Pies star Ron Richards dies aged 85

Ron Richards and brother Lou in 1952.Collingwood has paid tribute to one of its ”greatest servants”, after the death of Ron Richards on Friday.
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Richards, the younger brother of football great Lou, passed away after losing a long battle with illness. He was 85.

Richards, a key player in the Magpies’ 1953 premiership side, had also spent considerable time at the club as assistant coach, on the match committee and on the board.

Magpies president Eddie McGuire said Richards was one of the club’s most revered figures.

“In the rich history of the Collingwood Football Club, Ron Richards will always be known as one of its greatest servants,” McGuire said.

“Ron was a member of the Pannam/Richards dynasty, which collectively produced more matches than any other in the game’s history and dates back to 1894, through Charlie Pannam snr.

“Ron distinguished himself in everything he did at Collingwood, be it as a star of the 1953 grand final who had been picked out by Jock McHale for an unaccustomed role on the wing, coach or administrator. Ron was best on ground in the flag triumph, helping his brother Lou, who was captain, to lift the premiership cup.

“Later, as Lou moved into the world of show business and the media, Ron dedicated himself to Collingwood, something he cared for deeply.

”He served as a thirds and seconds coach. He spent time on the board and he sat by the side of Tom Hafey and Leigh Matthews as chairman of selectors. In any discussion of great Collingwood men, Ron Richards – Collingwood life member, AFL life member, legend and premiership star – cannot be overlooked,” McGuire said.

Richards played 143 games for the Magpies from 1947-1956.

The extended Pannam-Richards families pulled on the black-and-white guernsey in more than 930 games, including eight premierships.

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O’Connor stood down by Wallabies

James O’ConnorO’Connor’s troubles sign of deeper issuesWallabies disillusioned with O’Connor: Sharpe
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The Wallabies will play the Springboks in Cape Town without their most experienced outside back after James O’Connor was stood down for an alleged drunken display at Perth Airport last weekend.

O’Connor was stood down indefinitely on Friday after failing to ”uphold the behavioural and cultural standards expected within the team”, according to the ARU. He will miss the Wallabies’ tough two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina. He was denied boarding on a flight to Bali and escorted from the terminal less than 12 hours after helping the Wallabies claim a narrow win over the Pumas.

While the ARU investigation is ongoing, a statement from the Federal Police alleged O’Connor was ”intoxicated”.

It is understood the 23-year-old has not denied having consumed alcohol but, in a first explanation given to the ARU’s integrity officer earlier this week, claimed that an argument over seating arrangements was the reason he did not board the flight.

The decision means Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will be forced to start a vastly less experienced player on the wing in place of the 44-Test outside back.

”I’ve basically lost one of my most experienced backs who is playing quite well and replacing him with a player with no [Test] caps … that’s unfortunate but it’s the right thing for the team,” he said.

McKenzie did not nominate a date for O’Connor’s return, saying he would not be forced into making a decision until he was ”satisfied [O’Connor] can once again contribute positively to what we are trying to achieve as a group”.

”The reality is that representing your country is the ultimate honour but also a week-to-week proposition,” he said.

”To be selected, players must consistently do the right things on and off the field. We’ll continue to assess James on that basis before any team decisions are made about a return.”

O’Connor was in negotiations to re-sign with Australian rugby and the Western Force after leaving the Rebels this year. The impact on those negotiations is unclear, with the Force saying this week they would monitor the outcome of the investigation.

McKenzie refused to comment on O’Connor’s contract situation or the details of what the former Wallabies playmaker admitted to doing on Sunday morning, instead saying he had acknowledged he had not conducted himself appropriately in public. McKenzie said ”periodic events” were bringing down O’Connor and the team, and would not be tolerated.

”We’re not getting the right type of behaviour from him,” McKenzie said. ”There’s no doubt since I met with him prior to the start of [the Rugby Championship] he made incremental improvements, but he let himself down at the weekend.”

Waratahs winger Peter Betham will be called into the squad to cover for O’Connor’s absence. Brumbies winger Joe Tomane and Reds winger Chris Feauai-Sautia have also been called in to cover injuries to winger Nick Cummins and fullback Jesse Mogg.

O’Connor’s loss comes at a terrible time for the Wallabies, who are short on wins and experience, but McKenzie said the team’s interests had to be put first.

It also comes less than a month after O’Connor declared he had put past controversies behind him and wanted to be known for his football instead of a string of incidents that have marred a promising career.

He was suspended for one game after missing the Wallabies’ 2011 World Cup squad announcement, was involved in an apparent public scuffle in Paris with teammates Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale the year before, was photographed on a 4am burger run with Beale in a crucial Test week and missed Robbie Deans’ final team meeting as coach after the British and Irish Lions series loss.

”He’s a good footballer, no one disputes that, he’s been doing good things for us and he’s definitely demonstrated change already but he’s tripped himself up,” McKenzie said. ”There’s a track record there of similar types of events. They’ve all been different circumstances, so I think a significant change in behaviour is required.”

