January, 2019

Thunderstruck with shock

A shot from Tim McDonald’s video. Picture: Tim McDonaldFEW people struck by lightning live to tell the tale, but even fewer write the whole thing off as a strange stitch-up by their workmates.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s a club so small and unusual it may include onlyWeston’s Jason Tait, who did both within minutes atRutherford on Wednesday.

His newfound claim to fame came surging down from the heavens over Rutherford about 4pm on Thursday as he shifted a mate’s ute out of the hail and under shelter.

“We started moving some of the cars under cover,” Mr Taitsaid.

“When the hail really started coming down he asked if I could move his car.”

Longtime colleague Tim McDonald filmed the hail on his phone while Mr Tait drove colleague Ken Marvin’s utilityoff the street.

The footage became more interesting in a flash as lightning scorched the sky, spraying sparks off the ute’s black twin cab and arcing to a nearby power pole.

Footage from Mr McDonald’s phone shows the car barely breaking its pace despite the dramatic strike, which appears to hit the passenger side roof.

Mr Taithappily concedes thathe was calm through complete ignorance of what had happenedrather than nerves of steel or a cool head.

Lightning strike survivor Jason Tait, left, and his workmate Tim McDonald on Friday. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

A flash through the back window was all he saw from the driver’s seat metres away from where the lighting hit.

Mr Tait said he felt more like he had been photographed than struck by lighting, and would likely have written the whole thing off as a bad prank without photographic evidence.

“I’ve seen a flash out the backwindow but that was it,” Mr Taitsaid.“I was a bit shocked when I actually saw what happened.I honestly thought those guys were stitching me up.”

The full pyrotechnic display inspires audible wonder from Mr McDonald as Mr Tait appearsto shrug it off.

“It was absolutely amazing, he was a little bit oblivious to it,”Mr McDonald said

Jason Tait

Mr Tate says he is grateful for his lucky escape despite his early doubts.

“I’ve still got two legs and a heartbeat,” he said.

The incident resembles the 2013 Bar Beachstrike that leftWickham’s Wayne Lennan with a damaged car,a sound resembling a shotgun blast ringing in his ears and a viral video.

Mr Lennan escaped the incident without any injury.

Mr Taitjoked on Friday the video gave his planned braggingextra punch.“I’m going to milk it,” he said.”Especially if it’s in the paper.”

Newcastle Herald

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Ex-boyfriend caught in act of vengeance

CONVICTED: Chrisopher Wilcox was busted using fake number plates to rack up fines in the name of his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, and stole her passport to ruin her holiday Picture: FacebookFAKED number plates, high speed fines, a break and enter and targeted theft were all part of Christopher Wilcox’splan for revenge.
Nanjing Night Net

He set it in motion on New Year’s Eve, just hours after his ex-girlfriend left to party in Sydney, and days out from her trip to Thailand, court documents reveal.

Wilcoxused a key to gain entry through the back door ofherWarners Bay home, and stole herpassport.

He also took a bottle of Moet champagne he had once gifted her, and left an empty bottle of Moscato behind -covered in prints, and despite the apprehended violence order out against him.

When she arrived home at lunchtime the next day,she knew he’d been there.

Eight days later, mid-packingher bags for Phuket, she noticed the photo page in her passport had been changed.Her date of birth read 1779, and her passport number was new.

After denying he’d beenthere, police conducted a search of Wilcox’s Charlestown hometo findpages of scanned images of passports,and printouts from her ex’s emailaccount.

Mobile phone records showed texts to a friend sent on January 9: ‘’She got a new passport and is leaving for phuket tomorrow morning’’

When asked what happened to her old one, he answered:‘’Idid a little modifying! I will tell you in person. They are only going to have 4 days instead of 10.’’

Police say it was clear he took the passport, and returned it, after changing those details.But it did not end there. A few weeks later, Wilcox struck again, makingup fake number plates to match those of his former partner’s new man.

He organised a test drive from a car dealer at Wickham. After attachingthe fake number plates, he racked upspeeding fines along McCaffrey Drive and Griffiths Road in Lambton, reaching up to 115 kmh in a 60kmh zone.

Wilcox, 38, failed to front Newcastle Court on Friday where hewas convicted of two speeding matters,fined $3000,disqualified from driving for nine months. More charges werelikely to follow, the court heard.Wilcox has also pleaded guilty to three charges over the passport crime, and is due for sentence on January 13.

Newcastle Herald

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Teachers’ wage garnish ruled unlawful

Victorian teachers will be reimbursed money garnished from their wagesto pay for their school laptops after the Federal Court on Friday ruled the Education Departmentdeductionswere unlawful.
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Kangaroo Flat Primary School grade 6 teacher and Australian EducationUnion state councillor Alastair Pata welcomed the union’ssuccessful action, which saw the practice ceased.

Mr Pata said laptops were tools of the trade for teachers and should rightfully be paid for by their employer.

“It’s just such anessential resource for teachers to have, we couldn’t do our jobwithout them,” he said.

