Ferntree Gully house covered entirely with mirrors in Knox Council art project

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Take a quick glance and it looks as if the house is no longer there. Perhaps it was torn down to make way for units, like the one on the corner block across the street.

A closer inspection reveals suburbia being reflected back on itself, after more than 1800 mirrored bricks were applied to the exterior of a 1950s-era home in Ferntree Gully.

The effect is a shimmering one, intended to reflect and absorb the house’s community, both physically and metaphorically.

The artists behind it have dubbed the project Untitled House and say it is a comment on how home ownership is becoming an ephemeral dream for the next generation. In the front window is a neon tent to reflect the transient nature of home.

Three visual artists from Swinburne University were given the keys to the property as part of the Knox City Council Immerse arts exhibition.

 It is the second time a house has been transformed for the exhibition in such a way. Last year, a Boronia house was painted entirely in black to provoke discussion about urban development, technology and climate change.

“We didn’t want to put a full mirrored sheet up,” says one of the artists, Larry Parkinson. “The idea was for the house to be slowly clad and disappear behind this new facade.”

The mirror house sits on prime real estate: a corner block on a main road. In the distance are the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.

“Because of its position on a hill and with no real front garden, it sits there like an obelisk, like a cube of mirror,” Parkinson says.

Inside the house, each room has a different artwork contemplating the meaning of home. Household objects such as mattress springs and a chandelier are repurposed as part of the exhibition. Sounds of domestic life are piped through the house.

It took three days and a group of volunteers to apply the mirror acrylic to the house. Coincidentally, builders on the other side of the street were doing their own construction at the same time.

“We’ve been watching real tradesmen work and build something, while we’ve been deconstructing the idea of a home,” Parkinson says.

“And we’ve also been mirroring development in the community at the same time.”

The reaction from the community to the artwork has been all positive.

“We’ve had the neighbours and people stopping here … getting out and saying, ‘Wow, can it stay? It’s just such a beautiful thing,’ ” he says.

“They like the crystalline part of it, the transformation of it into something else that is so different in the community.”

The house will stay as it is for at least a month and then the owner will decide what to do with it.

Untitled House is at 27 Dorset Road, Ferntree Gully. It is open from November 15 to December 9.

Debt should be used to fix transport system

February 8, 2016 – 12:15AM

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Should you wake a sleeping passenger on a crowded train?


Victorians, particularly Melburnians, know just how crucial is transport, and how costly – and frustrating – is inadequate transport infrastructure.

We have found out the hard way. Every day, more and more people are losing time and money, let alone wellbeing and peace of mind, stuck in traffic jams and at level crossings. Then there are the countless delays to suburban and regional rail services that are becoming overcrowded to the point of intolerable.

An audit by Infrastructure Australia, an independent statutory body, found the annual cost of delays on Melbourne’s roads will triple to more than $9 billion in the next 15 years if the problem is not fixed. So, there is a huge financial incentive to invest in transport infrastructure; not spending the money would be a false economy. Worse, it would create misery to such an extent that Melbourne’s reputation as the world’s most liveable city would be trashed.

Should you wake a sleeping passenger on a crowded train?

Should you wake a sleeping passenger on a crowded train?

The need for such investment is augmented by the fast pace of growth of Melbourne’s population. It is expanding by about 100,000 a year and is expected to almost double from its current 4 million by 2050. The economic and social benefits of infrastructure occur for generations. It is only logical and fair, then, that the costs are spread across generations of taxpayers.

The Age has long argued the best way to fund roads and rail and other elements of the transport system is through public debt. With needs so evident and interest rates so historically low, now is a prime time to incur such debt.

We welcome Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas’ openness to borrowing in the name of taxpayers for such important investment. He has publicly argued there is a good case to increase the state’s debt to provide the transport system upgrade so clearly required. Given the widespread knee-jerk, populist opposition to public borrowing, we recognise his courage in fostering this debate.

There are indeed good reasons to be wary of debt. If it is used to fund recurring spending, rather than investment, it can become a terrible problem. One reason there is concern is previous Victorian Labor governments increased debt so recklessly that just paying the interest bill became one of the biggest items in the budget. But that was decades ago, and the lesson has been well-learnt. Debt levels have fallen to truly modest levels, leaving the current government ample room to borrow for transport infrastructure without putting undue pressure on the budget or risking the state’s prized credit rating.

