Syrian refugee tops Year 12 class with 96.65 ATAR

By Patrick Wright

Posted

December 12, 2016 16:07:17
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Saad Al-Kassab topped his class, despite missing years of school and only learning English since 2014. (Supplied: Catholic Regional College Sydenham)

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Despite all the difficulties, I was given a new life.”I really wish I can pay it back one day.”
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Scouts from Syria to Australia (YouTube: Scouts Victoria)
Saad, who has also been working at the school as a gardener, was one of 49,765 students across Victoria to receive their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in 2016.State Education Minister James Merlino said a record 97.9 per cent of Year 12 students completed their VCE this year.”Completing VCE is a significant achievement and I congratulate all of our Year 12 students — you should be very proud of what you have achieved,” he said.”If you didn’t get the results you wanted, seek advice from your school and remember there are many pathways to success in life.”Mr Merlino said Deloitte had been appointed to investigate a blunder that saw some students receive their ATARs early last week, with the findings expected by the end of the month. They speak slowly, so you can catch words,” he said.He has already been offered a scholarship at Monash University, and hopes to study biomedicine or medicine.’I was given a new life’Saad’s English skills made it it difficult for him to enrol in a school in Australia but he persisted and after four months he was getting great results.”I think the hardest part was getting into school. The community was lovely with me,” he said.”I’m really grateful for being given the opportunity to be able to come to Australia and study here. Key points:Syrian-born student started learning English in 2014He topped class with ATAR of 96.6597.9 per cent of Year 12 students completed their VCE
In 2013, Saad Al-Kassab and his family managed to escape the bloody civil war in Syria which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.Just three years later, he has been celebrated as dux of Catholic Regional College Sydenham, in Melbourne’s north-west, after earning an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 96.65.”To be honest, I was expecting a high score, but it felt so good to see it,” he said.”I felt really happy. I was just overwhelmed.”Before leaving Syria, Saad studied at home with his mother while sheltering from mortars and airstrikes.With schools closed, he travelled kilometres through checkpoints to makeshift exam centres in cinemas and sports grounds.Saad started learning English after arriving in Australia in June 2014, watching Question Time in Parliament with his brother Omar and joining the Scouts to develop his comprehension.”The way they speak, they speak proper English. A Syrian refugee who only started learning English in 2014 after fleeing the embattled city of Homs, has graduated as dux of one Australia’s largest secondary Catholic schools.

Seniors exercise class creating collaboration between cultures in Newcastle

An exercise program for older people of multicultural backgrounds is having large success in helping participants better settle in to life in Newcastle, and stay in their own homes for longer.The program is run by the Hunter region’s Ethnic Communities Council (ECC), in conjunction with the Heart Foundation’s Heartmoves team.Aged care services manager for ECC, Milan Kurjakovic, said the program, which is funded by the Commonwealth, saw participants take part in appropriate exercises as well a variety of social activities.”It helps clients to stay vital and to particularly enable them to take better care of themselves, and move around without someone’s help,” he said.”We know that every exercise is not only related to physical abilities, [but also] cognitive abilities and coordination of the movements is also beneficial.”The most important thing is for them to meet friends and speak in their own language and exchange thoughts about what’s going on.”

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Milan Kurjakovic said the exercise program is keeping people in their homes longer. Photo:
Vicki Potempa arrived in Australia from Egypt in 1949. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
Mr Kurjakovic said he had noticed the participants’ happiness level improve.”They’re getting more optimistic, more happy, more ready to communicate,” he said.”They are, in some occasions, getting news from each other from their country.”In many occasions they’re participating in creating a menu for [themselves] and it gives them a sense of importance as well.”‘Not a little cabbage staying at home’Fiercely independent, 95-year-old Vicki Potempa is originally from Egypt and arrived in Australia in 1949.She said the exercise program gave her an opportunity to be social with others. It is the parasites that are behind her that usually pull them down,” she said.”I want to prove to my family that I’m still capable of making a frock.”I still clean the house — it is spotless now that I got rid of the cleaner and I can look after myself — I can cook, I can do anything I want.”As long as I can do it, I will do it.”Ms Potempa said people needed to do their best by other people, and respect was key.She said coming to the exercise group had benefitted her.”It reminds me that I’m a human being; I’m not a little cabbage staying at home,” she said. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
“You are alone at home and they expect you to vegetate, or else go to some old people’s home,” Ms Potempa said.”I prefer being my own master; I rule my own life, and I come here because I want to come.”They’re all friendly, we all love each other, and we laugh and we talk.”There’s nothing a woman cannot do if she is left alone to do it.
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(1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue) 1233 ABC Newcastle

By

Robert Virtue

Posted

December 12, 2016 08:44:22

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The program teaches older people gentle exercises to improve their health.

