smoking. And if I had any spare. But I got the gist of where this list was coming from.

Reverse engineering. Envisioning the end product, you, and working backwards through the process that led to its arrival.

If this process seems alarming, I suggest you refer back to the “12 signs you’re successful but unaware of it” before proceeding.

I did because I was struggling for claret at that moment. I mean clarity.

One trait top of the “20 habits of eventual millionaires” list I found easy to understand was: “Avoid death.”

String that one out as long as possible I would have thought. A little obvious but a good indication of the level of nitty gritty detail this guru was prepared to go into.

Gurus should never get too specific.

Another habit that didn’t seem so self-evident was: “Every day be around people who are kind to you and love you.”

Ironic in a Catch 22 type of way, depending on where you work and how things are going at home.

Which is OK because the next habit is: “Solve difficult gratitude problems.”

Apparently it helps to be grateful for things that really give you the gee willikers.

As the guru outlines, it’s the difference between being scared in a movie and saying, “wait, it’s just a movie”.

Except it’s not a movie.

Speaking of movies, the next habit is a shining light: “Write down 10 ideas a day.”

A great idea, unless that idea you’re writing repeatedly is, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Planting seeds is recommended because, according to my guru, 50 per cent of flowers come from 1 per cent of seeds.

I get lost when it comes to such garden variety mathematics, but I can’t help suspecting it could help when buying a Lotto ticket, and may also have applications regarding my super statement.

Hopefully that’s something I can measure up in the long term and tick off my guru list when it comes to signs of success.

Refugees in Indonesia go on hunger strike to protest delays in resettlement

Refugees in Pekanbaru on the Indonesian island of Sumatra go on a hunger strike to protest against delays to their resettlement in a third country. Photo: Supplied The refugees in Pekanbaru come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar. Photo: Supplied
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The n government cut its refugee intake from Indonesia last year. Photo: Supplied

Jakarta: A group of 120 refugees stuck in Pekanbaru, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have gone on a hunger strike to protest their frustration over delays to their resettlement in a third country.

Ahmad Zaki, a Hazara refugee from Pakistan, said the refugees wanted the UN refugee agency to come to Pekanbaru to discuss their resettlement cases and open an office in the Sumatran city.

“We are waiting for our resettlement process from more than one year,” Mr Zaki said. “I want to go to or any other country.”

The men, who are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar, have been found to be genuine refugees by the UNHCR. Their accommodation, medical care and a living stipend is paid for by the International Organisation of Migration.

“We tried to contact UNHCR many times. They make excuses every time. They reached other cities every two to three months regularly,” Mr Zaki said.

About 13,000 asylum seekers and refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia.

Many found to be genuine refugees remain stranded in the archipelago while the UNHCR tries to find a third country in which to resettle them.

In an interview with Fairfax Media last week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia was not a destination country for refugees.

“So we hope that countries like could take more. But of course I understand the domestic situation,” she said. “Shared responsibility, shared burden is very important. I leave it to the UNCHR to have a discussion with destination countries that belong to the Convention [relating to the Status of Refugees].”

The UNCHR’s Indonesia representative, Thomas Vargas, strongly advised the men against the hunger strike. “It’s not going to solve their problem or have their resettlement cases expedited,” Mr Vargas said.

“It just causes a lot of problems and the possibility of harm to themselves, which we would consider to be terrible.”

Mr Vargas said resettlement was a long process, which could take up to two years in Indonesia due to the limited resettlement places available globally and the various procedures that needed to be completed to comply with requirements made by resettlement countries.

He said the UNHCR regularly visited all locations where refugees were in lndonesia and was about to post a few staff members permanently in Pekanbaru given the high volume.

However he warned this did not mean the resettlement process would move any quicker.

“The UNHCR can’t force countries to take refugees,” Mr Vargas said. He said the Syrian crisis made it even harder to find resettlement options for refugees coming out of Indonesia.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison announced on November 18 last year that would cut its annual intake from Indonesia from 600 people to 450. He said anyone who registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia after July 1, 2014, would  not be eligible to come to . The intention, he said at the time, was to “drain the pool” of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia.

Mr Vargas said while this had had an impact, he was appreciative that continued to accept refugees who had registered with the UNHCR before July 1 last year.

