Local projects in need of Snowy Hydro dollars – transport to culture and sport

Snowy River Mayor John Rooney is pushing to have the Canberra to Bombala rail line reopened. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Snowy River Mayor John Rooney is pushing to have the Canberra to Bombala rail line reopened. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The full sale of Snowy Hydro to the Federal Government is a $4.2 billion injection into the New South Wales economy, and the Mayor’s of South East NSW are lining up to spend it.

Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro have “ring-fenced” those dollars for infrastructure projects in rural and regional NSW.

“4.2 billion dollars in one go for rural and regional NSW does not happen often, this is a once in a generation opportunity,” the Premier says.

“Snowy Hydro is iconic, an iconic nation-building project, what we intend to do is convert the proceeds into iconic nation-building projects for rural and regional NSW.”

Eurobodalla Mayor, Liz Innes is ready to help the Premier spend it; her wish list is geared towards generating employment and economic development opportunities.

“We’ve completed significant work in identifying our infrastructure priorities at a local and regional level,” Cr Innes says.

“This is a wonderful new opportunity and we’re grateful the NSW Government is directing the funding to regional areas.”

The top priorities for Eurobodalla Shire:

  • Batemans Bay Regional Arts, Aquatic and Leisure Centre at Mackay Park
  • Agribusiness and aquaculture infrastructure, including export packing and tourism facility for recently announced oyster hatchery at Moruya Airport;
  • Surf Beach innovation park – subdividing and providing infrastructure for future economic and employment growth;
  • Southern water storage facility – helping to secure Eurobodalla’s water supply with a 3,000 megalitre, off-stream storage facility near the Tuross River;
  • Improved coastal access and inclusive infrastructure incorporating walking trails, accessible pontoons, accessible facilities, and beach and water access.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes is keen to advance Council's plans for a new aquatic and cultural centre for Batemans Bay. Photo: Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes is keen to advance Council’s plans for a new aquatic and cultural centre for Batemans Bay. Photo: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

West of the coastal escarpment, Snowy Monaro Mayor, John Rooney has big ambitions including reopening the rail line from Canberra to Cooma and then on to Bombala and the port of Eden.

Cr Rooney was quick to put the idea on the agenda soon after being elected Mayor late last year, telling Fairfax Media at the time, that rail was the most efficient form of land transport and that reopening the Queanbeyan-Bombala railway would give the Dongwha mill at Bombala access to softwood plantations in the ACT and Palarang.

At that time the Mayor committed himself to speaking with all levels of government to progress the idea, five months later there’s money on the table for what the Deputy Premier and local member says will go towards infrastructure projects that span generations.

Also on the Snowy Monaro wishlist:

  • Upgrading the transport network to ensure the main freight routes are to modern standards, including Imlay Road to Bombala
  • The Bundian Way, a 360km ancient Aboriginal pathway that links Targangal (Mount Kosciuszko) and Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach, Eden)
The Snowy Mountains Highway on Brown Mountain has been unstable for many years. Photo: RMS.
The Snowy Mountains Highway on Brown Mountain has been unstable for many years. Photo: RMS.

In the Bega Valley, Mayor Kristy McBain also has road infrastructure in mind.

“Bega Valley Shire Council was very pleased to see the recent State Government announcement in regards to a potential funding boost for the regions stemming from the Snowy Hydro sale,” Cr McBain says.

“We have identified a number of infrastructure project priorities that, when completed, will bring substantial financial and social benefits to our community.

“[Including] water treatment facilities at Bemboka, Brogo, and Bega, [and] an upgrade of the Brown Mountain east-west transport link .”

Bega Valley Shire Council has just launched an Infrastructure Prospectus touting a range of projects in need of government and/or commercial investment.

The prospectus enables the State and Federal Government to look at projects over a wide range of infrastructure, cultural, and sporting priorities for our area, we would obviously welcome any additional spend in our area,” Cr McBain says.

When it comes to what projects are funded when, the Deputy Premier says, “We’ll take our time deciding what those projects are.”

“We don’t want to squander the opportunity, the legacy left by Snowy Hydro,” Mr Barilaro says.

What would your community do with Snowy Hydro dollars? Make your pitch below.

*This story first appeared on RiotACT

Bega’s Teen Clinic spreads – Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, Eden

The Teen Clinic approach starts at reception. Photo: BVMP.
The Teen Clinic approach starts at reception. Photo: BVMP.

A fresh approach to youth health that started in Bega is expanding to five new locations.