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WORD OF MOUTH: Shootyapooch 

WHEN Jenny Parker met a professional animal photographer in a Gold Coast pet shop three years ago, the Newcastle woman had a life-changing moment.
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Three days later, she registered the business name, Shoot-Ya-Pooch, and joined the growing number of Australian ‘‘petrepreneurs’’.

Her love for animals and her keen interest in photography was the perfect combination to cash in on Australia’s multimillion-dollar pet industry.

She set up a pet photography studio in Wallsend that has been running successfully for the past three years.

Parker said her passion for photography developed while travelling around Australia with her husband in 2009 and 2010. Initially she was taking photos purely to document their travels. Later, she attended photography classes to further develop her skills and found herself being constantly drawn to taking photos of pets for assignments.

“Unlike the other students in my classes, I did not have my own children to practise on.’’

She attributes a good photo shoot to “being able to read the animal’s behaviour, a lot of patience and a few tricks’’ she has learnt over time.

Parker doesn’t just restrict herself to ‘‘pupography’’ either. She has photographed plenty of cats and the occasional bird.

“I’ve also photographed a blue-tongue lizard and a baby python snake and would love the opportunity to photograph Australian wildlife,” she


As the Hunter Animal Rescue’s volunteer photographer, she has photographed almost 300 rescued animals in an attempt to find them a new home.

She is available for shoots seven days a week at her Wallsend studio.

She also works from a studio in Balmain one weekend a month.

The photo shoot takes around an hour and customers receive 10 photographs.

Costs start at $175 for up to two pets, with additional pets costing $25 each.

For more information visit shootyapooch南京夜网

Jenny Parker

THAT’S LIFE: Drink codes hard to swallow

TODAY I want to talk about beverage etiquette – the dos and don’ts of tipple time – on your turf, and out in the field.
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It’s a complicated, nuanced situation, judging by the exuberant response when the topic came up over the water cooler.

We had a quorum (three dudes sharing war stories) and the ball was being batted. It started off with in-laws. ‘‘Don’t get me started’’, was the vibe.

It moved on to spouses – best not to go there, either – before devolving into wine tastes at the dinner table and sponging drinks at parties.

Hello, start your engines.

Seemed everyone had an opinion, an anecdote and a pet hate, often related to

in-laws and spouses – but we weren’t going there, remember?

Top of the list: the freeloaders who turn up thirsty with only a token offering, or worse, nothing at all, in exchange for what you suspect they know you have in the fridge.

It might well be your best friend from primary school, Uncle Barry, or some unsung Samaritan type who resolves to help you for the 14th time since Origin to deal with what they make you feel are your drinking issues, by matching you drink for drink. Nostrovia!

Houston, is there a problem?

Well, not really; it’s called being social, but it can depend on the situation, the invite and possibly a person’s upbringing.

For example, we all agreed if you’re gonna pop around to watch the footy, you bring a token six-pack of something to acknowledge your host’s hospitality. Or, at least, the fact he went to the trouble to get cable TV. There is nothing worthy about turning up dry, unless it’s Ocsober, and by then the finals are nearly over.

Then there is the dinner party scenario. You’ve invited friends or relos over – or, indeed, you’re visiting friends and relos, but you feel from experience their taste in wine is abysmal. Who knows when you became such a wine snob, but it’s happened and now diplomacy will be required.

What to do?

If you’re hosting, do you stash the primo and offer up the dregs from the last time you changed the engine coolant?

There seemed to be a utilitarian inclination not to waste the good stuff on unappreciative palates. Selfless selfishness.

One friend said that when visiting he always turns up with two bottles – one for laying down in the cellar (that is, the crap bottle) and the other for enjoying with dinner (the Grange). He emphasised that he made the distinction clear on arrival in a show of exaggerated graciousness that no doubt reinforced in his hosts that he had a drinking problem.

But at least he was locking in certainty. And, ask any economist, that’s what holds the market together.

It’s a considerate approach in that he anticipates the problems he wants to avoid and gives the innocent criminals an ‘‘out’’.

Savour the good wine with the food and later on we can pour the sump oil over our head when taste buds have gone to hell.

Yes, it’s a complicated neuro-sociological minefield.

And a miracle that people remain friends.

Sometimes you might happen to be the perpetrator.

Maybe not by design, maybe just circumstances conspiring against you.

Sometimes you just can’t get to the bottlo before you arrive.

Maybe someone’s been in your ear about how someone’s got to be the designated driver, leaving you in that corridor of uncertainty as you whistle past a beer barn, rendering you dry on arrival.

Then you discover on arrival that your would-be passenger has decided to drink tea, and maybe it would have been better, as usual, if you had something to with which to overcompensate.

No one wants to be the thirsty person who has nothing to contribute.

Or, worse still, the parasite who prefers instead as the party takes off to suggest to themselves kind of out loud, monologue-like, ‘‘I might have one of these’’, as they delve inquisitively into what suddenly appears to them to be the communal Esky and happen to discover someone else’s Trappist Monastery pale ales.