He said resettlement was only one of a range of protection options.

“We recognise that a very small fraction of the refugee population globally will ever be resettled, which is why we also look at other options and appeal to governments for family reunification, temporary protection and providing labour [programs] for refugees to be able to take care of themselves.”

The Walk: One man’s extraordinary risks

Frenchman Philippe Petit walked across a cable that had been illegally strung between Manhattan’s Twin Towers in 1974.THE WALK (PG)
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Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Guillaume Baillargeon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Screening: General release

Rating: ★★★

THE true story of Philippe Petit – the Frenchman who kept onlookers enthralled for 45 minutes while he walked, sat and lay on a cable strung between the tops of Manhattan’s Twin Towers in 1974 – was told in James Marsh’s documentary Man on Wire (2008). It was a tale of a phenomenally brave and gifted obsessive, charismatic enough to draw others into helping him fulfil his lofty ambition.

But, like all obsessives, Petit found it hard to be grateful. And when it was all over, these loyal disciples fell to earth with a bump while he gave himself over to being adored by a much larger and louder audience.

Robert Zemeckis’ take on the Frenchman’s great adventure gets some of this right. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Petit is an impish charmer deaf and blind to anybody’s state of mind but his own. He crackles with nervous energy tempered, when necessary, by his mighty powers of concentration. But you get little sense of the hard-headedness that took him through six years of preparation.

Full of Gallic shrugs and merry montages, the early scenes have him as a whimsical clown working the streets of a Paris that looks as if it’s been plucked straight out of Amelie. Here, he meets Ben Kingsley as a circus aerialist extraordinaire and begins to learn from him.

Pretty soon he’s rehearsing for the big event with a wire walk between the spires of Notre Dame, and it’s not long before he’s off to New York with his devoted girlfriend, Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon), and a small team of pals willing to risk jail to help him get to the top of the towers.

I was so pleased to leave behind Zemeckis’ cloying vision of Paris that I didn’t mind the speed of all this. But once we’re in New York, we switch genres with a suddenness that’s a little disorienting.

We’re now in a caper movie, with the shift in worlds signalled by a score reminiscent of The Pink Panther. The group of conspirators take on more recruits, including a couple of stoners who look as if they’d be felled by vertigo if they attempted to stand upright, and a hardware-store salesman whose talents as a fast-talker are to prove indispensable when the time comes for the group to bluff their way into the tower building, disguised as workmen.

Such an enthusiastic embrace of the story’s more farcical elements does toss up some easy laughs but putting the group on a par with the Keystone Cops also limits the degree of sophistication that the script is able to bring to the interplay between their personalities.

And there was plenty to talk about. As Marsh’s documentary revealed, the strains, fears and disagreements within the group constituted a drama within the drama. But Zemeckis glosses them over with caricature. He’s making a fable here and the only person he’s really interested in is its hero.

So it’s basically a one-man show, with Levitt keeping the others entranced with his demands, explosions and propensity for taking extraordinary chances. His practical, methodical side is there, too, but more often than not, it’s upstaged by his theatricality. And, like any case of extreme self-absorption, his soon begins to bore.

But all these irritations fall away once the group get inside the Twin Towers and we’re confronted by the enormity of the task they’ve set themselves. As the buildings are closing for the night, they have to smuggle in their equipment, which includes a 200-kilogram cable, and get it on to the roof. And having done that, they have to evade the security guard while they work with their teammates on the roof of the other building to rig the cable.

This is what Zemeckis has been waiting for. His hallmark as a director is his passion for visual effects and his use of CGI and 3D is dazzling. I’m pleased to report there’s no hint of the religious in the sense of sublime you feel in Petit’s kinship with space, air and the slender cable beneath his feet. Even so, it is as if he’s consorting with angels.

The last shot is a homage to the lost towers, standing burnished by sunlight, and there’s a certain poignancy in it. But it’s Petit you’re thinking about.

Seniors’ village planned for former Morpeth bowling club grounds

Morpeth Land Company wants to build a medium density village for the over 55s beside the former Morpeth Bowling Club.AFTER much speculation and tension, developers have unveiled their plans for seniors’ living in the grounds of the old Morpeth Bowling Club.
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Given a list of six options for the site, the developer, Morpeth Land Company, wants to build a medium density village for the over 55s beside the former club.