South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network and Senator John Williams, Duty Senator for Eden-Monaro, have announced Commonwealth funding to roll out “Teen Clinic” in GP practices at Bermagui, Eden, Narooma, Merimbula, and Kiama.

Bega Valley Medical Practice in Bega started the free drop-in service for the region’s young people in 2015.

Dr Duncan MacKinnon says Teen Clinic starts at the front desk of his GP practice with reception staff.

“When teens come all they have to say is ‘We’re here for Teen Clinic’ and that’s as much information as they have to give, no questions asked,” Duncan says.

On two afternoons a week, each practice will set aside time for teens with registered nurses (RN). High schoolers simply show up, no appointment needed, and no fee – Medicare picks up the cost.

Doctors and other health professionals are there and ready to respond if needed, supporting the work of the RN.

With the Commonwealth funding, Teen Clinic has expanded to Bermagui Medical Centre, Curalo Medical Centre (Eden), Lighthouse Surgery (Narooma), Main Street Medical (Merimbula), and Kiama Medical Practice.

Dr Duncan MacKinnon from the Bega Valley Medical Practice. Photo: BVMP.
Dr Duncan MacKinnon from the Bega Valley Medical Practice. Photo: BVMP.

Conscious of the barriers that sometimes exist when ‘grown-ups’, bureaucracy, and adolescents try and engage, an easy, non-judgmental, welcoming approach is key to the Teen Clinic model, as well as the leadership of nurses.

RN Sue MacKinnon is one of the faces of Teen Clinic in Bega each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon between 2 and 5 pm.

“There has been a lot of research that shows teenagers can be reluctant to talk to doctors,” Sue says.

“But they are fairly happy to talk to nurses, we are a good entry point.”

Aside from offering their own high level of primary health care, Sue and the clinic’s other RNs work to introduce and connect teens to the people and additional care they might need.

“We do a lot of baton passing, it’s a really smooth transition for the kids and takes away some of the scariness for them,” Sue says.

It’s important that Teen Clinic is not “just” seen to be a mental health service or a sexual health service.

All bases are covered, open access covering all medical concerns for teens.

The response from Bega teens has been positive over the last two years.

“We have a small population, so sometimes we might get one person, sometimes we get seven,” Duncan says.

“We get groups of kids coming in which is really lovely because they’re bringing their friends.

“It’s important that teenagers know this is a confidential service,” he says.

“But we always talk to them about parental involvement, but a lot of teenagers are capable of making informed choices.”

The free, drop-in Teen Clinic service is now available at Bega, Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, and Edem. Photo: BVMP.
The free, drop-in Teen Clinic service is now available at Bega, Kiama, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, and Edem. Photo: BVMP.

In announcing the funding, Senator Williams said, “Any investment in rural health in the search for better outcomes is a good investment.

“There has always been a great divide between city and regional health services but thankfully with initiatives such as this it will assist our medical specialists and ease the burden on country people,” he said.

Bega Valley Medical Practice has already started to roll out the Teen Clinic service to the five other practices and will provide ongoing support and mentoring.

*The article first appeared on RiotACT

Change to Anzac Day fundraising upsets South East veterans

Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.
Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.

RSL members in South East NSW say they are embarrassed by the scandal that has engulfed head office and are angry their local fundraising activities on Anzac Day have been impacted.

Moruya RSL Sub-branch Deputy President, Kevin Setter, says concern was first felt when RSL headquarters in Sydney prevented the sale of poppies on Remembrance Day last November.

Since then, all RSL sub-braches in New South Wales have been instructed to hand in their fundraising authorities by this Thursday.

“There will be no fundraising with Anzac Day this year unless proceeds go to the Invictus Games,” Mr Setter says.

In recent years, the Moruya RSL Sub-branch has raised about $6,000 from the sale of Anzac Day badges and about $5,000 from poppy sales. Half of those proceeds go to Sydney HQ and the other half stays with the local branch.

Merimbula RSL Sub-branch President, Allan Browning says his members feel tainted by the corruption uncovered at RSL NSW. He doesn’t believe members or local residents will be interested in supporting the Invictus Games.

Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“People want their money to stay local, this is going to create all sorts of problems for us,” Mr Browning says.

“We don’t have anything to do with Sydney, this has been very embarrassing.”

Snowy Mountains RSL Sub-branch covers Jindabyne, Berridale, Dalgety, and stops in between. Member Jimmy Crocker says he is hoping the issue might be resolved before April 25.