“Students all have laptops and classrooms arefull oflaptopsfor thekidsand theteachers needtohave laptops as well.”

Mr Pata said before the rulingteachers had had no choice but to accept the deductions but had frequently questioned the practice.

“A new teacher, forexample, would be automatically signed up to the program becausethey needed a laptop right at thestart of their job,” he said.

“Our members constantly tell us that it is a big thing for them, they feel like the laptops are part of their daily job, they need them to do reports orto email parents orto email staff.”

AEU Victorian presidentMeredith Peace said laptops were essential equipment for teachers.

“Expecting teachers and principals to pay out of their own pockets for a computer that they use to write school reports, communicate with parents and other teachers and plan lessons is absolutely unfair,” she said.

“[Friday’s]orders mean 46,000 teachers and principals will receive the recompense they deserve for having these deductions made from their salary.

These orders also mean unlawful deductions like this cannot happen in future.”

Teachers and principals employed by the Education Departmentwho had money unlawfully deducted from their wages will be repaid by December 24, including a 5 per centinterest payment.

The department will not appeal the decision and is expected to repay a total of $37 million plus costs.

Bendigo Advertiser

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Families turn to charity

BATTLING: Long Gully resident Patricia Davies has turned to charity to make ends meet as rising living costs and her deteriorating health mean her disability support no longer covers her basic costs of living. Picture: NONI HYETTCharities in Bendigo are helping more and more families buyfood, pay rent and cover transport and other basic costs of living–despite government cuts to their budget.
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Families turn to charity Salvation Army Major Kaye Viney. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Captain Ray Butler. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Patricia Davies. Picture: NONI HYETT

Bendigo Family and Financial Services’ general manager Jenny Elvey. Picture: NONI HYETT

Picture: NONI HYETT

TweetFacebookBendigo Advertiserpainted a similar picture, as struggling families face increasing pressures from high rentsand a rise in the cost of living.But MsElvey said the story was not one confined to central Victoria.

“This is something that has gone right through Australia, with the new funding arrangementaffecting struggling people andfamilies nationally,” she said.

Facing rising rents and higher utilities,more families in Bendigo are turning to charity to help pay their bills.

‘I can’t keep up with the cost of living’Former truck driver, sheep shearer, horse breaker and single-mother ofseven,Patricia Davies has been a regular at theBendigo Family and Financial Services for the last four years.

“In the beginning it was to volunteer…I’m a carer by nature,” she said.

“But over that period I’ve found it harder and harder to survive on my pension.I started struggling to pay gas, electricity, bills, car rego, petrol, going to the hospital twice a week (and)physio.”

“Then I became a client.”

MsDavies receives $970 in disability support afortnight, due to severe back problems forwhich she requiresa walker.

“It probably dates from the first time I was thrown by a horse,” she said.

“Then there was the truck driving …in those days there was no power steering, we loaded and unloaded by hand.”

Of her fortnightly allowance,$250goes toward payingrent and$210towardthebills of her Long Gully home. She spends$54 on medication,$150 on groceries and$40 oncleaning.

“Once you factor in filling the car, going to Melbourne for treatment … I end up spending more than I get in,” she said.

And the 62-year-old is preparing for her expenses to continue to rise–she says her fortnightly script will go up to$70 next year and soon she will need to hire an electric wheelchair at $100 every two weeks.

“The cost of living is just rising faster than I can keep up,” she said.

Charitybridgingrent gap Bendigo Family and Financial Services’ general manager Jenny Elvey

Victorian households in low-income brackets are spendingmore than half oftheir income on rent alone–andregional president of the StVincent de Paul Society,Tony Spurling, said many simply could not afford it.

“We take for granted the supply of utilities and yet we are finding more and more that a large number of families cannot afford these basic necessities,” he said.

“It is becoming harder and harder for so many people to provide a roof over their head.”

Giving his annual Christmas address to volunteers this week, Mr Spurling said the$68,800 in rent assistance and short term motel accommodationprovided by thecharity this year represented a“considerable increase” on 2014.

Of the $570,000 in charitythe society provided this year,$273,000 was used in food assistance.

But Bendigo charity organisations say more and more families are being pushed to charity as they are unable to pay rent,bills and other basic costs of living.

Last month the country’sfirst rental affordability index found that rental affordability was– in the words of one of its authors–“dividing Australia in a big way”.

That index showedregionalVictorian households in low-income brackets werepaying up to 58 per cent of their income on rent.

Mr SpurlingStVincent de Paul Society had seen about a 10per cent rise in the amount spent on services on services such as utilities, transport and prescription medication.

This year the society spent$36,000 in utility assistanceand$46,000 in transport assistance.

“Our lifestyle is dependent on transport and without it, people have trouble finding a job, attending medical appointments and generally being part of the community,” Mr Spurling said.

And while many charities said they were struggling with recent cuts to their budgets at a time of increased demand, theStVincent de Paul Societyregional president said the social service sector had been put under increased strain by both sides of the political aisle.