An analysis by Fairfax Media shows Victoria could raise almost $25 billion over the next four years by increasing debt to about 6 per cent of the state economy. Without such borrowing, the Victorian Treasury estimates debt would peak at 4.7 per cent of state domestic product.

The money is not going to come from the federal government, which is facing budget difficulties and will have an estimated net debt of 18.5 per cent of gross domestic product, a measure of the economy, in 2017-18.

There is much to get on with – including the Metro Rail project, worth $11 billion, the removal of 50 level crossings, upgrading the Monash Freeway and completing the Metropolitan Ring Road from Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway and EastLink.

Mr Pallas, with the backing of Premier Daniel Andrews, has rightly and repeatedly called for a considered community conversation. We are seeking to contribute to that, and believe there are compelling, rational economic arguments for using public borrowing to fund investment upon which the future of Victoria’s growing population depends.

Source : The Age

Picnic permit: councils that charge to go to the park

January 24, 2016 – 6:02PM

Alana Schetzer, Anna Whitelaw

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Mary Cantsilieris, right, who had about 20 people attend her birthday party, had no idea she may be required to buy a permit.

Mary Cantsilieris, right, who had about 20 people attend her birthday party, had no idea she may be required to buy a permit. Photo: Justin McManus

Packed the picnic blanket? What about the dips and cheese? And don’t forget the sunscreen and permit.

Permit? As Melburnians flock to parks and gardens for Australia Day and other celebrations this summer to soak up the sun and spend time with family and friends, some councils are charging for social gatherings with anywhere between 20 and 500 guests.

At some of Melbourne’s most popular spots for a scenic afternoon, councils require groups to register and pay for a permit, which is then checked by patrolling council officers.

Laura Mcarthy celebrates her birthday with friends and a picnic in Edinburgh Gardens.

Laura Mcarthy celebrates her birthday with friends and a picnic in Edinburgh Gardens. Photo: Paul Jeffers

In Port Phillip, which includes popular bayside suburbs such as St Kilda, Elwood and Albert Park, parties of 20 or more people need an $82 permit, which buys them two hours to enjoy a beer and throw the frisbee around. Each additional hour costs $41.

Port Phillip locals who frequent those parks were shocked to hear they would be expected to pay to gather in public parks.

Bentleigh resident Mary Cantsilieris spent Sunday afternoon in Point Ormond park in Elwood at a picnic with family and friends.

Laura Mcarthy (foreground) celebrates her birthday with friends and a picnic in Edinburgh Gardens.

Laura Mcarthy (foreground) celebrates her birthday with friends and a picnic in Edinburgh Gardens. Photo: Paul Jeffers

The 30-year-old told Fairfax Media she had “no idea” she would have been expected to pay for a permit for the small gathering of 20-25 people.

“It is easier to get together in a park than at a restaurant, where all the kids can play outside,” she said.

“It is pretty unreasonable that we would be expected to pay for a permit. After all, we pay our rates and other taxes, and we’ve paid for parking.

Some councils are charging for social gatherings in some of Melbourne's most popular spots.

Some councils are charging for social gatherings in some of Melbourne’s most popular spots.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they started charging us to go to the beach,” she said.

Port Phillip mayor Bernadene Voss said permits were used to ensure fair use for ratepayers and visitors –  there were 1.38 million visitors to the St Kilda area last financial year.

“On public holidays, we can attract large numbers of locals and visitors alike, with up to 80,000 people coming to our foreshores on New Year’s Eve. We’re expecting similar numbers or more for Australia Day, depending on the weather,” she said.

“We have a significant number of popular parks and beaches and we encourage people to share those public spaces to celebrate and have fun in the sun.

“These spaces experience strong demand and are often used throughout the entire day.”

At the Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy, a popular destination frequented by food trucks, groups of 50 or more need a $95 permit from Yarra City Council.

Yarra has faced problems at Edinburgh Gardens in the past, with huge rave-style parties held on New Year’s Eve without a permit or notification.