“We are a very small cog, but this money helps cover the cost of the various remembrance services we hold each year,” Mr Crocker says.

“We also give a lot of assistance to diggers in need, a lot of emotional support, whatever they need.”

NSW RSL says there will be fundraising merchandise for sale on Anzac Day and that communities across NSW will be invited to support the veterans community in a different way this year.

“Whilst we fix our fundraising systems, we are negotiating an interim arrangement for our 40,000 volunteer members this Anzac Day,” NSW RSL President, James Brown said in February.

“RSL NSW will fundraise for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

“This inspiring event, created by His Royal Highness Prince Harry, will bring wounded warriors from 18 nations to Sydney in October to compete against each other, and show to the world they remain unconquered by their war wounds,” Mr Brown said.

Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.
Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.

The fundraising problems Mr Brown points to relate to the Bergin Inquiry instigated by the NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matthew Kean.

Patrica Bergin SC was asked to investigate concerns that NSW RSL and it’s governing body and officers had breached the Charitable Funds Act.

During the course of the inquiry, it was revealed that former RSL NSW President, Don Rowe spent $475,000 on his corporate credit card over a six-year period, including $213,000 in cash withdrawals.

The Berejiklian Government has referred the matter to the NSW Police.

As Mr Brown reported to RSL members, “[Ms Bergin] concluded that there had been “extensive non-compliance with the statutory regime for fundraising at the sub-Branch level” (p 139) as well as a failure by State HQ to comply with numerous parts of the Fundraising Act.”

“The Inquirer [Ms Bergin SC] was scathing in her assessment of certain former leaders of the league who she considered took the RSL “close to the brink of destruction”,” Mr Brown said.

She criticised State Councillors who served between 2014 and early 2017 for their ignorance of the fundraising law and their duties as directors and found that “each of them engaged in a cover-up”.”

With regard to current NSW RSL leadership, Ms Bergin SC concluded that Minister Kean, “would be satisfied that those persons are fit and proper persons.”

Only released in January, the Bergin Inquiry Report points to some serious work at NSW RSL – adding rigor, transparency, and accountability to its systems, work that won’t be ready for Anzac Day 2018.

The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Part of that work seems to involve a better business model for the state’s 353 sub-branches.

Mr Brown acknowledges that without fundraising, “nearly half our sub-branches will struggle to remain open.”

“Whilst we fix fundraising systems to be compliant with the law, we will need to change our league’s financial model to ensure that better-resourced sub-branches apply the surplus funds they hold to support smaller sub-branches.

“We will separately issue a State Council Directive outlining the new financial model for the league during 2018.

“We must make sure our smaller sub-branches, particularly those in the bush, can keep doing welfare and commemoration work in their local communities,” Mr Brown said.

RSL Sub-braches from across southern NSW will gather in Bega this weekend, and Merimbula’s Allan Browning says Anzac Day fundraising will be at the top of the agenda.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT.

Sideshow clowns open door to grassroots democracy at your local show

Sideshow Clowns at the Bega Show. Photo: Kate Howarth, Bega Show Society.
Sideshow Clowns at the Bega Show. Photo: Kate Howarth, Bega Show Society.

Politics is part of every country show. There is the tongue-in-cheek variety between Jersey and Friesian dairy farmers, between sheep and goat graziers, and between dressage horses and motorbike clubs, but room is always made for the “more serious” variety, the politics that normally takes place in a parliament house or council chamber.

In fact, country shows provide one of the few unfiltered opportunities to speak directly to our leaders.

January, February, March is show season in South East New South Wales and has been for 145 years, from Moruya Show to Bega and Cooma, the region’s politicians make a point of attending, an army of party faithful at their side with marques and billboards marked in party colours and slogans.

The Bega Show last weekend offered some respite for the region’s federal representatives, who seemed happy to be free of Canberra and were looking forward to a week were their own sex lives were a talking point.

“It was like a bowl of sweet and sour Chinese,” Labor’s Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro says.

“On one hand we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations, and on the other we had the other business [Barnaby Joyce affair] going on,” Dr Kelly says.

The Turnbull Government was represented at the show by new NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan, who has just completed his first two-week parliamentary sitting.

Dr Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Dr Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Senator Molan has been described as the Stephen Bradbury of politics. Listed as the seventh candidate on the NSW Coalition Senate ticket at the last election, the former Army General finds himself in parliament as a result of the Section 44 citizenship saga that claimed Nationals Senator Fiona Nash.