The clubhouse is under refurbishment for use as a childcare centre and the land between it and Morpeth Common has been slated for the 22 single-storey villas.

The villas are set back 30 metres off Edward Street with a new road as access.

Proponent Brad Everett broke his silence over the plans on Thursday.

The Morpeth Land Company director said he did not want to prejudice Maitland City Council’s decision to include the land in its settlement strategy.

“There’s a process to be followed,” Mr Everett said.

“If I dump these plans on people too soon, they call me presumptuous.”

The property was bought in August, 2014 and Mr Everett met with the council development control unit soon after.

This pre-application discussion outlined what development would be allowed on the site and included mobile homes.

Mr Everett had plans drawn up for a large gym, but said there had been advice that residential use was a possibility.

A plan had also been drafted to rezone the land for units.

But Morpeth Land Company will retain the recreational zoning now the parcel of land has been included in the Maitland Urban Settlement Strategy.

To gain approval for the seniors’ villas, Mr Everett will instead seek an amendment to the Local Environment Plan.

“Seniors’ housing was a permissible use while the club was licensed,” he said.

“Once the licence was removed, the seniors’ living policy no longer applied, so it’s necessary to seek an amendment to the recreational zone.”

The NSW Department of Planning will assess the validity of plans before Morpeth Land submits a development application.

Mr Everett said detailed plans would be lodged as part of the development application.

Buzz surrounds Ben Simmons

Rising n superstar Ben Simmons is being touted as the next big thing in the US. Picture: Jonathan CarrollBATON ROUGE: The first thing former Hunters junior Ben Simmons did when he arrived for Wednesday’s practice at Louisiana State University was work his way through two rows of NBA scouts at court-side viewing tables, shaking hands with each one.
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Mostly because of ‘s rising superstar Simmons, the LSU Tigers have had more pre-season hype than since perhaps the early 1990s, when Shaquille O’Neal was the star.

Simmons started playing basketball in Newcastle where his father, Dave, was an import playing for the Falcons, and is now the game’s next big thing.

The 208cm freshman looks perfectly comfortable with that, and coach Johnny Jones wants the whole team to be as well.

“You want to embrace it. It’s exciting,” said Jones, who was an LSU assistant under Dale Brown when O’Neal was there. “You’d much rather be on the side of high expectations and people thinking that you’re going to be very good.”

Simmons attended high school in Florida, is as much at ease handling the ball on a fast break and delivering crisp, accurate passes as he is soaring to the hoop for a one-handed jam.

He will be the marquee attraction this season and scouts believe he has the potential to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

But 19-year-old Simmons isn’t the only player that NBA personnel from all but two teams came to see.

The squad also features guard Antonio Blakeney, who was named Florida’s top high school player last season – over Simmons. Then there is junior guard Tim Quarterman, whose steady development has made him a bona fide pro prospect as well.

By opening a pair of practices to pro scouts in a “combine” setting, LSU is following the lead of Southeastern Conference powerhouse Kentucky, which began holding similar events for scouts last season.

How well the Tigers compete with the likes of the Wildcats on the court remains to be seen, but Simmons is getting the type of attention normally reserved for LSU’s best football players.

It was during a recent football Saturday on LSU’s campus, in fact, that Simmons found out just how popular he was.

He ventured out to visit some tailgate parties with teammate and roommate, Keith Hornsby, and found himself surrounded pretty quickly.

“It doesn’t help that I’m 6-10, so wherever I go, I’m usually spotted,” Simmons said. “Everybody just surrounds you, saying, ‘What’s up,’ shaking your hand. So it’s kind of overwhelming.

But it doesn’t bother him.

“I’m trying to take it all in,” Simmons said. “Not everyone gets to do this, so I’m just grateful.”

Hornsby said walking around campus with Simmons is like being around a rock star, and he would know. His father, Bruce Hornsby, is a renowned musician who has been successful as a solo artist and has played with the Grateful Dead.

“A lot of females gravitate toward Ben. I’d say he’s a relatively good-looking guy,” Hornsby said. “I thought I was OK, and he steals the show from me.