Mayor Roberto Colanzi said a permit was also needed if groups wanted to reserve a section of a park.

Melbourne City Council, which is home to some of Melbourne’s biggest and most popular gardens including the Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens, requires groups of 50 or more to have a permit.

A Melbourne Council spokeswoman said council officers regularly check large groups to ensure they have approval.

Most Victorian councils require permits if a person or organisation is carrying out activities for commercial purposes, such as personal training. Weddings also often require a permit.

In the lead-up to Australia Day, the issue of “social squatting” has been raised, with some people arriving hours before their picnic or event to reserve the best spot.

The Melbourne Council spokeswoman said it was not an unusual practice, especially in summer, adding that the council very rarely received complaints about it.

“Our rangers are aware that arriving early to reserve a good picnic spot is a fairly common practice in our parks on busy public holidays such as Australia Day.

“Our rangers will often encounter families or groups that have been returning to the same barbecue spot on Australia Day for over 10 years.”

Cr Colanzi said the council had not received complaints about “squatting”.

Source : The Age

Woman wanted over credit card thefts

January 21, 2016 – 11:29PM

Beau Donelly

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Police want to speak to this woman.

Police want to speak to this woman. Photo: Supplied

Police have released an image of a woman they want to speak to about a series of thefts in Melbourne’s north-west.

Credit cards and other items were stolen from seven cars in Brimbank and Moonee Valley over the past two weeks, police said.

The credit cards were then used at various supermarkets and petrol stations in the area.

Police want to speak to this woman.

Police want to speak to this woman. Photo: Supplied

Police said the credit cards were stolen from cars in St Albans, Keilor East, Sydenham and Deer Park between January 6 and 20.

Investigators have released images of a female who they believe may be able to assist with their enquiries.

She is Caucasian, approximately 165-175cm tall, with thin build and long curly red or auburn hair.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or to submit confidential report at http://www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Source : The Age

Which community benefits from AFL poker machine venues?

January 20, 2016 – 10:16AM

Jason Dowling

Senior Reporter for The Age

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Hobsons Bay Council upset at money sent to Carlton HQ from local poker machine losses

Hobsons Bay Council upset at money sent to Carlton HQ from local poker machine losses Photo: Darrian Traynor

AFL clubs with poker machines are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked as a “community benefit” on their own facilities and venues and one local council is not happy.

The latest community benefit spending statements show Carlton’s Club Laverton claimed $366,193 in costs linked to its home base Ikon Park about 15 kilometres away in Carlton at Princes Park.

The claim included $10,484 on a spa/pool and $3778 as waste removal.

Community benefit from AFL club poker machine venues under scrutiny

Community benefit from AFL club poker machine venues under scrutiny Photo: Virginia Star

The Vic Inn, Carlton’s venue in Williamstown, claimed $218,261 in community benefit expenditure and $166,540 was for Ikon Park operating costs.

Hobsons Bay Mayor Peter Hemphill said “someone’s winning here and it’s definitely not our Hobsons Bay community”.

He said there “are huge profits being made by pokie operators in Hobsons Bay, but that translates to almost zero benefit for the local community”.

“Almost nothing was spent on gambling education or awareness programs in Hobsons Bay, or local community and sporting clubs – initiatives that would be of actual benefit to this community rather than upgrades to an AFL training facility in Carlton,” he said.

“We know many local sports clubs here who would love to receive some funding support from these venues.”

Clubs operating poker machines pay a reduced rate of tax compared to hotels as long as they show 8.33 per cent of the venue’s poker machine revenue was spent on approved community benefits.

Approved benefits can include housing assistance for the disadvantaged, relief of poverty, educational purposes and services for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling and drug and alcohol addictions.

Club Laverton and The Vic Inn claimed no expenditure under these categories.

Other AFL clubs are claiming operating costs of poker machine venues – which is allowed under the current rules – as a community benefit.

Collingwood Football Club’s venue in Caroline Springs, The Club, claimed $767,357 in operating costs as a community benefit and the Hawthorn Football Club’s Vegas at Waverley Gardens claimed $751,345 in operating costs  as a community benefit.