Like Dr Kelly, Mr Molan did not want to offer direct comment on the Barnaby Joyce affair or his own recent brush with the media where he was criticised for sharing a Facebook post from the far-right group Britain First.

“What may surprise everyone is that the Government is getting on and doing its job,” Mr Molan says.

“For example, the Minister for Veterans Affairs introduced a Bill last week which he called Veteran Centric Reform,” Mr Molan says.

The Government’s Veterans Affairs website says, “Veteran Centric Reform [is] to provide the veteran community with a greater standard of service through reform of business processes and culture.”

Reflecting on the work of parliament and other matters that might have been missed in the buzz around Barnaby, Dr Kelly points to the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Last week, the Committee handed down its Review of the listing of Islamic State Khorasan Province and the re-listing of al-Murabitun as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.

In a nutshell, their report concluded: “Islamic State Khorasan Province and al-Murabitun continue to meet the definition of a terrorist organisation.”

Perhaps not a front-of-mind issue for showgoers over the weekend, but Dr Kelly who sits on the Committee insists that it demonstrates that politics is more than the scandal and combat we see presented in the media.

“It’s [the Joint Committee] a very bipartisan mechanism, we really do focus on the interests of the country, keeping our people safe and defeating terrorists. There is no politics there,” he says.

The red of the Labor tent sat side by side with the blue of the Liberal tent over the three days of the Bega Show.

Often the different party members could be seen standing on neutral ground discussing the issues of the day or their show winning dahlias.

Passers-by were invited to raise concerns and issues, offer a view on parliament’s current agenda, or find out what’s going on for themselves.

“That’s what we are here for,” Dr Kelly says.

“Sometimes it’s good for people to just get things off their chest, I’ve learned as a Member there’s a lot of therapy you can provide by just being a decent listener.”

This grassroots demonstration of our democracy survives in a political landscape that thrives on extremes and conflict, and one that highlights difference rather than similarity. It’s a style of politics that sits comfortably alongside the giant pumpkins, decorated Arrowroots, and chainsaw racing of the show.

“And I am only new, I am not across the local issues, I am here to learn,” Senator Molan says.

Senator Jim Molan. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Senator Jim Molan. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Show season rolls on this weekend with the Canberra Show, followed by Delegate, Dalgety, Cooma, and Bemboka on March 11.

Head along not just for the sideshow clowns or a pony ride, but ready to see your local politician – the invitation is there to talk to them.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Fluoride flows for Bega Valley water supplies – Council votes “yes”

Some of those in the public gallery today at Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Some of those in the public gallery today at Bega Valley Shire Council. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A ten-month debate at Bega Valley Shire Council came to an end this afternoon with councilors voting to add fluoride to most of the shire’s remaining water supplies.

Council has been adding fluoride to the Bega-Tathra system since 1963, today’s six – two result in the chamber will see it added to two of Council’s other water supplies.

The long process has been characterised by conflicting science and at times hostile debate, which was on show again at today’s council meeting.

Before a public gallery of around 30 people, five community members addressed councilors urging them to reject the idea, most suggesting that Council would face legal action if they proceeded.

“I do not give council permission to introduce this toxic substance as mass medication without choice into my water supply,” Merriwinga resident, Sean Burke said.

Negative health impacts have been a real fear of those opposing the introduction. Reduced IQ, thyroid complaints, cancer, fertility problems, arthritis, and kidney disease have all been raised during the course of the debate.

“Imagine the outcry if you were to add some other medicine to the water?” Bermagui’s Anthony Hereford argued.

Pambula’s Fraser Buchanan, speaking for the Bega Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association suggested the recent NSW Health phone survey on the issue was biased in favour of fluoride.

Five hundred residents were quizzed over the summer holidays and asked, “Do you agree with adding fluoride to the public drinking supply to try to prevent tooth decay?”

“Step up and show you are unwilling to be part of a contrived process,” Mr Buchanan urged Councillors.

The validity of the survey was a theme that run through the discussion, however some councilors were clearly swayed by the results – 66.2% responded ‘yes’, 28.4% responded ‘no’, 5.2% were unsure and only 0.2% preferred not to respond to the survey.

Today’s decision for Bega Valley Shire Council was prompted by NSW Health asking regional water utilities who don’t already incorporate fluoride into their water treatment processes to do so as a prevention of tooth decay.

With 96% of the state fluoridated, NSW Health is moving on the remaining 4% and is providing all the funds needed for the Bega Valley to come on board.

Councilors Cathy Griff and Jo Dodds argued strongly for those in the room campaigning against the idea.