“Political parties of both persuasions talk a lot about macro economics but are devoid of consideration as to the social impact of the inadequacy of the social benefits system,” he said.

The hard work of volunteers, he said, was keeping an increasingly strained safety net intact.

“The long and short term effect on the family and the lifelong impressions on the children cannot be measured, but one thing is certain, the society will use its resources to fill the gap where government has failed.”

Push to manage finances MORE WITH LESS: Captain Ray Butler said the Salvation Army was seeing positive outcomes from an increased focus on financial counselling. Pictures: GLENN DANIELS

As their budgets are cut and more people come through their doors seeking assistance, Bendigo charities are increasingly looking to help struggling families better manage their own finances.

Salvation Army Captain Ray Butler said the amount of area his organisationcovered had been extended to includeplaces as far afield asShepparton. And as the amount of charities receiving government funding was reduced, the Salvos were required to increase the volume of their work, over a larger geographic area.

At the same time, the amount theSalvation Army received was 20 per cent less this year than last.

“Essentially, that’smore demand and less money to do it,” Mr Butlersaid.

“So we’ve beenmore concentrated with people around financial case management and counselling.”

Bendigo Family and Financial Servicesgeneral managerJenny Elvey said her organisation had adopted a similar approach–despite seeing a rise in the number of people seeking emergency assistance for food and to meet costs of living.

“We can’t do as much for vulnerable people as we would like to, a lot of what we now do isfinancial education, advocacy on their behalf, putting them on payment plans that areaffordable or referring them to financial counsellors if they need help with complex financialissues,” she said.

“But we don’t have the funds we’ve had in previous years which might have gonetowards things like helping a family pay their electricity bills, or with medical assistance.”

This year the saw theBendigo Family and Financial Servicesemergency relief funding cut by 18 per cent. It lostfinancial counselling funding altogether and is now self -funding theprogram.

MrButler said the increased demand on theSalvation Army’s resources had meant the charity was considering the future of services such a popular drought relief officer, who attended the needs of farming communities throughout northern and central Victoria.

But Mr Butler said the increased focus on financial counselling was having some positive results.

“Thelevels of people seeking Christmas assistance hasn’tincreased so far this year and we’requite sure that’s because of some of the work we’ve beendoing around financial counseling–people being a bit more positive and responsible around planning for Christmas,” he said.

“That might meanpurchasingsomething through layby andmakingplanned installmentsrather than putting things on credit card or out of living expenses.”

Bendigo Advertiser

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Dog attack leaves woman shaken and afraid

Dianne Whiteman said owners need to control their dogs, or someone could get seriously hurt. Photo: BELINDA SOOLEA VICIOUS dog attack during an early morning walk has left a Grangewood resident shaken and afraid.
Nanjing Night Net

Dianne Whiteman and a friend were walking through Grangewood and Delroy Park about 5.30am on Wednesday, when two large dogs “just came out at us, snarling and growling”.

The dogs circled the two women once, before the larger animal lunged at Dianne, latching onto the arm she threw up to protect her face.

“We’re yelling and screaming at them saying ‘go on! Get home!’ And next the larger one actually grabbed me on the arm,” she said.

“[I] gave it a bit of a shake, it backed off, snarled and growled at us then they went back to the house.

“I heard someone call their names, [but they] never came out to say ‘are you OK?’ or anything. I just thought, all the noise…but nobody even poked their head out.”

Nursing four deep puncture wounds from where the dog’s canines sank into her forearm, Dianne walked herself home.

“It was [terrifying]. I just couldn’t believe the way that they came at us,” Dianne said.

“It was just the suddenness of the way they came at us, just so vicious.”

Dianne said the pressure of the dog’s jaw had been so great, she initially thought her arm was broken. She went to hospital, where she was bandaged up and given a tetanus shot and antibiotics to ward off infection.

The attack was reported to Dubbo City Council rangers, and manager environmental control Debbie Archer said an investigation was under way.

While Dianne’s physical wounds would soon heal, she feared the situation could have been a lot worse.

“There is an older lady walks there, and fairly frail with a little dog. Imagine what the skin, [the teeth] would have just torn it away,” Dianne said.

“And in that area you see a lot of little fellas getting off the school buses and that.

“Please, owners, just please do something about the violent dogs. Make sure they lock them up, tie them up – whatever needs to be done.”

“Our rangers are undertaking an investigation and the appropriate action will be taken based on the circumstances,” Ms Archer said.

Dianne Whiteman

While she couldn’t comment on the specific case, Ms Archer said rangers usually seize the animal until “we know they can be secured”.

“The owners [generally] have an opportunity to surrender the animal or council may issue a number of different orders – such as a dangerous dog declaration – requiring the animal be kept in a certain way,” she said.

“There are more people out at this time of year so keep your dogs secure. There are fines for not having your dogs secure and it is every pet owner’s responsibility to keep their animals secure and not having it be a danger to the public.”

Daily Liberal

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