“It’s really quite astonishing, just watching him roam around and people notice him, and just give him attention, and he’s really good about it, too. He acknowledges everybody and that’s pretty cool,” Hornsby continued. “It’s fun to walk around him, even to walk about 10 feet behind him. Even when people don’t talk to him, they’re whispering to each other [about Simmons].”

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell said Simmons’ popularity among women might even be helping him gain interest from prospective recruits.

“We probably have had more people interested in coming to an unofficial visit, or official visit, because we have a lot of young girls that like Ben, and they know he’s here,” Caldwell said.

LSU plays in a 13,000-seat arena which it rarely fills anymore, with the few exceptions being when Kentucky or another highly ranked team comes in. Attendance has hovered around 5000 in recent seasons, including last year, when the Tigers qualified for the NCAA Tournament and finished 22-11 after losing their first-round game to North Carolina State.

This season, LSU officials say they’re hoping to see attendance rise by around 30 per cent – possibly more if the Tigers win consistently.

“Hopefully everyone comes out,” Simmons said. “I love seeing fans and them wanting us to win and do well. That really drives me.” AP

Panella gets the all clear

Champion driver Lauren Panella should be back in action soon. Picture: Max Mason-HubersDEFENDING NSW champion driver Lauren Panella expects to be back in racing next Friday night at Newcastle after gaining a clearance from doctors on Thursday. Panella has been sidelined since June 13 after being tossed from her sulky in a race at Menangle and having her hand fractured in several places when trod on in the heavy fall.
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The 22-year-old still cruised to her maiden NSW premiership win but has been itching to return to racing.

Trainer and partner Shane Tritton said on Thursday that Panella hoped to have her licence back by the end of the day and was eyeing a return at Newcastle on October 23.

Tritton said many horses in his team had been held back at the start of this season because owners were waiting for Panella to return to action.

He said two-time Newcastle horse of the year Mach Beauty, which is on the comeback trail from 13 months out with injury, would headline Panella’s book of drives at Menangle on October 24. Tritton has decided against crossing the Tasman with Mach Beauty for the New Zealand Cup and will instead focus on preparations for next month’s Perth Interdominion series.

Mach Beauty has had two runs back for fifth and fourth but has since worked in 1:52.2 around Newcastle.

■ FORMER Dubbo-based trainer-driver Nathan Carroll hopes Tosca Jack can produce another barnstorming finish and book a return to Menangle racing at Newcastle International Paceway on Friday night.

Carroll, 21, broke through for his first winner at Menangle when Tosca Jack came from four back on the pegs to flash home at odds of $22.80 and win by a short half-head on October 6.

The mile run of 1:53.6 gave the now Maitland-based trainer-driver two wins and three placings from eight starts with the seven-year-old gelding and came two weeks after they saluted at Newcastle.

Tosca Jack is one of just three pacers Carroll trains while working full-time at the stables of Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa, where he started two months ago.

After beginning in the sport under his father, Michael Carroll, he came to the Hunter eight months ago and worked at the stables of leading trainer-driver Shane Tritton at Keinbah.

Carroll said the win “got the monkey off my back now” after three previous drives at the Menangle.

He believed Tosca Jack, from gate seven, was a “a good chance” to repeat the effort in a heat of the Menangle Country Series at Newcastle on Friday night in which Tritton has Goodtime Stride, Controversial, Afterburn and Glasscutterspirit.

“His gate speed’s not great but hopefully we can lob in a good early position and go from there,” Carroll said.

“He should be thereabouts. He ran 1:56 at Menangle so if he can do the same here and can win it.”

Carroll was approached a few months ago to take over the training of Tosca Jack, which he drove to victory in the 2013 Narrabri Cup.

Tosca Jack will start in the fourth race, the second of two Menangle Country Series heats, on a 10-event program due to start at 5.33pm.

■ MAITLAND trainer-driver Darren Elder was ecstatic with the run of Shannonsablast in the group 2 Be Good Johnny Sprint (1660 metres) at Albion Park and his draw for Saturday night’s group 1 Gold Coast Cup (2138m).

Shannonsablast sustained a long sprint four and three wide at the start to sit outside the leader before finishing strongly to finish fourth last Saturday night.

Elder then drew gate two for the Gold Coast Cup, which will become one if the emergency comes out, with Shannonsablast, which is taking on some of the nation’s best in an attempt to make the top 30 ranked pacers and gain a start in next month’s Perth Interdominion series.