Adelaide student goes from Afghanistan danger to academic accolades

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Ali Wahidi now plans to study medicine. (ABC News)

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If you work hard then good things will come.” “It’s true, university was, not that long ago, a distant dream,” he said.”Kids are now much more ambitious, they are asking a lot more questions and they are, I guess, really striving for bigger dreams.””Last year we had 24 kids get into university, this year 30 have put in their preferences so I expect it to get bigger again.”Mr Kloeden credited students such as the Wahidi family members with helping change the school’s culture and expectations.”People like Ali, where they’ve come from a background like Afghanistan, the self-discipline that they bring, I reckon that’s rubbed off on a lot of the kids,” he said.”They understand how to get to a goal and they understand hard work.”Scholarship allows medical futureAli is the latest recipient of the Andrew Knox memorial scholarship, an award which honours a South Australian who lost his life in 2001 when the twin towers fell in New York.The terror attack was conceived in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — and Ali Wahidi’s family are ethnic Hazaras who, despised and persecuted by the Taliban, fled to Australia seeking a better life.South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill counted Andrew Knox as a good friend.”Andrew would be so proud of Ali winning because he was such a strong advocate of social justice,” Mr Weatherill said.”It is a lovely symmetry to think that, in Andrew’s name, he can make a contribution to making a better life for somebody who’s been fleeing the same sort of terror and persecution that sadly took Andrew’s life.”Ali plans to use the scholarship toward studying medicine.And his advice to other students?”Just work hard. Ali Zafar Wahidi arrived in Australia from Afghanistan without a word of English, but at 17 he has graduated from his Adelaide secondary school as dux by winning the academic prizes in each of his subjects.”I’m pretty happy with how I’ve gone this year,” the Playford College student said modestly, conceding sibling rivalry played a role in his success.”There are five of us and I am the youngest. Photo:
Tim Kloeden has seen a turnaround in students’ attitudes to academic achievement. I have to beat everyone, that’s like an expectation,” he said.His older sister, Gulima, took out Playford’s top prize for academic achievement three years ago and is now nearing completion of a law degree at the University of South Australia.Playford is a public school in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, a region which has been hit hard by job losses in manufacturing.Deputy principal Tim Kloeden said in his seven years at the school he had seen a turnaround from an era when students did not contemplate going on to university.
By Simon Royal

Posted

December 11, 2016 12:49:00

The Queenslanders who made us smile this year

Brisbane brothers plant seeds of change, one garden at a time
(ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards )
A World War II veteran who has spent years making toys for children to raise money for charity continued his good work in 2016.Nipper Minchin, 95, said he “still feels useful” whenever he can transform piles of scrap wood into tractors, trains and other children’s toys, which are then auctioned off.So far he has raised more than $16,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a significant sum for the Herbert River RSL.Harry and George Arkinstall

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The Arkinstall brothers hope to continue making a difference through gardening. (612 ABC Brisbane: Terri Begley)
A seven-year-old budding entrepreneur’s dream of owning a pony came true this year after three years’ hard work.Sabastian Lucas, from Scarborough, north of Brisbane, set up a business selling lemonade out the front of his family’s home to raise the funds needed to buy his new pet.His dream came true in October when he met his 13-year-old schoolmaster, Tom.Nipper Minchin

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Mr Minchin made his first toy in 1947 for his daughter. (ABC News: Tom Forbes)

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ABC News on Facebook: Love in the air at Debutante Ball for Disability
Taylor Anderton, 20, and Michael Cox, 24, who were both born with Down syndrome, featured in a story back in late May on the 16th Gold Coast Debutante Ball for Disability.Their love for each other captured hearts around the world — with a video on the ABC’s Facebook page raking up more than 13 million views, 142,000 shares, 10,000 comments, and more than 217,000 likes.”She’s amazing in every single way,” Mr Cox said.The couple reunited a week later to talk about how overwhelmed they were with the reaction to their story, and even featured in an episode of Australian Story later in the year.Emily Mochan and Buddy the blue heeler

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Buddy managed to tick all the items off his list before he died. (612 ABC Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
Brotherly duo Harry and George Arkinstall advocated for greater awareness of autism and depression this year by building and maintaining gardens throughout the river city.George began the business Gardening A Difference to ensure his brother Harry, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age, would always have a job.On top of that, 20 per cent of their profits go to beyondblue and Autism Queensland.They hope their work will encourage others to make a difference in their community. (ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders)
Dapper dog and retired racing greyhound Sammy has been helping put smiles on faces of residents at the Mt Lofty Heights nursing home this year.The three-year-old, who likes to walk around in one of his colourful ties or vests, has helped to make the Toowoomba home a calmer environment, according to staff.They also said whenever Sammy was not interacting with residents, he was most often found lying around with his teddy bear.David McKeown and Mathew Sampson

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David McKeown and Mathew Sampson started Missionbeat as a part-time pilot program last year. These are the men, women, children (and even a couple of animals) who made headlines for all the right reasons in 2016.Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett

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Orange Sky Laundry co-founders Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett have done Queensland proud. (Facebook: Buddy’s Bucket List)
When Emily Mochan’s six-year-old dog Buddy was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year, she vowed not to waste his dying days.Given just four to five weeks to live, Ms Mochan started Buddy’s bucket list and shared it on Facebook, with more than 14,000 people following along.In his final weeks Buddy managed to tick all the items off his list, including having his own photo shoot, going four-wheel driving, being published in a calendar for charity and paw painting a canvas.He passed away in late March, and Ms Mochan donated all his toys and remaining money raised for his bucket list adventures to the RSPCA.Sammy the greyhound

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Sammy the greyhound does regular rounds of the Mt Lofty Heights Nursing Home bedrooms. (Reuters: Maja Suslin/TT News Agency)
The Queensland-raised singer did Australia proud in Eurovision 2016, placing second with her performance of the song, Sound of Silence.While it was not enough to clinch the trophy (Ukraine’s Jamala was the winner), Aussies could not have been prouder of Im.Bookmakers had Im at second best odds to win the competition, with this year’s performance marking only the second time Australia has competed at the European song competition.Don’t worry, Australia will be back in Eurovision in 2017.Alyssa Azar

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Alyssa Azar on her way to Mount Everest Base Camp on April 9, 2014. (Facebook: Alyssa Azar – Mount Everest 2014)
The Toowoomba teen fulfilled a life-long dream this year when she became the youngest Australian to reach the peak of Mount Everest.It was Alysa’s third attempt to reach the summit after natural disasters thwarted her two previous attempts.In 2014, while she was at base camp an avalanche struck the Khumbu Icefall, killing 16 Sherpas.In April 2015, she was again at base camp when Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake, killing 3,218 people.She returned home to Toowoomba in early June to a hero’s welcome.Taylor Anderton and Michael Cox

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Queensland couple Taylor Anderton and Michael Cox pose for a photo at the Debutante Ball for young women with disabilities on the Gold Coast in May 2016. The past year has been full of Queenslanders more than willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. (ABC News: Sharnie Kim)
A van dedicated to taking Brisbane’s homeless people to and from their appointments hit the road on a full-time basis this year.The Missionbeat service had been in heavy demand ever since it started as a part-time pilot program towards the end of 2015.The van is staffed by caseworkers David McKeown and Mathew Sampson.They ferry some of the city’s most disadvantaged to medical, housing, Centrelink, and legal appointments as well as refuges.Sabastian Lucas and Tom the pony

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Sabastian and his new pony Tom that he bought with money he made from his lemonade stall. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Harriet Tatham)
Two Brisbane friends who built a free laundry in their old van to help the homeless were jointly named Young Australian of the Year on Australia Day back in January.Orange Sky began in late 2014 when Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi had “the really, really crazy idea of chucking two washing machines and two dryers in the back of an old van and simply going around and washing and drying clothes for free”.Since then, their fleet of vans has expanded to more than 36 locations across the country, washing more than 350 loads each week.Dami Im

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Dami Im of Australia rehearses the song ‘Sound Of Silence’ during the jury show on the eve of the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden, May 11, 2016.
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Patrick Williams

Updated

December 11, 2016 10:31:20

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Man opens up birthday to anyone never invited to a party

891 ABC Adelaide

Updated

December 10, 2016 13:25:50

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Andrew Costello with one of his own kids, who often get party invites. (Instagram: supplied)
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An Adelaide father has chosen 100 guests for his birthday party next weekend after attracting a huge response to a post on social media about kids who have never received a party invitation.Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello hosts a local television program but admits that despite his public media profile he has never been one to make a big deal of his own birthday with a party.”I love other people’s birthdays but I never really have a party of my own. It should be really good.”

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Cosi wants to share some birthday happiness with those who have missed opportunities. (Supplied: Instagram)
The Adelaide media personality said he was moved by many people’s responses to his social media post, including one woman who told of her sister’s childhood disappointment.”One lady said her sister had Down syndrome and when she was nine she had a birthday party and she invited every single person in the class,” he said.”On the day they had everything organised, all the cakes, the games — she said her sister was beyond excited by the party, but nobody rocked up.”She said it didn’t just scar her sister but her whole family. It was terrible.”Next weekend’s party will be filmed for screening on the South Aussie with Cosi program at a later date. when she goes to pick him up from school, all the other kids are running around with birthday party invitations and she said that never once has her son been invited to a birthday party throughout his whole life of schooling,” he said.”She said all she craved for is for one day her son to walk out of the classroom with a birthday invitation.”Cosi said his own family’s fridge had a multitude of birthday party invites stuck on it at any time, prompting him to decide he would devote his own birthday, which is next weekend, to sharing a happy occasion with others, such as the mother who spoke at the public function.”I decided to have my party especially for people like her son, invite 100 people to my birthday party — 100 people who have missed out on birthday parties or never been invited. I don’t care for what reason or what age,” he said.Zoo offers party venueA Facebook post attracted a huge response and Cosi said Adelaide Zoo had agreed to provide its rotunda as the party venue.”The zoo’s a cracking venue, we’re going to have it under the rotunda, which is where my wife and I got married,” he said.”The people who are invited get to bring their families, so for 100 South Australian families it’s a free day at the zoo. I don’t really like the whole birthday party concept for myself,” he said.Cosi said he was moved when a mother spoke at a recent public function about her son’s muscular dystrophy.”She finished her chat by saying the hardest thing about having a child with special needs that she’s found is … External Link:

Andrew 'Cosi' Costello's original post on Facebook

Newcastle student set to learn from leading Shakespearean performers

1233 ABC Newcastle

By

Robert Virtue

Posted

December 08, 2016 17:06:00

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Joel Okumu, 17, is set to learn from some of Australia’s best Shakespearean actors. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
(ABC News: David Spicer)
Joel said he was resigned to having to leave Newcastle for acting opportunities in the future.”Newcastle is still a developing city, so I’ll probably have to move around Australia, or maybe even go overseas to another country,” he said.”[We need to] promote acting more. [and] you can actually outshine the bad people.”

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John Bell (left) talks with actors during rehearsals for one his Shakespeare productions (file photo). It’ll take a lot of hard work to get to that,” he said.”It is very competitive but also, when there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of bad people.”All you have to do is get yourself in a certain area where there’s a lot of bad people … It will be awesome.”Joel said he hoped to one-day act in major productions, but was aware of the competitive nature of the theatre industry.”I’m hoping it can take me to a lot of places — maybe a scene, maybe a show, maybe a movie … They’ll be inspired.”You appreciate the fact that they came from this city, and that’s how you do it.” Anyone can open up a school in acting, and the competition in Newcastle is not that much.”You can do a lot with acting — even a lot of academies are opening up, and that’s the only way to promote acting.”I know a lot of kids want to become actors, singers… A school student from Newcastle, New South Wales, has been awarded a scholarship to study and perform the works of Shakespeare alongside some of Australia’s leading actors.Joel Okumu, a 17-year-old student at Newcastle’s St Francis Xavier’s College, was one of three students from around Australia awarded the scholarship by the Bell Shakespeare theatre company.The company said the scholarship aimed to give aspiring actors from regional Australia an opportunity to learn from leading Shakespearean actors in order to help them develop their careers.From Uganda to NewcastleJoel arrived in Australia from his native Uganda in 2004.He said his passion for acting and Shakespeare was born from a love of the English language.”I’m a weird kid, so I can be weird and I can act in a way where nobody will say its rude to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’,” he said of his love of acting.”I get to express myself [and] I’ve always been a big fan of English and how English is written and spoken.”Learning from leading actorsAs one of the scholarship winners, Joel will travel to Sydney for a week in January 2017, where he will take part in a masterclass, backstage tour, and watch rehearsals at the theatre company.He will also be mentored by Bell Shakespeare’s founding artistic director John Bell.”[I’m hoping to take away] new skills, crazy new skills,” Joel said.”If I can learn how to do some crazy acting ability skill that Bell can teach me, I’ll love it.
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Buchan crowdfunds to reopen local pub

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There is even a place you can tie up your horse, if that happens to be your mode of transport.The Caves Hotel was built in 1881 and received its liquor licence on December 11, 1882.After a soft opening for locals, the pub will reopen to the public 132 years and one day after its initial liquor licence came through.”The first beer will taste alright,” said the publican, known locally as ‘Brickie’.Crowdfunding key to pub’s reopeningIt is worth asking how a high country town with a population of about 200 people raises $600,000 to go towards rebuilding a pub.Lyndel Moore spearheaded the crowdfunding campaign and said it attracted pledges from as far away as New York, London and Singapore.She said the tight-knit community of Buchan was thrilled to see the pub reopen.”It’s not just a story about people drinking beer. (ABC Gippsland: Isabella Pittaway)
This was negotiated through Ms Moore’s partner, Scott Kingman the guitarist with the Australian rock band, who has been “endorsing the consumption of beers for a number of years”.”It’s something that I’ve done before, crowdfunding to make a record … the concept was familiar but to convince a township that’s kind of removed from the modern day way of raising funds was always going to be difficult,” he said.”Lyndel put a great case forward, and they were left with no other option but to give it go.”Now the locals are reaping the rewards, or as farmer Jim McCole puts it: “It’s the best thing that’s happened to Buchan in 100 years”.The pub will officially reopen on Monday, December 12. “It’s a bit flash isn’t it?” Buchan farmer Jim McCole says of the new Buchan pub.This is not an ordinary rural Australian hotel. (ABC Gippsland: Isabella Pittaway)
A rock wall at the front of the hotel says something of the town’s history. The mills have shut down … the quarry kicks along and goes well, but more and more the town is going to rely on tourism to prop it up.”