This has the potential to get ugly, we agreed.

Doesn’t take long in these moments before the communal Eskies become individual Eskies.

Social socialism has its limits, particularly when we’re talking fancy beer – not that anyone is keeping score or taking notice, comrade.

As one person recalled over the water cooler, without wanting to overstate the seriousness of the situation, ‘‘your Esky is your embassy’’.

And, as any international lawyer will tell you, embassies are sovereign areas.

And your beer is essentially Julian Assange.

Touch someone’s beer without a

United Nations mandate and basically you’re a threat to the free world.

Yeah, beverage etiquette is tricky.

You don’t need to drink to be social,

but it seems being social can drive some people to drink.

CRIME FILES: Robert Bretherton

ROBERT Bretherton was capable of better. He was capable of interacting with people, including women, and he was capable of at least appearing ‘‘normal’’ or fitting in, which begs the question: why did he save his worst for Jodie Jurd?
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Bretherton, 38, was jailed this week for 21 years after previously being found guilty by a jury of murdering her. He claimed he was substantially impaired due to an abnormality of the mind when he stabbed the popular nurse 12 times in her Bellbird home on November 16, 2011.

The trial heard from women who had relationships with Bretherton in the 12 months leading up to the crime including one who fell pregnant to him.

Their experiences with Bretherton were in stark contrast to Jodie’s.

Jodie Jurd was born and raised in the Coalfields surrounded by a loving family.

After high school she studied nursing and found work locally before she was introduced to Bretherton at the Cessnock Ex-Services Club in 2001.

She had a group of girlfriends who liked to catch up often and a family that got together for Sunday tea every week.

All of that changed in 2001.

Some of the girlfriends told the Supreme Court they did not see much of Jodie after she met Bretherton.

When Jodie brought her new boyfriend around to meet the family, Bretherton didn’t fit in.

He sat on his own, he couldn’t hold a conversation and he made it clear that not only should he be excused from Sunday tea, but he didn’t see why Jodie should attend either.

‘‘He had no social skills,’’ Jodie’s father, Norm, said.

Jodie defended Bretherton saying he’d had a hard childhood and he couldn’t relate to a close-knit family.

But it wasn’t just Jodie’s family to which Bretherton objected. He shunned her friends, also.

One of Jodie’s friends told the court she was having a chat to Jodie on the phone one day when she heard a noise in the background and the phone was disconnected.

The friend rang back straight away and the phone was answered by Bretherton who refused to put Jodie back on the line then hung up.

He also influenced how Jodie dressed.

Norm recalled the immaculate way she dressed when she wasn’t with Bretherton.

She always took pride in her hair, make-up and clothes, but when she was with him she changed.

‘‘Frumpy’’ was the word Norm used.

A friend told the court Jodie had confided to her that Bretherton controlled who visited the house and was adamant Jodie’s friends and family were not welcome.

Jodie told others that Bretherton was jealous and liked to be the centre of attention.

She said he was more abusive and violent when he was drinking.

The couple moved in together in 2005 or 2006 and over the years they bought the Bellbird property in Cruikshank Street, a property in Queensland and other interests.

It was difficult to gauge the true state of the couple’s finances because even though they owned the properties together Bretherton was secretive and obsessed with money.

He worked weekends at the Wambo coalmine, but had played the stockmarket at times over the years.

He was constantly monitoring Jodie’s finances, but he wouldn’t share anything about his own.

She remarked to friends and family that she didn’t have a clue what he earned or what exactly he owned even though he knew everything about her.

Despite the strain of the relationship the couple tried to have children together without success. They resorted to IVF and it is believed Jodie financed the treatments at enormous expense to herself.

She endured the pain of 10 miscarriages and at least one witness said Bretherton blamed Jodie for being unable to sustain a pregnancy to full term.

Jodie loved Christmas.

She was the proud owner of a homemade collection of decorations and cut-outs that Bretherton destroyed in 2010.

For reasons known only to himself he set them alight in the backyard.

There were stories over the years of tantrums and fights.

Jodie’s mother, Muriel, recalled an incident when her daughter said: ‘‘I have to go home. Rob’s very upset that I’m spending too much time with you … and not enough with him.’’

Then in mid-2010 the couple decided to go on a trip.

The road trip was meant to be for three to five months, but the couple were home within several weeks with their relationship hanging by a thread.

Bretherton had confiscated Jodie’s credit cards to control her spending and seized her mobile phone to stop her from calling friends and family.

She confided to friends that Bretherton was violent and she feared what her family’s reaction would be.

Later that year they broke up.

But with a feeling of helplessness, friends and family worried she would eventually go back to Bretherton and she did.

By early 2011 the couple appeared to be trying to reconcile and intended to seek counselling.

Despite this, Bretherton was trawling dating websites and meeting other women.

Some of these relationships were purely sexual, but at least one was genuine.

It was with a younger woman who had tentatively gone online.