“The draw is great and we’ll go forward and go as hard as we can for as long as we can, and see what happens,” Elder said.

■ THE Shane Tritton-trained Easy On The Eye, Miss Riviera Belle, Salty Robyn and Suave Stuey Lombo will vie with Sam Dimarco’s Shadow Runner for Newcastle horse of the year honours on Saturday night.

The five pacers have been shortlisted for the award, which recognises the best-performed horse trained in the region.

Michael Formosa’s Interdominion heat winner, Ultimate Art, and Darren Elder’s Shannonsablast are among the pacers ineligible for the honour because they did not meet the criteria of having at least one start at Newcastle during the season.

The Hunter Valley and Newcastle harness racing awards function will be held at Newcastle International Paceway from 6.30pm.

Plans for airport left on runway

WYONG Shire Council’s controversial regional airport plan – and even more controversial $17 million land splurge to build it on – is up in the air after NSW Parliament was told the project had been “cancelled”.
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The council is refusing to comment after months of speculation that its proposed Bushells Ridge regional airport, with a flight path over Lake Macquarie that had its neighbouring council seeing red, has been shelved.

The Bushells Ridge controversy, along with a secretive $1.3 million upgrade and extension of Warnervale airstrip to 1200 metres in September, were used as examples of “extremely poor governance” in local government, in a speech by Wyong MP David Harris to NSW Parliament on Wednesday.

“The airport has been cancelled because a different airport has been upgraded instead,” Mr Harris said.

“These are the sorts of decisions at which people shake their heads and wonder what the council is doing.”

Wyong Council was forced to acknowledge its public statements about the $17 million industrial land purchased from Terrace Towers for the airport were false, and the land had not been independently valued.

The NSW Valuer-General valued the land at half that amount.

The council is in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal next week fighting Yarramalong residents Laurie and Jo Eyes over the release of documents relating to the Bushells Ridge airport.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said Wyong Council’s repeated failure to consult with Lake Macquarie Council about its airport plans, which previously included having part of the airport within Lake Macquarie’s boundary, was outrageous.

“I take my hat off to Laurie Eyes. He has fought the council for the release of the documents so that the public can find out what is going on,” Mr Piper said.

Wyong councillor Bob Graham, who has battled his own council over its use of confidential sessions to deal with controversial issues, said councillors had had no formal word on the fate of the Bushells Ridge airport, but there had been no briefings about it since early this year.

“The Bushells Ridge airport won’t go ahead. Blind Freddy knows that,” Mr Graham said.

“But this council paid $17 million for the land, and the council will never recover the money I can tell you.

“Terrace Towers walked away from that one the very big winner,” Mr Graham said.

Research result raises red flag

ANTIOXIDANT supplements that are supposed to boost health and slow ageing could in fact spur the spread of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, researchers said on Wednesday.
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The findings support recent studies showing that an over-the-counter vitamin and another drug containing antioxidants can cause a jump in the number of tumours and hike their aggressiveness.

In the new study, published in Nature, scientists in the United States demonstrated that human melanoma cells spread in some experiments about two months earlier in mice injected with antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) than in those that were not.

Antioxidants allow the body to prevent DNA damage from chemicals known as free radicals, which are produced naturally by humans and found in leafy greens, vegetables or fruit.

‘‘Our results suggest that antioxidants promote disease progression, at least in melanoma, by promoting metastasis,’’ the study says.

Metastasis is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another and leads to death in most people fighting the disease. It appears antioxidants help cancer cells by fighting a type of molecule in the body that can attack or damage the cells as they metastasise, the scientists reported.

The results have not yet been tested on people, but researchers are suggesting that patients with cancer should consider not supplementing their diets with the oxidation-fighting substances. The notion that antioxidants are good for you has gained such force that they have been given to cancer patients in clinical trials, said study co-author Sean Morrison, who heads a research institute at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

‘‘Some of those trials had to be stopped because the patients getting the antioxidants were dying faster,’’ he said.

In a previous study on mice, Swedish researchers said antioxidants, including vitamin E, caused a three-fold increase in the number of cancer tumours and led the rodents to die twice as fast.