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Buchan Caves Hotel publican Greg Brick can’t wait to have his first beer at the rebuilt pub. The price tag is the best part of $1.5 million.Just over two years ago fire razed the pub, and the Victorian high country community was left without its local watering hole.Farmers, loggers, tourism operators, and long-time locals were left to drink and mingle at the local football clubrooms — a makeshift replacement.Then came one of Australia’s biggest and most successful crowdfunding campaigns, which brought in $600,000 of funding used to build the new Buchan Caves Hotel.Months of hard work, and lots of voluntary labour, has renewed the energy of Buchan, well-known for its nearby caves visited by 140,000 people a year.The new publican wonders if he has over-capitalised with the rebuilding project.”What the last year has proved for me is how resilient small towns can be, and what a small town can do when everyone comes together,” publican Greg Brick said.”The timber industry has copped a fair old beating in the last few years. In a community like this the pub becomes the hub, it’s the meeting place.”The campaign was helped along by the use of a Screaming Jets track, Helping hand. Photo:
The sun comes up on the day of the Buchan pub locals’ day, a soft opening, ahead of the official reopening of the hotel.
Volunteers rebuild Buchan pub through crowdfunding
(ABC Gippsland: Isabella Pittaway) ABC Gippsland

Updated

December 08, 2016 13:41:38

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Local timber and rocks have been used in the construction of the new Buchan Caves Hotel.

Parachuting Santa brings gifts for quake-affected kids

'It's as if the whole city fell down': Earthquake hits medieval Italian town
A group of eight skydivers, one of them dressed as Santa Claus, has landed in a village near the Italian town of Amatrice to hand out gifts to children affected by a powerful earthquake that hit the area in August.The group flew over the town of Amatrice and them jumped over the village of Sommati, carrying coloured flares and parachutes.The skydivers, members of Italy’s national parachuter association from the nearby city of Terni, also donated almost 3,000 euro ($4,311) to Somatti’s schools and nursery to help them with the reconstruction efforts.”The jump went very well, the landings too, the children were very happy and we didn’t think about the devastation [from the earthquake] because in the children’s smiles, we saw so much light and so much joy,” Carlo Capuano, professional skydiver and Alpine rescuer said.Professional skydiver Enrico Marcucci, who dressed up as Santa Claus, handed out gifts and sweets to the children.”Flying with the parachute opened in free fall, dressed as Santa Claus, brings joy. It’s a beautiful thing because you are doing something good,” he said.Most of the children used to live in Amatrice, before the city was destroyed in the quake.They now live in tents and temporary wooden houses in nearby cities and villages.The devastating earthquake struck Central Italy on August 24, killing nearly 300 people and leaving thousands homeless.AP
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December 08, 2016 10:05:03

Video: Parachuting Santa brings gifts for Italy's quake kids

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Retiree too sad to celebrate brings Christmas joy to others

105.7 ABC Darwin

By

Emilia Terzon

Updated

December 07, 2016 13:55:22

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Foodbank NT warehouse supervisor Penelope Watson with Dusty’s donated turkeys. (Supplied: Foodbank NT)
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School breakfast pilot fills funding void
A Darwin retiree who has lost nearly all of his family around multiple Christmases has turned “a very sad time of year” into festive lunches for thousands of people in need.Dusty (name changed) had three sons who died over the span of a decade, all around the festive season.In 2013 he lost his wife just two days before Christmas.”I’ve also laid to rest my sister, brother-in-law and both my parents,” he said.”Christmas is a very sad time of year for me.”All my friends know that it’s not a happy time of year for me. Distributed by Foodbank to needy households and soup kitchens in the lead-up to Christmas, the pallet of turkeys contributes to about 2,000 lunches for people who might have otherwise gone without.”On behalf of those families who never dreamed they would be eating turkey this Christmas, we are incredibly appreciative,” Peter Fisher, chief executive of Foodbank NT, said.Dusty urged others to follow his lead.”I’d like people to think about what’s on their table and just drop a bit extra into the shopping trolley.”Even if you’ve got very little; a few packets of gravy mix, some cranberry sauce, fresh vegetables, Foodbank will be able to get it to where it’s needed.”This year Dusty has given away his wife’s artificial Christmas tree and many ornaments collected over the years, although he will be holding onto the most cherished ornaments and hanging out with friends on Christmas Day.And despite not celebrating himself, he wished everybody else “an enjoyable Christmas”.Dusty said he did not want to be identified because he “did not want the story to be about [him]”. That’s the way it is and I can’t do anything about it.”Dusty no longer celebrates Christmas.However, the year after his wife’s death he decided he would spend what he normally did on the festive season on making other people’s days a bit happier.”I got a grand total of 20 turkeys from the supermarket and I gave them to Foodbank,” he said.”I just decided that I can’t enjoy Christmas but I’d like other people to enjoy it — I’ve always been a giver.”Dusty’s donation this year has grown into a whole pallet — 324 turkeys to be exact — which he delivered to the national charity’s warehouse in Darwin this week. Photo:
Dusty’s donated turkeys will feed about 2,000 people at Christmas.
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Santa chaser attempts record for longest Christmas Day