She met ‘‘Aussie Bob’’, as Bretherton called himself, and they agreed to meet in person.

He seemed nervous at first, but eventually opened up and they continued to see each other for a few months, she said.

For a man who couldn’t bring himself to attend Sunday tea with the Jurds, Bretherton was all of a sudden attending family functions with his new flame who could distinctly remember him engaging in conversation with her brothers.

It was perhaps the most damning evidence against Bretherton at the trial.

A man, who claimed he was on the autism spectrum, which he alleged reduced his culpability for the killing, was forming a healthy, loving relationship with another woman and doing the very things he claimed he was incapable of doing.

Bretherton called this new relationship off after about four months, but by then the woman was pregnant.

She later rang him and told him she’d had a miscarriage.

He was devastated.

He bought her flowers. He comforted her.

His reaction was in stark contrast to the way he had treated Jodie.

Throughout 2011 Jodie and Bretherton’s relationship fluctuated.

Friends who saw the text messages Jodie was receiving said they ranged from pleasant to abusive.

Despite their attempts to reconcile and plans to move out of the area together they proceeded to separate their property.

No one knows exactly what the couple fought about on the evening of November 16, 2011.

Bretherton had been drinking and there was paperwork in the house that suggested maybe they fought over the property settlement.

He had previously sent Jodie a message saying that if she did not sign the paperwork ‘‘your life won’t be worth living’’.

Neighbours had heard the couple fight before, but their last one was different.

There were banging noises and yelling before Jodie screamed.

A neighbour rang triple-0 before Bretherton himself did and police arrived at the scene minutes later. Bretherton was found kneeling over the body.

A knife was near Jodie’s feet.

Bretherton confessed to the stabbing immediately and his lawyers tried to convince a jury he was guilty only of manslaughter because of diminished responsibility.

A combination of stresses coupled with autism spectrum disorder and a major depressive illness lowered his culpability, reducing murder to manslaughter, they argued.

The jury must not have been impressed.

A decade of violence, control and manipulation was just too great to overcome.

A new way to boost books

THESE days it’s not enough to write a book and hope it sells. In the fast-moving world of the internet and instant popularity, you have to push the right buttons to gain attention.
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Just ask Rob Towner, a 30-year-old children’s book writer from Merewether.

Towner, who manages the website of national retailer Inspirations Paint from their Warners Bay head office, has this month launched his sixth children’s book, Animal Friends: Floating Orange Cubes.

He is hoping to generate interest in the book by offering it free in EPUB, PDF and MOBI files this weekend on Amazon’s website. To get the files, interested people need to share the book with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

He’s also chasing positive reviews via Little Book Owl on the YouTube internet channel and entering the book in award competitions.

‘‘This is going to be the big one,’’ he says. ‘‘I’m hoping to push it into the charts for free Amazon downloads. And people look at the charts.’’

The 13,000-word book, aimed at children ages 8 and over, includes illustrations done specifically for the book by students at St Dominic’s Centre for Hearing Impaired Children at Mayfield. The illustrations also come with the electronic versions of the book.

According to Towner’s Facebook page, the story is about a young girl questioning her father’s obsession with stockpiling fly spray, and his reply. The father explains ‘‘the completely true story of Patrick the Cicada, an insect living in 1956 who (with the help of plenty of other animal friends) stands up to the biggest bully in the backyard, a parakeet named Leslie’’.

The students at St Dominic’s were given single-sentence briefs on each illustration that was needed, encouraged to make them as colourful as possible.

He is negotiating distribution of the hard-copy edition of the book.

Despite his persistent effort (he began writing the book in 2009 and has rewritten it several times), the final result is not about the money.

‘‘This is a labour of love,’’ Towner says. ‘‘I’ve poured a lot of money into it already.’’

At full retail price of $16.95, Towner would make $4 per book. But he readily admits he’s looking to the future.

‘‘You can get it free [this weekend] just by tweeting about it. That’s worth $16.95 to me.

‘‘I’ve got a knowledge bank of sequels. The Outer Space Oyster is the next one. I’m building an audience.’’

The Amazon download page of Animal Friends: Floating Orange Cubes ishttp://bit.ly/robtowner

Playground stories

WHEN Islington Public School students were preparing for a recent four-day excursion to Canberra, Abdelelah Abaker’s excitement was tempered by anxiety. The 12-year-old had never spent a night away from his parents, Higazya and Mohamed, and they were just as anxious about the trip.
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Having arrived in Newcastle in January as part of Australia’s refugee resettlement program, after fleeing conflict-riven Sudan, separation had long been a fear for the family of five. Trapped in limbo in Egypt for 12 years – Abdelelah and his younger brother, Abdelazim, were born there – it had been unthinkable to spend time apart.

School principal Matthew Bradley had tried without success to persuade Abdelelah to attend an overnight camping trip with classmates earlier this year. ‘‘He didn’t know us well enough in term one,’’ Bradley says.