Older studies put forth similar results for breast and prostate cancers. AFP

Firearm fear forces Calare Public School into lockdownphotos

Firearm fear forces school into lockdown LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
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LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LOCKDOWN: Calare Public School on Thursday afternoon. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

TweetFacebook PHOTOS: Firearm fear forces Calare Public School into lockdownCentral Western Daily photographer Jude Keogh’s photos from the sceneDISTRAUGHT parents gathered outside Calare Public Schoolon Thursday after the school was placed in lockdown following reports a man was seen wondering nearby streets with a firearm.

Canobolas Local Area CommandSuperintendent Shane Cribb said police received a call at around 3.15pm from a member of the public notifying them they had seen a man in the vicinity of Cypress Street carrying a firearm.

“Around 20 police attended the incident and commenced a search for the male,” Superintendent Cribb said.“As a precautionary measure Calare Public School was placed into lockdown.”

Superintendent Cribb said police gathered parents and carers together to explain the lockdown process.

“After police could ensure the safety of students and teachers, the school was reopened,” he said.

Superintendent Cribb said police continued to patrol the area however they were unable to locate the man.

He said police were calling on anyone who was walking in the vicinity at the time and carrying “something similar to a firearm” to contact them immediately.

Superintendent Cribb said police were pleased with the school’s response and co-operation during the incident.

“The school and police ensured the safety of the children at all times,” he said.

Superintendent Cribb said an investigation was ongoing and detectives were following a number of inquiries.

According to a NSW Department of Educationspokesperson, staff and students at the school were to be commended for their response to the lockdown.

He said the safety procedure had occurred after advice from police.

“No students and staff were in immediate or direct danger during the lockdown,” he said.

He said parents were also advised of the incident.

“The school continued to follow the safety procedure until police confirmed the all-clear,” he said.“The school thanks parents for their co-operation and understanding.”

The spokesperson said lockdown was one of several safety procedures planned and rehearsed by public schools.

Central Western Daily, Orange

Injured footballer Dom Punch on road to recovery

Dom Punch is visited by Maitland Blacks second grade coach Mick Hickling and the club’s president, Ben Emmett.DOM Punch’s signature smile has returned as the injured Maitland Blacks player begins the long and unknown road to recovery.
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The 27-year-old was given a welcome boost in Royal North Shore Hospital this week with a visit from Blacks teammates Mick Hickling and Ben Emmett ahead of Sunday’s fundraising lunch at Marcellin Park. The event will mark one month since Punch dislocated his C5 and C6 vertebrae following a collapsed scrum during the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union second grade grand final at No.2 Sportsground.

He remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit, but his condition was recently downgraded from critical to serious and stable.

Punch has suffered spinal cord damage but is able to move his shoulders, arms and wrists. A long-term prognosis could be about eight or 10 weeks away and rehabilitation is expected to take many months. Punch still requires intermittent breathing support via a ventilator, but physiotherapists hope independent breathing will return in the not-too-distant future.

The Punch family released a statement on Thursday to update the concerned community about Punch’s bravery in the face of adversity.

“Although Dom has a frightening and very challenging road ahead, he is trying to remain positive, hopeful, brave and strong. His signature smile, though subdued, is not far away,” it said.

“Dom and his family are extremely grateful for all the support being offered by the Maitland Rugby Club, the George Tavern, his friends and the wider community.”

Former n cricketer Mike Hussey will be the guest speaker at Sunday’s sportsman’s lunch at Marcellin Park, which is expected to attract more than 700 people.

Virtual reality film Madeleine: Gimmick, or a glimpse of the future?

Olivia De Jonge in virtual reality teaser for the Cairnes brothers’ Scare Campaign. Anton Andreacchio’s company Jumpgate VR has made virtual reality content for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Port Adelaide, among others.
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Giving viewers the experience of running through the banner with Port Adelaide was a ‘gimmick’, says Anton Andreacchio, but more useful applications are just around the corner.

Olivia De Jonge in the virtual reality short horror film Madeleine, originally conceived as a promotional tool for the Cairnes brothers’ Scare Campaign. Photo: Lachlan Moore

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Most of the films that debuted at the Adelaide Film Festival  were longer than Madeleine, but few will have been cause for as much excitement.