Cr Griff moved a motion to defer the decision pending legal advice but that was defeated.

“Sugar is the problem,” Cr Griff said.

“The case is building against fluoride, I would like to think we could lead the way.”

Despite a general acceptance among councilors of the benefits of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, many also seemed frustrated at the conflicting science presented during the course of the debate with both sides undermining the quality of each others research.

“This triggers in me the precautionary principle,” Cr Dodds said.

“There is too much evidence of risk.”

The Tantawangalo water supply source at Six Mile Creek. Image Kate Burke
The Tantawangalo water supply at Six Mile Creek, near Candelo.  Photo: Kate Burke

With Councillor Mitchell Nadin on leave, the vote could have been split four all but it soon became clear of the eight remaining councilors, six would be saying ‘yes’ to fluoride.

Cr Robyn Bain said, “This gives everybody the chance to have good dental health.”

“Not everybody has the ability to afford good dental care, this is equitable.”

In voting for fluoride, Cr Liz Seckold said, “I will always advocate for the socially disadvantaged.”

“I am sick of being bullied by the anti-fluoride brigade,” she added.

Cobargo’s, Cr Tony Allen was of a similar view, “This will be of benefit to people across the shire.”

Heckled from the public gallery, Cr Sharon Tapscott cut short her speech suggesting, “You are only interested that I vote your way,” she said.

Cr Tapscott drew on the 46-year history of fluoride in the Bega – Tathra supply.

“We’ve had no health problems, that experience should guide us,” she said.

In voting ‘yes’ Pambula’s Russell Fitzpatrick said, “Good oral health is vital and has a huge impact on overall health.”

After rising to her feet at least five times to settle the rowdy gallery, Mayor Kristy McBain was among the last to speak on the issue.

Cr McBain drew a compassion between her own childhood drinking fluoridated water and that of her eight your old daughters.

She told the chamber her daughter has already had four fillings.

“She doesn’t come from a poor background, she brushes her teeth and we see the dentist,” Cr McBain said.

“The only difference is that I came from a fluoridated area she does not.”

Council says the introduction of fluoride means extensive capital asset construction along with human resource considerations, staff training, policy and procedure reviews.

Meaning that it is expected to be a number of years before the people of Candelo, Wolumla, Merimbula, Tura, Pambula, Eden, Kiah, Quaama, Cobargo, Brogo, Wallaga Lake, and Bermagui are drinking fluoridated water.

In closing, Cr McBain made the point that fluoride was not the shires most pressing water issue, the Mayor suggesting that money would be better spent on building water filtration plants.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

New stable complex at Sapphire Coast Turf Club builds racing industry

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.
Sapphire Coast Turf Club is set in bushland between Tathra and Merimbula. Photo: SCTC.

A new horse stable complex has opened at Sapphire Coast Turf Club, north of Merimbula, a move that is seen as being key to growing the racing industry on the Far South Coast.

Turf Club President, Robyn Bain believes the $270,000 development allows local trainers to kick-start their business and offers travelling trainers somewhere to safely and securely house their horses.

“One of our difficulties is the tyranny of distance, trainers from the north, south, and west need somewhere to put their prized possessions,” Robyn says.

The new stables opened in time for the $430,000 Bega Cup weekend and were full on the first night, with 14 horses bunking down in the purpose-built bays.

The Turf Club is aiming to have them full at every race meeting.

The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The new stable complex houses 14 horses. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Horses from Moe trainer Russell Cluning were the first to roll in the sawdust of the new facility. “I’ve sent photos to everyone in my network letting them know how good this is,” Russell says.

“We are on the road for 6 hours and you need to know you have a comfortable place for your horses when you arrive.

“And we’ll make a bit of a holiday of it, knowing the horses are safe we’ll go and stay at Tathra or visit Merimbula,” Russell says.

The new stables are the latest action to come from the Club’s strategic plan which has been rolled out over the last 5 years.

Completed project include new female jockey change rooms, a kangaroo proof fence around the track, shade sails for spectators, new fridges and solar panels, and track improvements.

“The thing that has triggered all this growth is that we have more race meetings from Racing NSW, we now have ten TAB meetings a year and one non-TAB meeting a year,” Robyn says.

“A TAB meeting means that whenever someone in Australian or South East Asia places a bet on a horse that races on our track, we get a percentage of that.”

An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.
An eye on the winning post from the new stable complex. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Sapphire Coast Turf Club is working in conjunction with Moruya Jockey Club, and Shoalhaven City Turf Club at Nowra to secure 44 meetings a year between the three clubs.