But, when I meet Abdelelah after his return from Canberra, he cannot suppress a wide grin. ‘‘I saw snow,’’ he says, shaping an imaginary snowball is his large hands. ‘‘So freezing!’’

When he arrived for the start of the school year in February, he could not speak or read English and cried when told he would not be joining his older brother, Alaadin, at high school. Bradley recommended he enrol at Islington for one year to learn English and adjust to his new life in Newcastle. ‘‘He wasn’t very happy with me,’’ offers the dynamic, Doc Martens-clad principal in his tidy office.

Mohamed Abaker, whose own studies were cut short by the political unrest in his homeland, nods agreement. ‘‘He cried and cried,’’ the Arabic-speaking father-of-three says through a translator. ‘‘We trusted Mr Bradley. Now, Abdelelah and Abdelazim read for us and say, ‘That’s not right. This is the correct way’,’’ he laughs. Higazya, who sits quietly beside her husband, smiles.

The boys haven’t looked back.

THERE was a time when the reputation of Islington Public School was tainted by its location in a suburb known more for its discarded syringes and sex workers than innovative education. ‘‘I’ve actually been asked if I pick up syringes in the playground,’’ Bradley says, with a hint of exasperation.

In the past five years, Islington has changed. It has the best children’s playground in the city and has become a creative hub. You can browse through antique stores, a textile gallery, have an organic facial, or buy bespoke camping gear – and the coffee’s good, too.

Lisa Ogle, whose two daughters, Edie and Nico, attend the school, describes her evolving suburb as ‘‘bohemian Islington’’, with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. ‘‘Seriously, though, it has changed,’’ says the long-time resident. ‘‘It wasn’t that long ago that if couples bought a house, they’d sell up and move out of the area before the baby arrived. Now, there are prams everywhere. People used to send their kids to school elsewhere, but that’s changing.’’

She says when nine-year-old Edie, who is severely disabled, was ready for kindergarten, Islington Public School wasn’t on her and partner David’s radar.

‘‘We were planning to send her to the Hunter Orthopedic School in Waratah, but [education] department changes meant it became a senior school and she had to go to Glendon at Hillsborough. It just wasn’t convenient for us, so we met with the local school counsellor, who happened to be based at Islington [Public School], and he explained that Edie could probably go there.

‘‘We didn’t think it was an option.’’

Then principal Andrew Price was all for ‘‘inclusion and integration’’ and modifications were made to accommodate Edie’s wheelchair. She has also been allocated a full-time school learning and support officer.

‘‘We didn’t want her treated like a baby,’’ Ogle says. ‘‘We always wanted her to do age-appropriate, modified activities and it works. She loves school; she gets excited as soon as she sees her uniform and she cries when I pick her up.

‘‘I can’t see it working at a bigger school.’’

Since 2011, enrolments at the 126-year-old primary school have increased by more than a third to 94, although it remains one of Newcastle’s smallest government schools. Forty per cent of the students are from a non-English-speaking background, or a ‘‘culturally and linguistically diverse’’ background, to use current education parlance. It is not uncommon for children to arrive part-way through the year with little understanding of English.

Some have never attended school before and, if they have, their experiences are vastly different to those offered in the lively, art-filled classrooms that greet them at Islington Public School.

Bradley’s focus as a teaching principal centres on the students and their parents.

At the weekly Monday morning ‘‘parent cafe’’, which was introduced last year to provide an informal meeting space for resettled refugees, Bradley listens to concerns. This week, a Hunter representative from the NSW Business Chamber speaks to the group about assisting with work placements. The men are especially desperate.

‘‘I just want to be busy,’’ Alex Mulamba says. ‘‘I have my forklift ticket and I went [to businesses] to get experience. I asked to volunteer, not get money, but everyone said no, it was too risky.’’ He tells Duncan Burck from the chamber that he will happily work as a farm labourer in the Hunter Valley. He has previously been a fruit picker, which is how he saved enough money to buy a small car.

Father-of-eight Clement Saiti previously worked with deaf people and has struggled to find work in this area since arriving in Newcastle. He worries he will have to leave the Hunter and his strong ties with the Congolese community to find a job. ‘‘It is very, very hard,’’ he says.

Talk then turns to the challenges of finding rental homes. Many resettled refugees are rejected by landlords because they do not have a rental history, but there are other reasons including family size and, undoubtedly, ethnicity.

It quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary parent get-together.

As the principal, Bradley is often called on to help. Recently, he dealt with a Glendale business that refused to replace a new appliance bought by a refugee family. It was broken when they switched it on at home. ‘‘The person who served them would not exchange it and comments were made about the family’s race. The family didn’t know what to do.’’

Bradley made a phone call and the business responded more positively.

The parent cafe has become an essential forum for helping to alleviate fear and address issues. ‘‘In some cultures, parents only get involved with the school if their child is in trouble,’’ observes Herbert Gatamah, a community information officer with the Department of Education who helped establish the cafe. ‘‘Here, it is different; parents are encouraged to participate. When Matthew comes into the parent cafe, he is no longer the principal, he is a father, and questions that are asked are often about parenting.