The four-and-a-bit-minute short marks one of the first tentative steps locally into narrative virtual reality, a journey whose end point no one can yet predict.

“It’s so exciting because there’s so much creativity in this space at the moment,” says Anton Andreacchio, whose Jumpgate VR has co-produced Madeleine. “It’s all about experimenting. There are no rules. We’re not constrained by how things have always been, and we’re not sure what the end state will be.”

Virtual reality is so new as a real technology (as opposed to the stuff of science fiction) that most people have yet to experience it. But there are those who think it could be the future of entertainment, including Facebook, which last year spent $2 billion to buy start-up headset manufacturer Oculus Rift.

Put one of these headsets on and the world beyond the screen disappears; what you get is the most immersive viewing experience imaginable, a 360-degree world of which you, the viewer, are the centre.

If ever a technology were made for the “look out behind you” world of horror movies, this surely is it, and Madeleine milks every trick in the jump-scare book to brilliant effect. In a demonstration in the Fairfax office – in which the headset wearers typically spun in their chair to take in the world they found themselves at the middle of, before leaping out of that chair when frightened – the most common assessment was “scary as all hell”.

The project began life as a teaser promo for the Cairnes brothers’ Scare Campaign, which will premiere next month as the opening-night film at Monster Fest. Producer Julie Ryan took it to Cannes in May hoping to scare up interest, and it worked a treat. “The reaction was fantastic,” she says. “I showed it to about 30 people, and most reacted really strongly.”

Returning to , she says, “it just made sense to try to do something a little longer”. Thus was Madeleine born.

The Cairnes brothers wrote a script and Screen kicked in about $55,000 of funding support, though it is as uncertain as anyone else about what the future of VR might be. “There are people saying it’s just a gimmick, but I think there’s going to be an audience for a longer format,” says Tim Phillips, a senior manager of interactive content at the agency. “We’re at the Atari end of the technology now, and we’ll soon be at the PS4 end.”

Andreacchio has early-mover advantage in the space, and has worked with a host of clients including classical musicians (virtual concerts), building firms (safety training) and AFL clubs (six to date), who see enormous potential for tailored individual training that might, for instance, pit a player against next Saturday’s opponent in a simulated but very real-seeming environment.

But the field is rapidly becoming more crowded.

“We maybe got two phone calls about VR last year,” says Phillips. “Now, we’re getting a call every week. I don’t doubt that we’ll do more. At this stage it’s fairly small-scale, but we feel we’re helping people experiment, experience, and learn the skills. Hopefully it will lead to bigger projects.”The other side of the headset: an actor’s experience of VR.

Olivia De Jonge is the 17-year-old star of Scare Campaign and very much a young n talent on the rise: you may have seen her in ABC-TV’s Hiding or the M. Night Shyamalan frightener The Visit. You’ll almost certainly be seeing a lot more of her in the years to come.

Shooting Madeleine was not like any acting job she’d done before, she says.

“It’s very odd because it’s a bunch of Go-Pros, there’s no-one else in the room, it’s just me, basically.”

Director Piers Mussared would come into the room, push a few buttons on the 12-camera rig and tell her to go, whereupon De Jonge would improvise around the notes she’d been given. “They’d leave me for about eight minutes, I’d do my thing, then we’d try something else.”

The big difference is the relationship with the camera. “Generally with film you have to act as if the camera is not there; in VR you have to take the camera into your space.”

De Jonge says she didn’t really think about it at the time, but in retrospect she realises she has been part of something “a bit special”.

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Chinan Museum staff asked to take voluntary redundancies

n Museum CEO Kim McKay pictured outside the museum’s new entrance in August. Photo: Louise kennerleyStaff at the n Museum have been asked to accept voluntary redundancies as the country’s oldest museum struggles to meet the state government’s cap on salary costs.
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Employees were left shell-shocked in a meeting on Wednesday after management told them they would be seeking voluntary redundancies to combat the institution’s budget blowout, according to Public Service Association representatives, who were present.

It is unclear how many redundancies would need to be taken to appease the bottom line. The news was first reported by Central Sydney.

A spokesman for the museum said the organisation’s expenditure on salaries had exceeded the Labour Cap set by state treasury.

“As such, the AM is currently in the process of offering voluntary redundancies to staff, as part of ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the organisation. There are no confirmed job losses at this early stage,” the spokesman said.