“That will mean we are racing every two to three weeks and will provide opportunities closer to home for the local industry,” Robyn says.

Rewards from the work already done are flowing through – prize money for a race is now locked in at $20,000 minimum, which is attracting a higher class of horses.

“Five years ago our turn over was $1 million, today it’s $2 million and the majority of that money goes back into the local area,” Robyn says.

“The track costs about $300,000 a year to maintain, that’s a lot of agricultural products we buy, and we are now employing ten people.”

Money aside, there are good times in local racing that Robyn Bain is also keen to acknowledge.

“People have fun out here, it’s relaxed, the kids have got a jumping castle, mum and dad can sit down on the grass, chill out and talk to their friends – four hours of bliss,” Robyn says.

“People are happy!”

Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Rob Tweedie and Robyn Bain from Sapphire Coast Turf Club do the honours. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the continued support of Racing NSW, there is one more big-ticket item on the to-do list, six to seven hundred thousand dollars worth of track lighting.

“Before and after daylight savings, if you are coming out here to train your horse it is pitch black dark at five o’clock,” Robyn says.

“We can’t allow horses and people on our track without at least 200 metres of ambient light.

“And in this part of the world a lot of our trainers are part-time trainers, so they’ve got full-time jobs. Not having lights here to train at night is a real handbrake,” Robyn says.

The next race day at Sapphire Coast is the Merimbula Cup Tradies Race Day on March 9.

Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.
Go the grey! What a beauty! Photo: Ian Campbell.

*About Regional content is supported by, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, 2pi Software, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, and Bronnie Taylor.

*The story was first published to RiotACT

New citizens formalise their place in Bega Valley community.

Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell

Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.

Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.

I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.

Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.

Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.

Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.

Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.

Cobargo's Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell
Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell

“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.

With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.

“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.

Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.

“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”

India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.

Bermagui's Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Bermagui’s Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.

“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.

“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.

Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.

“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.

While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.

“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.

“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Merimbula's Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell

Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.

“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.

Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.

“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.

As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.

Wolumla's Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Wolumla’s Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.

“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.

The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.

“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.

“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”

Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.

*About Regional content happens through the support of members – thank you to The Crossing Land Education Trust at Bermagui, 2pi Software, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Fiona Firth, Scott Halfpenny, Bruce and Julie Williamson, Sue Hill, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison, and Kerry Newlin. Thank you!

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain calls on us to “Advance Australia”

Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council
Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council

Through her Australia Day address, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain has tried to advance the conversation about our national day.

“With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country,” the Mayor told the 200 people gathered in Littleton Gardens this morning for the Shire’s official Australia Day ceremony.

An hour after the Bega ceremony concluded a Survival Day event was held in Bermagui, reflecting the undeniable loss many Aboriginal people feel on January 26.

The Bega Valley was split in two, and those overwhelmed by the debate went to the beach.

Communities divided or not engaged on our national day – surely this is not healthy?

Rather than waiting for Federal leadership on the issue, perhaps the people of South East NSW could lead the way and create an event that truly unifies and inspires all Australians.

It’s a conversation the Bega Valley’s Mayor seems keen to have and lead…

To address you on a day such as this is a tremendous honour and something I have spent a lot of time thinking about.

Australia Day is an event that generates conversation and thought, and rightly so. Thank you for being here to consider my thoughts.

There is a sigh of relief that comes with being Australian, our country is truly blessed in natures gifts and the beauty of our people and way of life is rich and rare.

The people we honour today with an Australia Day Award remind us that being Australian is active citizenship.

People like Dane, Junee, Ron, Shaun, Geoffrey and Marshall are people within our community that point the way. They inspire us and remind us of the power we each have within our hands and heart to shape this land that is girt by sea.

I am so glad you are here today to share in their wisdom and experience, and perhaps ask yourself – What can I do to Advance Australia? How can I respect and support the people, environment, and way of life we celebrate today?

Today we also stand up and cheer as new Australian’s join our ranks and deepen our proud multicultural heritage.

Twelve people will today become Australian citizens, people from across the seas to share our boundless plains. The stories of these people and the talent they bring make us stronger.

Central to our time together today is a history that spans one of the oldest living cultures on the planet as well as European settlement and exploration.

Australia Day is a history lesson that presents a range of ideas and experiences to consider; stories that take in the full scope of our country’s history and human emotion.

How these shared and at times conflicting histories sit side by side and are remembered is an ongoing dialogue for our community and important work for us to do so that in history’s page, every stage, does Advance Australia.