Monash University public health professor Charles Livingstone said community benefit contributions should be for the local community.

He said the gambling regulator often approved poker machine venues because on balance, community contributions made by the club will counterbalance the harm done by problem gambling.

He questioned how this could occur if the community benefits were leaving the local area.

“If people could see genuine benefits coming to their community from this, they might be less upset when their community has its guts ripped out by the increases in problem gambling and by businesses failing because they can’t compete with subsidised food and drink,” he said.

He said venue operating costs should not be counted as a community benefit and said the minister for gaming could ban this with the stroke of a pen.

A spokeswoman for the Carlton Football Club said the club “runs two community programs within the City of Hobsons Bay, including a partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, as well as a partnership with the Victoria Police on their ‘Vision’ program, both focused on supporting young people in the area”.

“Participants of both programs are hosted at our facility at Ikon Park”, she said.

“While these two programs are an integral part of our community engagement within this area, the club continues to facilitate a number of key community programs across the state. We look forward to further developing all our community programs in 2016.”

Collingwood Football Club said the The Club venue in Caroline Springs donated $159,450 to sporting clubs, clubs and charities in the local area including the Caroline Springs Football Club, Caroline Springs Cricket Club, Albion Football Club, The Heartwell Children’s Foundation and programs through the Melton Shire.

The club said the $736,357 in operating costs was “to provide a facility that benefits the local community and generates employment”.

The state government is reviewing Victoria’s poker machine industry and a spokeswoman said the review would include the requirements for community benefit claims.

Submissions to the poker machine review close on February 26.

Source : The Age

Schools shortage crisis hits Victoria

January 17, 2016 – 4:38PM

Henrietta Cook
Education Reporter at The Age

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Denise Fung-Henderson, with children Will, 8, and Poppy, 6, is campaigning for a school in the Docklands.

Denise Fung-Henderson, with children Will, 8, and Poppy, 6, is campaigning for a school in the Docklands. Photo: Simon Schluter


Up to 220 new schools need to be built in Victoria in the next decade to cope with an explosion in student numbers, research has warned.

But despite the alarming statistics, for the first time in 15 years, not a single new state school will open its doors to students when class returns next week.

Victorian schools must absorb 190,000 extra students between 2016 and 2026, according to an analysis prepared for Fairfax Media by the Grattan Institute.

This will mean 7200 extra classrooms and teachers, and between 140 to 220 new government and non-government schools.

“To have no state schools opening this year is disgraceful,” Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said.

Many state schools are already feeling the squeeze and have crammed portables into their playgrounds to accommodate extra students. Others are turning away families, running classes in halls and storerooms and staggering lunchtime so there’s enough space for children to play.

Ms Peace said portable classrooms were being shifted across the state at an unprecedented and unacceptable rate. She said the Andrews government had made a good start by doubling the previous Liberal government’s spending on school infrastructure, but more investment was needed to keep up with the state’s ballooning student population.

Using 2015 population forecasts, the Grattan Institute found that more than half the extra students would live in just nine local government areas, with the crush felt most acutely in inner city suburbs and the outer growth corridor.

The City of Melbourne is facing the most severe schools shortage among inner-city municipalities, and is set to experience a 62.9 per cent increase in school-aged children in the next decade – or almost 7500 extra students.

It’s a situation that Denise Fung-Henderson – who is involved in lobby group City Schools 4 City Kids – knows all too well.

She moved to the Docklands eight years ago when her son was born, and hoped a school would be built in the area by the time he started prep.

But despite promises from successive state governments, there is still no school.

All other state primary schools in neighbouring suburbs are full so her children Will, 8, and Poppy, 6, attend a Catholic school in South Melbourne.

“We pay taxes, we pay council rates. Why are we not provided with the choice?” she said. “We should be provided with a government primary and secondary school.”

In Wyndham, the fastest growing Victorian municipality, 100 new classrooms will be needed every year over the next decade to accommodate almost 27,000 extra students.

The Grattan Institute’s Dr Peter Goss said successive governments had been caught “on the hop” by this population growth and good, long-term planning was needed.

“This is not just a temporary situation that will work through the system. It requires permanent solutions, not just ever more portables.”