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Chasing Santa across the globe
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“If everything goes according to plan, and if all the flights are on time, I should arrive in Honolulu at 27 minutes to midnight on Christmas Day,” Mr Watt said.His tightest connection will be at Heathrow where he will have just 35 minutes to change flights.”All I want for Christmas is for the flights to be on time.”Mr Watt said he planned to attempt the record while wearing a Christmas print suit made from 100 per cent polyester.”It’s a magnificent piece of garb.”Santa is wearing velvet with fur trim; that is very last century — I am completely up to date.” Taking off from Auckland shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve, Mr Watt has planned to make flight connections in Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles in order to arrive in Honolulu in time to claim the record.
(Fraser Watt/Jonathan G Meath) Photo:
Fraser Watt is chasing Santa across the planet for charity.
A Melbourne man is chasing Santa Claus across the planet this Christmas in pursuit of a world record.Fraser Watt will spend December 25 flying west in an attempt to stretch his Christmas Day out to 47 hours.But in lieu of a flying sleigh, Mr Watt will use commercial airliners to follow Santa around the world. He is aiming to raise $20,000 for international children’s charity UNICEF.Bid to beat birthday recordMr Watt said the idea for the record attempt came “like how all of these things start — in a discussion with a good friend sitting in a pub”.”There was probably never any intention that I would follow through with it when we started the discussion,” he told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Richelle Hunt. Mr Watt hopes to beat the record set by German man Sven Hagemeier, who in 2015 made his birthday last for 46 hours.”He did that by travelling from Auckland to Brisbane and then back across the international dateline to Honolulu.”Tight connections make record a challenge
Retiree too sad to celebrate brings Christmas joy to others
774 ABC Melbourne

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Simon Leo Brown

Updated

December 07, 2016 14:15:54

‘A surreal day’: SA gets register for same-sex relationships

SA Premier apologises to LGBTIQ community for discrimination
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December 07, 2016 11:02:36
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The husband of a British man who died while they were on their honeymoon in Australia has welcomed the passing of South Australian legislation to establish a relationships register.Marco Bulmer-Rizzi said it was the most humiliating time of his life when SA authorities informed him his partner David’s death certificate would read “never married” because the state did not formally recognise same-sex relationships.In the wake of the case almost a year ago, legislation to allow same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognised passed the SA Parliament this week.Mr Bulmer-Rizzi told 891 ABC Adelaide he was delighted to hear from the SA Premier’s office in the past day that the bill had made it through both Houses.”It was a very happy, very surreal day. I never thought it would come this far [after] such a dark moment in my life.”He said happiness had now replaced what was so upsetting to him less than a year ago.”Probably it’s the happiest I have been in 11 months,” he said, expressing satisfaction that other couples would now be allowed to register their love and a next-of-kin.Despite the legislative shortfall back at the time of his partner’s untimely death, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi said he had been inspired by the kind messages many South Australians sent him on Facebook, and he would be visiting SA again over Christmas, from Britain.The Human Rights Law Centre welcomed the passage of the bill, saying it would give same-sex couples the dignity and practical benefits of formal recognition.Premier Jay Weatherill said the register would pave the way for “all loving couples to have rights, and be recognised”.
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Marco (L) and David Bulmer-Rizzi on their wedding day. (Supplied)
SA Premier to say sorry for gay marriage death certificate snub
Husband's anguish over gay marriage death certificate snub

Indigenous graduate sets up award to encourage high school students

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By Fiona Poole

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December 05, 2016 17:23:09

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Joseph Bin Omar almost dropped out of high school but was encouraged to continue by a teacher. (Supplied: Broome Senior High School)
'I want to be an ex-prime minister': trainee says
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Broome 6725
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Joseph Bin Omar returned to Broome Senior High School to present Terrance Lockyer Cox with the inaugural Rise Above Award, with principal Saeed Amin. After almost dropping out of school in year 10, Indigenous student Joseph Bin Omar has now graduated from a science degree and returned to his high school to establish an award to encourage other Aboriginal students.Last month Mr Bin Omar returned to Broome Senior High School as a keynote speaker to present his inaugural Joseph Bin Omar Rise Above Award.”I wanted to reach out to people in year 12 and let them know that they are capable of much more than they probably think,” he said.This year Joseph graduated with a science degree from University of Western Australia and has been accepted into a Masters of Public Health.”I actually wanted to drop out in year 10, but I had a staff member, Mr Tim Grey, who saw something in me that not many other staff members saw at the time,” he said.”He made me feel really good about myself, and he encouraged me to go down the university pathway.”That did so much for me, and now I want to give that back.”Mr Bin Omar comes from a large family with 14 siblings and said his parents always pushed them to make the most of their education.”Mum finished high school and my dad finished primary school,” he said. (Supplied: Broome Senior High School)
“They always wanted their kids to take the opportunity of education with both hands, because it wasn’t available to them,” he said.Travelling to Perth for university highlighted Indigenous issues that Mr Bin Omar had accepted as normal, growing up in Broome.”The statistics up there are pretty shocking and I’ve grown up around a lot of stuff that I’ve seen and I want to be the person to try to change that,” he said.Mr Bin Omar said the Rise Above Award is awarded to a student who had gone through struggles, and who has been determined and driven to get through year 12.”I want to reach out to those kids because I used to be like that when I was younger,” Mr Bin Omar said.”This pushed my vision of wanting to give back to my Aboriginal community and be a beacon of hope and to trigger future Indigenous youths to want to make a difference and to help our mob.”