As different and conflicting as those histories are at times, there are often shared values and ambitions that rise to the surface as those histories are shared.

At our core, we are a nation of people who value being Australian and what that means to us and says to the world.

It’s freedom that comes as easy as the next breath, a celebration and acceptance of different cultures, an emphasis on friendship, a spirit that has a go, a sense of fun, and an empathy that steps up when we see a need.

A successful nation has been built on these lands over many thousands of years, each chapter adds something new, each chapter has its own challenges, and each chapter calls on us to help shape the next.

So in 2018 I encourage you to mark Australia Day however feels right to you, remembering all that we have to be grateful for, all that we have in common, and the future we all create together.

With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country.

Happy Australia Day!

Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain

The increasing hurt and frustration around Australia Day damages the potential and delays resolution, while ever it continues people will run from any organised event, the only people attending will be those at the extremes of the discussion, the rest will opt for a swim and a good book, and Australia Day will become just another public holiday when it could be so much more.

The leadership shown by Cr McBain this morning is perhaps the start of something better, let’s get the local discussion going now and not wait for next January to roll around.

Always interested in your thoughts.



*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council and acted as MC for Australia Day 2018 in Bega.


Paul, forced to walk home from hospital at 2am, told it won’t happen again

Step 4 - chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Paul had to stop after chest pains returned near Glebe Lagoon in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A Bega man who was told to walk home from South East Regional Hospital (SERH) at 2am says his confidence in the local health service has improved.

Paul’s outrageous story drew a strong response from the About Regional community when it was first published in late November.

He had already made an official complaint about his shoddy treatment but was yet to receive an explanation or apology. In the days that followed the publication of Paul’s story, he was invited to a meeting with new hospital chief, Wendy Hubbard.

“She apologised for what had happened and told me new systems were in place to stop it happening again,” Paul says.

Paul is not his real name. In sharing his story Paul didn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and asked to remain anonymous. He did however want to see change and a better standard of care for the community that has been his home for 20 years.

It seems he has achieved that.

It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell
It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul’s story starts with chest pains after dinner one Sunday evening in early September, after a day of feeling funny he and his partner called for an ambulance.

After five hours in care, Paul was told he hadn’t had a heart attack but was suffering from angina. By that stage, the hospital clock was saying 1:30 am and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP as soon as possible.

“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.

Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.

“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.

No other option was offered – no bed, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.

“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.

During the four-kilometre walk home, Paul had to stop on the path at Glebe Lagoon when the chest pains returned.

Thankfully he made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.

South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital. Photo: SNSWLHD

When I initially published Paul’s story the Health Service pointed to the lack of a taxi service in Bega as being the issue.

“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours,” the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group said.

While accepting that transport is an issue across South East NSW, the community reaction to Paul’s story and the heartless government response has prompted a rethink from the Health Service, with many people reporting similar tales of being stranded by a system that seemed to not care or understand life in a country setting.

In a subsequent statement to About Regional, a spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed that in the future patients will be offered an overnight stay in the hospital to help manage transport issues.

“To avoid similar incidents arising in the future Emergency Department (ED) staff will be able to raise potential patient transport issues with the After Hours Nurse Manager,” a Health spokesperson said.

“[Staff] will talk to the patient and consider any options, including an offer to stay overnight.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson said, “On December 15 the SERH on-site Carers and Relatives Accommodation will be opened, which will provide a further option for people in a similar situation.”

Paul says he feels vindicated and trusts that this won’t happen again.

“I appreciated the apology Wendy offered and I got a sense she is working to make things better,” Paul says.

“It seems there was a lack of understanding by agency and locum staff on duty the night I arrived.”

Under new District Cheif Executive, Andrew Newton further operational and cultural changes have been flagged inline with the review initiated by the NSW Health Minister.

Confidence in the sparkling new facility and some of its staff has been shattered on the back of a raft of issues since the hospitals opening in early 2016.

A few finishing touches before Friday's grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell
A few finishing touches before Friday’s grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell

The Carers Accommodation that opens on Friday is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate people’s trust.

Like so many things, the construction of this building has been driven by community fundraising coordinated by Bega Valley service clubs but embraced by people and organistaions around South East NSW, as well as State and Federal Governments and big business.

An 18-bed facility for carers is the full vision, six motel style rooms with their own ensuite will open on Friday representing stages one and two.

The community is invited to look through the new building between 2 and 5pm.