‘‘A few weeks ago, a parent explained their child was demanding an expensive cellphone and they didn’t know what to do. This parent actually had an a-ha moment. It was very visible when Matthew said, ‘I have the same problem, but I do this …’ The parent saw that the issues they were facing were also affecting other parents.’’

Gatamah explains the trauma experienced by some refugee families makes it difficult for them to trust others.

‘‘They can be anxious, hypervigilant,’’ he says.

Bradley later tells me that during a routine safety drill, a Congolese student crawled under her desk when the hooter sounded.

‘‘Her teacher had to scoop her up and hold for about an hour. She went into this other zone.’’

BRADLEY is a blue-eyed, silvery-haired whirlwind. During my three visits to the school, the only time I see the 36-year-old sit down is during the parent cafe. Our rapid-fire conversations are stop-start as he is called away to speak with a parent, a student, or a colleague. He often starts work at 7am so he can keep on top of the administrative load without interruption. The father-of-three is hard-working, compassionate, and an optimist.

‘‘Matt’s going to change the world,’’ quips the school office manager, Rebecca Bailey.

Originally, Bradley wanted to pursue a music career, but instead completed a bachelor of visual arts at the University of Newcastle. As a classically trained pianist, he releases stress on the occasional Friday afternoon – when all but the cleaner have left the grounds – by playing the school piano. Mozart is a favourite and Liszt remains special. ‘‘But my hands can’t cope any more,’’ he laughs.

This is his first appointment as principal. He has previously worked in Nexus, the child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit at John Hunter Hospital while at the Kotara School, which educates students in years three to six with emotional disturbance and behaviour disorders. He has also been an assistant principal (behaviour) in Lake Macquarie.

‘‘I’ve taught students with some of the most horrendous stories in their background – it would make your toes curl – yet the resilience they have is amazing,’’ he says. ‘‘There is hope for every child with the right support.’’

Small schools are more intense, but their size is also one of their greatest assets.

‘‘The school community doesn’t want it to get too big,’’ offers Bradley, who oversees 15 staff, some of whom service other schools across the region. The school also houses the Reading Recovery unit, a research-based early intervention literacy program that includes three tutors who help train teachers from Wyong to Merriwa. Bradley says it takes six years of formal schooling for a child to obtain the level of English skill required to cope in an academic setting.

‘‘We have kids who have never been to school before they arrive, and some do not have a print literacy background and they’re thrust into a classroom. They have to learn to speak and read, as well as dealing with a new country, customs … it’s a lot to take in. But my challenges here aren’t ones to do with the kids or community, my challenges are that if we are going to have an inclusive, supportive society, what can we do to achieve that?’’

Given his background in the arts – his partner is artist Sally Bourke – and commitment to engaging students from all walks of life, there is a distinctly creative focus at the school. Year 1 students – aka the Islington Rock Chickens – are working with David Bean, the heavily tattooed father of their classmate Lola, to record a song they have written called Animals on the Chase. When we pop in the children are having their hair and make-up done for the video Bean is filming for them.

‘‘We only live a couple of streets away,’’ Bean says. ‘‘We love the diversity.’’

Lola later tells Bradley of the Animals on the Chase activity: ‘‘It’s just like a normal literacy class only more fun’’.

On Mondays, Senegalese musician Fode Mane teaches each class drumming in the school hall. When I wander in, the kindergarten children are displaying that particular delight that springs from being able to make noise – and lots of it. They are surprisingly precise in following Mane’s energetic lead. ‘‘If they told me to come here and just teach the African kids I’d say ‘no’,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s definitely important to let the refugee children experience some of their culture, but it’s about unifying everyone.’’

There is also a homework club and a dance group. ‘‘My mum always told me,’’ says Bradley, ‘‘that knowledge and skills, while hard to attain, once mastered are easy to carry.’’

WHEN Mohamed Abaker was seated in a plane bound for Sydney and a new life in Newcastle, he was struck by the cultural divide. ‘‘Everyone was Western,’’ he remembers. ‘‘Am I going to feel this way in Australia? I will be different. The children did not worry; they watched movies and played games.’’

The family was met at Sydney Airport by a Navitas caseworker, an Iraqi who spoke Arabic. ‘‘I thought, OK, that’s good. I relaxed,’’ Abaker says.

The biggest challenges since moving to Mayfield in January have been overcoming communication and cultural barriers. His sons, who have quickly attained the ability to read and speak English, are flourishing. This can sometimes create tension.

‘‘Mum and dad are suddenly being dictated to by their kids,’’ observes Bradley. ‘‘The power balance shifts and this creates all sorts of issues. Parents end up relying on their children for help, but, as the saying goes, give an inch and they’ll take a mile.’’

Abaker intends to study law at the University of Newcastle once he completes the Adult Migrant English Program at Hunter TAFE. At 48, he is determined to gain the education he was denied in Sudan.