“The process has just started, and at this stage we’ve just asked for expressions of interest [for voluntary redundancies].

Anne Gardiner, the general secretary of the PSA, said cutting staff at the southern hemisphere’s oldest natural history museum was the latest fallout from an “attack on science” in NSW.

“People who work at the museum, it’s their life. It’s not just a job, it’s a vocation,” Ms Gardiner said.

“At a time when we’re talking at a federal level about how to support innovation, you’re getting rid of people with priceless science and technical knowledge.

“It amounts to an attempt to dumb us down.

“We’re hoping something else can be done to address the budget shortfall other than devastating the technical expertise at the museum.”

In September the n Museum’s chief executive Kim McKay announced that she had wiped out the organisation’s $745,000 deficit recorded in 2013-2014.

The return to a small surplus came as the final touches were made to the Museum’s $5.9 million makeover of its William Street entrance.

Expressions of interests for voluntary redundancies close on October 20.

A meeting between staff, the PSA and management is due to take place October 19.

‘Rampant abuse’: Vocational loan scheme slammed as costs blow out

Vocational Education and Skills Minister Luke Hartsuyker: “This is a concerning level of growth.” Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Labor education spokesman Kim Carr: “Clean out the sharks and shonks.” Photo: Paul Jeffers
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The federal government’s troubled vocational loan scheme has blown out by a staggering 150 per cent over the past year to almost $2 billion as the number of students taking out taxpayer-funded loans doubled.

The HECS-style loans scheme for vocational students, VET FEE-HELP, has been blamed for encouraging dodgy private operators to enter the vocational education sector and rort the system by luring vulnerable students into their courses.

A major Senate inquiry into private vocational education and training providers released on Thursday called for an immediate review of the scheme to address the “rampant abuse” and “accelerating costs” it uncovered. The government should cap the amount students can borrow and introduce minimum hours standards for courses, the Labor-Greens dominated committee found.

The cost of VET FEE-HELP loans soared from $699 million in 2013 to $1.76 billion in 2014, according to official data obtained by Fairfax Media. It is estimated that 40 per cent of these loans will never be repaid, meaning taxpayers will have to cover the cost of almost $1 billion in loans for the past 12 months alone.

The scheme, valued at $325 million in 2012, has grown five-fold over two years. The number of vocational providers billing taxpayers for their courses has grown from 105 to 224 over the same period, showing how lucrative the scheme has proven for private colleges.

Vocational Education and Skills Minister Luke Hartsuyker said he would consider introducing new regulations to stop the scheme blowing out further.

“This is a concerning level of growth and I will be keeping a close eye on the scheme to ensure it is sustainable for taxpayers,” he said.

Mr Hartsuyker introduced legislation on Thursday requiring students to have year 12 or equivalent qualifications to qualify for subsidies. Providers will also be banned from levying all fees in a single transaction, so students who drop out of a degree early are not saddled with large debts.

The number of students who accessed VET FEE-HELP loans leapt from 100,000 in 2013 to 202,800 last year – an increase of 103 per cent. Vocational students have taken out $3.1 billion in loans since Labor introduced the scheme in 2009.

The sector has been beset by scandals over recent months, leading the n Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate 10 training providers for misleading and unconscionable conduct.

The Phoenix Institute, which has received almost $10 million in VET FEE-HELP payments, this week suspended trading on the n Stock Exchange after the Education Department indicated it would remove its ability to charge the government for courses. The federal regulator also threatened its registration as an education provider.

Fairfax Media revealed last month the college had employed dozens of salesmen, many working door to door, who offered free laptops to vulnerable people, including drug addicts and those with intellectual disabilities, to sign them up for online diploma courses they would never complete.

Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr said the government should move urgently to “clean out the sharks and shonks that are targeting vulnerable ns, providing little or no training for over-priced courses and saddling those that can least afford it with debt”.

“The committee heard that this is not just an issue of a few dodgy providers but one of widespread and systemic rorting,” he said.

The committee also recommended the creation of an industry-funded ombudsman for the VET sector to reign in abuses.

In a dissenting report, Coalition senators said Labor designed the VET-FEE HELP scheme poorly and the government had introduced significant changes to restore public confidence in it.

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