Connecting strangers with people who sometimes fear dying alone

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Darwin 0800
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(105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon) 105.7 ABC Darwin

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Emilia Terzon

Posted

December 05, 2016 15:41:40

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Les Bellchambers usually takes his Telecross call from this seat next to his bed.
Red Cross calling to check on SA's elderly
(105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)
The former nurse with a “wicked” sense of humour is full of stories about neighbours coming to the rescue, elderly people with a fear of neighbourhood crime, phone calls missed due to forgotten interstate trips, those who have passed away, and moments of hope from people accepting their own mortality.”We have one absolutely delightful gentleman whose biggest fear is that he will die and nobody will be there to feed his dogs. Instead of the happy conversation, it’s now just ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. I was at the hospital and realised I hadn’t told them and thought they’d be busting down the door.” By the time you’ve hung up, you feel like somebody has rung you who cares you’re OK,” he said.”You couldn’t wake up and stay grumpy in the morning.””The first time I missed one of their calls, I was pretty panicky. It’s just that if something went wrong, then I’d hate it to be ages before somebody found out,” he said.”I’d hate to be here [at home], just decomposing, and nobody knows you’re there.”It is a common anxiety among older people, the sick and socially isolated, and many others like Mr Bellchambers who are signed up to a free daily service aimed at putting their minds at ease.Founded four decades ago by the Red Cross, Telecross sees volunteers call people every morning for a quick check up and then, if necessary, sends over neighbours, family, ambulances and police for help. They sometimes say, ‘Oh Robyn, it’s you, it must be Wednesday’,” she said.”Some of them, I just feel so badly about that they have no family here, limited outlets for friends, and they’ve got nobody, just me on the end of the phone.”There’s one gentlemen who is very depressed [right now]. Everything is not money in this world. Photo:
Telecross is made possible by a group of passionate volunteers. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)
Mr Bellchambers said perhaps not enough people knew about the shoestring-budget service, with himself only realising that it existed after he had a fall and was visited by Ms Scott in Darwin’s hospital.”The way they do it is a credit to them. Even though you’ve never seen them, they talk about their lives and their fears. To me, that is amazing,” Ms Scott said.”You develop a rapport. I think they are like pen pals.”I think because of my history, I don’t have a fear of death. Photo:
Les Bellchambers says there needs to be more funding for aged care services like Telecross. I know he’s in the depths.”But there’s others who are social butterflies, out and about all the time.”Clients become like ‘pen pals’Most of the time, Telecross’s clients pick up the phone and confirm they are doing fine, however when they do not pick up and the calls ring out all morning, Ms Searle said it sends her “into a panic”.The next port of call after this happens is to call the service’s NT coordinator, Patsy Scott, who organises a door knock and other emergency procedures. I’ve accepted it and I can handle it. You must take care of the community,” accountant and Sunday shift volunteer Soma Shanmugam said.Other volunteers have parents of their own who are signed up to Telecross, with Ms Scott adding that she “never” blamed the families for not calling their parents or siblings more often to check in.”My mum is 90 and I ring her once a week, but I’ve told her about Telecross. You get to know the people who are calling you,” Mr Bellchambers said.This is also the experience of long-time volunteer Robyn Searle who, after retiring from her job in customer service, decided to put her phone manner to good use every Wednesday between 7:30am and 9:30am.”The clients recognised my voice after a while. “I think that’s the cruellest thing in the world.”Service not possible without volunteersMs Scott said the service saved lives, allowed older people to stay living at home longer, and was only possible due to “giving” volunteers, many of whom were retirees or migrants looking to give back to society.”It gives meaning to our lives. She doesn’t want it.”Ms Scott acknowledged that some might view the phone calls as intrusive or confronting, yet she said the service was always professional and confidential, and urged more Territorians to sign up. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)
In other states, the volunteer and client lists are so vast that the two same people rarely talk to one another, however in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, where there is a small pool of volunteers calling only 80 clients, things have gotten more personal.”It’s somebody to talk to. Photo:
Patsy Scott is a former nurse motivated by alleviating the suffering of others — and hearing “the great stories” of her clients. Darwin pensioner Les Bellchambers is not sure when it started to happen, but that somewhere between the surgeries and the pneumonia, the anxiety and “things that started to rattle”, he began harbouring a personal fear.”I’ve lived on my own for a long time now. What I’m afraid of is people having to suffer, lying on a floor or being sick in bed and not to be able to move.