‘‘You have to settle first, get your house, get an education and look into your future,’’ he says, smiling.

‘‘Maybe there’s a view that we [refugees] don’t know anything, but we have experience and want to contribute. All I want is for my children to finish their education. They won’t have any excuses, because they have opportunity.’’

Ryde councillor tells ICAC of ‘inappropriate’ approach

Councillor Artin Etmekdjian leaves the ICAC hearing into Ryde Council. Photo: Peter RaeA former mayor of Ryde says he was approached about a contentious project by a developer acting as a “messenger” for fellow councillor Ivan Petch.
Nanjing Night Net

He says he told the developer that the matter was inappropriate and he would not get involved.

Artin Etmekdjian, the former mayor who is now a councillor, told an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing on Friday that the developer and property owner John Goubran had set up a meeting with him.

He says Mr Goubran told him he was acting on behalf of Cr Petch, who wanted to resolve the council deadlock over the civic precinct project.

Cr Etmekdjian said Mr Goubran had suggested at the meeting, held in a Top Ryde shopping centre coffee shop in January last year, that consideration of the project should be deferred until after the council elections later that year – and that a committee should be set up to try and resolve the issues stalling the project.

But Cr Etmekdjian said he told Mr Goubran to relay to Cr Petch the proposal – and the way it had been broached – was “inappropriate”, and the matter should be a matter for discussion among councillors.

The commission is investigating a number of allegations involving former Ryde mayor Cr Petch, and others, about the alleged release of confidential council information, and an attempt to undermine council employees including the former general manager, John Neish.

The commission is also investigating an allegation that Cr Petch played a role in an offer conveyed to Mr Neish that his employment would be secure if he could delay consideration of the proposed redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Precinct.

Cr Etmekdjian told the commission’s last scheduled day of hearings that when he met with Mr Neish in February last year, Mr Neish told him that he had also been approached by another local businessman with the same proposal. Mr Neish said he had been told to make sure it was successful or his job would be at risk.

Mr Neish said, according to Cr Etmekdjian, that he also found the proposal inappropriate and that he would report it to the corruption commission once he had received it in writing from the businessman.

The commission was told that the civic precinct project was a hot topic and had been the subject of some fiery debate in council chambers the previous year, resulting in a 6-6 councillor deadlock.

But counsel for Mr Goubran, Stephen Stanton, put it to Cr Etmekdjian that the meeting he had described in January last year had never taken place. The proposal was rejected by Cr Etmekdjian.

Mr Goubran said the meeting with Cr Etmekdjian did not take place in January. He said it took place later in the year and it was not at the instigation of Cr Petch.

Mr Goubran told the hearing that the idea of setting up a community consultative committee to sort out the objections to the civic precinct redevelopment was his own idea, not Cr Petch’s.

He said it was in response to anger from the community that they felt they had not been consulted about the redevelopment.

The commission was also shown emails that included confidential information about a rezoning affecting land owned by Mr Goubran and others, which had allegedly been forwarded by Cr Petch to Mr Goubran via a mutual friend.

Mr Goubran gave evidence that he had received the email and forwarding it on to his business partners, but denied knowing it was confidential internal council information.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

What to drink … textural white wines

White wine. Photo: Jessica Shapiro Yalumba’s viognier vineyard.
Nanjing Night Net

Yalumba’s viognier vineyard. The 2010 is the best to date with its delicate bouquet and velvety palate.


Soumah Savarro Yarra Valley $25Savarro is Soumah’s name for savagnin. While an old variety, it was mistakenly called albarino in Australia for a while before growers had to revert to other monikers. Mostly savagnin sticks. Soumah produces one of the better examples, a fragrant wine smelling of buttery apple tart with florals, white pepper and spice. What sets this apart from other local savagnins is its terrific texture and savouriness. Chill this down and enjoy with a bowl of spaghetti marinara. From Cloud Wine, South Melbourne.


Kellybrook Estate Gewurztraminer 2012 $38Confession time: when did you last drink that most undervalued, wonderful and spicy white wine, gewurztraminer? It’s time to revisit this variety, especially when it’s made by someone who knows how to handle the fruit respectfully, like Rob Hall from Kellybrook in the Yarra Valley. This has all the allure of the variety with its distinctive aromatics of roses, ginger spice, geranium, musk and pear. It’s perfect with stinky, washed rind cheeses. From kellybrookwinery南京夜网.au


Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2010 $43The Virgilius is Australia’s most sophisticated and finest viognier. Yalumba with chief winemaker Louisa Rose at the helm is at the forefront of the variety, championing its beauty, flavour and gorgeous texture. The 2010 is the best to date with its delicate bouquet, a heady mix of creamed honey, butter biscuits, almonds, apricot kernel and white blossom. It’s super complex, rich and full-bodied with a velvety palate and superbly balanced. Pork rillettes or pad thai are neat combos. From Nick’s Wine Merchant.