Paul is not surprised that the community has stepped up the way it has around his story or how it has rallied around the need to build carers and relative accommodation for a hospital that services communities from Batemans Bay to Jindabyne to Mallacoota.

He hangs on to the blanket he was given on that cold September night as a reminder that systems and bureaucracy are meant to serve people.

*About Regional content happens because of the financial contributions of members, thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Bronnie Taylor, Fiona Firth, and Scott Halfpenny.

Meet 2EC’s new radio presenter – a painter from Bega, John Watkin

John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC's Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.
John Watkin learning the ropes with Kim Saker in 2EC’s Bega studio. Photo: Ian Campbell.

One of the best blokes in Bega has just landed his dream job, four decades after he first had a crack.

John Watkin has been in the paint business for close to 40 years, but as a teen, he applied for radio school with the ambition of working on the wireless.

“Radio was my childhood dream and I got rejected,” John remembers.

“This was back in the day when youth unemployment was 30%, jobs were really hard to come by, you had to get a job wherever you could, which is how I ended up in the family business.”

John grabbed the opportunity with both hands, working with his father to build a business that is now one of the pillars of town – Inspirations Paint.

But from Monday, John’s radio dream becomes a reality as the new Morning presenter for East Coast Radio 2EC.

Program Director and 2EC Breakfast presenter, Kim Saker says giving John the job feels right despite his lack of professional radio experience.

“He and I had talked about the idea over a couple of scotches in years gone by,” Kim laughs.

Keen to bring stability to her station when yet another vacancy opened Kim pitched the 50 something painter to the powers that be.

“He doesn’t have the radio skills as such, but he’s got the personality, he’s got the stability, he’s got the maturity, and he’s got the passion – everything else you can teach,” Kim says.

John’s appointment comes at a time when regional media is under pressure and in many country radio stations local content has been replaced by networked programs from the nearest capital city.

Kim says it was localism that sealed the deal.

“The directors of Grant Broadcasters, who own 2EC have the technology to do hubbing, but they believe in keeping it local wherever they can,” she says.

During his years running the paint business and raising three kids with his wife of 30 years Sharon, John has fed his radio dream with a regular painting and decorating segment in Kim’s breakfast program.

“And for the last 10 years when we have our radiothon weekend, John comes into the studio and he and I pretty much spend the whole weekend on air together,” Kim says.

Learning how to drive the radio studio has been the focus for John over the last few weeks of training, getting to know the equipment, being able to respond to a live radio program, and above all getting comfortable in what many people see as an intimidating environment.

Listeners to Kim’s breakfast program might not have realised that on some mornings recently, John has been “paneling” – pressing all the buttons while Kim kept her gums flapping – as only she can!

From Monday (December 4) he’ll need to do it all himself (as country radio presenters do) during his own program.

This boy from Bega who grew up listening to 2EC or 2BE as it used to be known, says it’s been a nerve-racking experience.

“I’ve been self-employed for the last 27 years, this is out of my comfort zone,” John says.

2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell
2EC Breakfast presenter and Program Director Kim Saker with new Mornings presenter John Watkin. Photo: Ian Campbell

Locals will be familiar with John’s community work through the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Legacy, Anzac and Remembrance Day, Bega Hospital, and more, it’s something he is keen to bring to his new role.

“For me, radio is part of the local community, it’s a connection point, it’s a conduit for the community to share what’s going on,” John says.

“When it comes to fires and floods that’s where radio really steps up, you can get instant news to people.”

John will be on air between 9 and 12 weekdays, treading lightly at first while he gets his bearings, but his plan is to include interviews and discussion in amongst the music that 2EC is known for.

“My day is about connecting with this community, I’ll be talking about what’s happening and how that impacts on our local area,” John says.

The career change is a significant shift in the operations of the paint business John and Sharon continue to run.

“My wife is still not talking to me,” John laughs.

“Sharon is very supportive, she knows I’ve had a passion for radio since before I had a passion for her.

“And the kids think it’s fantastic, they keep hassling me. My daughter has just moved to London and she can’t wait to live-stream me.”

As a 30 year veteran of the industry, Kim Saker says it’s a really nice feeling to make someones radio dream come true.

“My passion for radio started when I was 11, I couldn’t imagine waiting as long as John has,” she says.

“For John to be living the dream now is awesome for me.”

Radio needs real people, country towns need radio, and John Watkin is a welcome addition to the ranks.

*About Regional content is backed by members, including – Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg,
Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, and Four Winds at Bermagui.