Exchange program empowers disabled volunteers

891 ABC Adelaide

By

Brett Williamson

Posted

December 05, 2016 14:26:52

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Team members of the DESE trip with sighted companions in Fiji. (Supplied: Scope Global)
(Supplied: Scope Global)
“We had never mobilised a team of people with disabilities before.”The program recently saw Ms Kay win the National Disability Award for inclusive development.”One of the most rewarding outcomes from my perspective was to see how the people with similar disabilities saw this team coming in.”She said many local people admired the mobility of the visiting volunteers and were empowered to achieve similar independence.”I think it really inspired people to think, ‘oh, if they can do it, we can do it’.”Team leader Caroline Conlon, who spoke through a sign language interpreter, said the group made a big impact.”Because it was a team, I believe we had more impact in the wider community and attracted more attention,” she said. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)
Ms Conlon said the group’s presence in the communities created conversations about people with disabilities and changed perceptions.”The biggest reward was the impact that the team had on the local community.”I think that people realised that people with a disability can be on an equal basis with everyone else.”I’m really hopeful that the impact we had is long lasting.”Ms Kay said, based on the success of the first trial, others were now being planned.”We are in planning phases for trial two and three and want to try them in different sectors.”We’d also like to trial it in Asia to see if the model we trialled in the Pacific will work there.” Photo:
DESE team member Vas meets a local during the Fiji exchange program. Photo:
Development officer Alex Kay and volunteer Caroline Conlon back in Adelaide. In an Australian first, a team of five people with disabilities has successfully completed an international volunteer mission, and organisers Scope Global hope it will be the first of many.The team of five — made up of four vision-impaired and one hearing-impaired volunteer — travelled to Fiji to work with people with disabilities.The volunteers spent 28 days in Suva and visited five organisations during their stay.The Disability Empowerment Skills Exchange (DESE) pilot was created by Scope Global as part of the Federal Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development program.”We designed a program to make the volunteering program more inclusive,” said Alex Kay, disability development officer at Scope Global.”We went over to Suva with disabled persons’ organisations based there, primarily to build leadership skills.
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Adelaide 5000

How to care for your Christmas tree

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Ron Junghans grows about 4,000 pine radiata trees on his four-acre farm in Sydney’s north. it’s all joyous.”While Mr Junghans is yet to choose one for himself, he said his preference was a bushy natural-looking tree.He takes a step back with the decorating, though.”That’s mainly my wife’s role,” he laughed.”But you need to start at the top — have plenty of bells and memorabilia.”

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Ron Junghans has been growing Christmas trees since 1979. Christmas tree care tipsBring an old sheet to wrap the tree or tying rope for the drive homeGet the tree into water ASAPTake a small slice off the bottom so water is easily absorbedMake sure the tree isn’t in an air-conditioned areaDon’t put it in direct sunlight
Mr Junghans, a retired school teacher, planted his first pine radiata in 1979.There are only three left from that year and they stand on the edge of the four-acre paddock, reaching 40 metres tall.The trees that will decorate people’s homes this year though range from three to five metres and have taken at least five years to grow. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh) Photo:
The tallest Christmas trees on the farm have grown to 40 metres. “I’m giving them a nip and tuck.”That is how Ron Junghans described his pruning technique on this year’s Christmas tree harvest.Surrounded by some 4,000 trees on his farm at Duffy’s Forest in Terry Hills, there is no masking the pine-fresh scent of the festive season.”You don’t need an artificial tree, get a nice fresh one and put that smell through the house,” he said. “They take quite a while to establish themselves,” Mr Junghans said.”I don’t water so they go at a smaller rate, but it makes for a better tree I think — looks a bit more natural.”Tree selection ‘hectic’The trees are pruned throughout the year so they “throw off side shoots and thicken” in the middle and take on the favoured cone shape.Smaller shoots require constant maintenance in their early growth to stop bugs “chomping” them, and antifungal fertiliser is used to avoid root rot.Mr Junghans expects to sell about 500 trees this season which are priced from $60 to $150 each.Half of those went to homes on the weekend at the farm’s first opening of the season.Mr Junghans said it “was very hectic” with families vying for the best looking tree, while others had reserved their trees weeks in advance. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
Each tree grows about one foot (30 centimetres) a year. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
“They’re looking for that conical shape, nice and green of course, plenty of branches and bushy,” he said.”Everyone is always quite excited about getting their tree …
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Sydney 2000
702 ABC Sydney

By

Amanda Hoh

Posted

December 05, 2016 14:58:14

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Christmas trees require regular pruning to make them grow into a conical shape. (702 ABC Sydney: Amanda Hoh)