Vigneti Massa Derthona Timorasso 2010 $60Every now and then I taste a wine that stops me in my tracks. Today it’s timorasso, a rare ancient variety from Alessandria in Piedmont, north-west Italy. The wine is glorious. It has a distinctly acacia blossom note with a fragrant burst of dried herbs. It’s fuller bodied with a creamy, leesy richness, plus a silky, moreish palate and its fine acidity and minerally texture lift it to a long, elegant finish. Savour on its own, at first, then think about matching it with pan-fried snapper. From Enoteca Sileno.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

JOANNE McCARTHY: It’s a woman’s world

THIS is what it feels like…
Nanjing Night Net

The new Prime Minister faced the media, her Cabinet members smiling in rows behind her. Their smart business suits presented a reassuring backdrop. The pearls, the polished heels, the glint of diamonds on earlobes sent a message – we’re women and we’re born to rule.

The PM beamed. After three years of turmoil under a, frankly, disastrous experiment with the country’s first male PM, things were back on track – a woman at the helm, flanked by women.

The PM addressed the media like a headmistress calling her charges into line. Journalists tried to ruffle the calm.

‘‘Prime Minister, how can you say your government speaks for all Australians and you’ve overcome your ‘man problem’, when 18 of your 19 ministers are women?’’ asked a TV journalist whose question was met with a ripple of laughter from the ministers’ ranks.

‘‘Now, now, Jason,’’ said the PM.

‘‘You know I love men. My father is a man. My husband is a man. My sons are stunning examples of manhood, or they will be when they find the right girls, get married, leave home and procreate. So really, Jason, aren’t you being a bit of a hairy-armpitted men’s libber about this?

‘‘It’s not the quantity of men in my Cabinet that matters, but the quality, which is why Cecil Priestley is Minister for Home Affairs. He’s perfectly capable of giving us a man’s point of view, if we ask for it. Plus you’re forgetting that I, personally, am going to be spokeswoman for men.’’

‘‘But you’re a woman,’’ said Jason.

‘‘All the more reason why I should be men’s spokeswoman,’’ said the PM. ‘‘I can be objective about it whereas a spokesman for men would get all emotional.’’

The PM caught a female journalist’s eye, but Jason had another question.

‘‘How did you select your Cabinet?’’

The Cabinet members giggled.

‘‘Nothing like a cranky men’s libber to put some pep in your day,’’ whispered the Attorney-General to the Minister for Ports, Roads and Odds and Sods.

‘‘Well, Jason, if you’re suggesting sex has anything to do with it, you’re wrong. Ministers are selected on merit, so it’s of course a disappointment that the boys just don’t stack up, but they’re close.

‘‘Heavens, a couple of them serve us afternoon tea, so they’re in the Cabinet room, at least until they clear the cups away. And we all say the newly-elected Member for Bulldust, Bob Farmer, will graduate from scones to a junior ministry some day. It’s just that there’s a few gals ahead of him with more experience.’’

The PM turned to the female journalist again, but Jason wasn’t finished.

‘‘I thought you said it was on merit?’’ he yelled.

‘‘Well, yes, merit, but you can’t just walk in as a new member of parliament and take a seat in Cabinet,’’ the PM said.

‘‘What about Beryl Smith-Brown, straight into Finance? Hasn’t she done that?’’ yelled Jason.

The PM’s eyebrows knitted ever so slightly.

‘‘Now, Jason, you seem to have a personal agenda here. Like I said the other day to our candidate in Woop Woop, ‘You’re going places little fella, because you’ve got sex appeal’. He won’t ever make it into Cabinet, of course, but a little eye candy in parliament can’t be all bad.

‘‘So, um, men are wonderful and I’m sure some day they’ll have what it takes to lead, but who wants to get caught up in that hairy old chestnut when it’s such a lovely day?’’

A week later the PM hosted the Australian Religious Leaders Conference. Up for discussion: the thorny issue of allowing men into the priesthood.

At a media briefing, religious leaders explained why, after prayer meetings and brainstorming sessions, theatre sports and earnest debate, the conference concluded that the status quo would remain – only women should head churches.

‘‘Why?’’ asked Brandon the journalist, and a silence fell.

‘‘It says so in the Good Book,’’ said Bishop Janet Straightback.

‘‘The Good Book also says we should stone fortune tellers to death, keep slaves and slaughter sons for their fathers’ guilt,’’ said Brandon.

The church leaders rose and shuffled off the stage, their high heels clacking on the timber floor.

A week later the PM’s six brothers were interviewed at the Australian Business Leaders annual conference, where organisers dealt with the shortage of male business leaders by dispersing them evenly across the room – one male for every nine females at each table.

The PM’s brothers were asked about their childhood and their famous sister.

‘‘She was a great sister, a wonderful role model,’’ said the PM’s brother Frank.

‘‘Mum and Dad always said she was destined to become Pope or Prime Minister. It used to bother me when we were young, why they never said that kind of thing to us boys, only to the girl of the family, but they were right, of course. She was born to lead.’’