He said a baby boom that started in about 2006 had already hit primary schools, and would impact secondary schools from 2018.

A spokesman for Education Minister James Merlino said the state government had dozens of new schools in the pipeline and was “working to address the issues created by the Liberals’ chronic under-investment”.

He blamed the fact that not a single new state school will open in 2016 on the former state government’s under-investment.

Fifteen new state schools are expected to open in 2017 and 2018, with the majority of these built under a public-private partnership and located in growth corridor suburbs including Point Cook.

Inner-city schools in the pipeline include South Melbourne (Ferrars Street) Primary School, Beaumaris High School, Richmond Secondary School, Prahran Secondary School and South Melbourne Park Primary School.

It is understood that Education Department data suggests that 50 new state schools will be needed in the next decade, with many existing schools able to accommodate extra students.

Cate Hall, a spokeswoman for Our Children Our Schools, an alliance of 22 public school lobby groups, said many parents were travelling great distances because they had no local state schools.

New schools should be provided according to need, rather than political expediency, she said.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said the Premier had no plans to build for Victoria’s future education needs. “Victoria’s population is growing by 100,000 a year but the only new schools Daniel Andrews will be opening are those funded by the Coalition.”

Source – theage

Wye River blaze: firefighters’ union calls for inquiry

January 14, 2016 – 1:40PM

Richard Willingham


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The firefighters’ union has demanded a coronial inquiry into the devastating Wye River fire after revelations of a backburning operation in the Otway Ranges before Christmas Day.

On Wednesday Fairfax Media revealed leaked files showed that a controversial backburning operation, carried out despite warnings of potential catastrophe, may have led to the destruction of more than 100 houses in Wye River and Separation Creek.

Thick smoke rises from the flames.

Thick smoke rises from the flames. Photo: Tom Jacobs

Officials have admitted that fires were lit in the area in an attempt to control the fire, which was initially sparked by lightning on December 19.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley has revealed he was initially opposed to backburning and was only convinced after thorough risk assessments from experts.

The United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said only an inquiry by the State Coroner could establish any connection between a backburning operation and the loss of homes.

A firefighter inspects a burnt-out car in Wye River.

A firefighter inspects a burnt-out car in Wye River. Photo: Chris Hopkins

The union said it was not unprecedented for the Coroner to investigate non-fatal incidents.

The union wants the Coroner, whose remit involves investigating fires, to look into the blaze because the office is independent of government and the events have major implications for future firefighting and fuel management strategies.

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management is examining the fire, but Mr Marshall said that would not go far enough.

“It is clearly not appropriate for a government body to inquire into a fire for which government agencies may have some liability,” he said.

The union believes the Coroner would be able to look at such questions as:

  • Why was the fire not extinguished earlier, like a similar small fire in similar terrain at Delaney’s Track?
  • Why was the decision made to add fire to fire – to increase the size of the initial fire – despite forecasts of high temperatures and strong winds.
  • Does firefighting culture need to change to attack fires faster and sooner with all available resources, rather than waiting for the fire to approach or trying to draw fire to accessible lines by deliberate burns?

Mr Marshall said: “The government has told the forestry industry that the Inspector-General for Emergency Management will hold an inquiry into the fire. This is unprecedented, and beyond the resources and powers of this position.

“Wye River residents are entitled to an independent coronial inquiry.”

Mr Lapsley told a press conference on Thursday morning a review by the Inspector-General was independent of the agencies involved in the fire fight.

“The Inspector-General of Emergency Management has got continuity of other fires,” he said. “They’re currently reviewing things that go right back to 2009 from Black Saturday fires. They have been involved heavily in the Hazelwood fire … we believe they’re very competent.”

Mr Lapsley said he personally did not support the dangerous and difficult tactic of using fire on fire, but in this case, all other options had been exhausted.

“We have to stand by those decisions,” he said. “We went through the process over multiple days to work out what is the best tactic to be deployed. The tactics employed in the first couple of days were not working.”

He said the three spot fires that leapt over containment lines on Christmas Day were from the original fire in a deep gorge that was inaccessible and could not be extinguished.

Mr Lapsley said he would wait for the independent review to learn how successful the burn-out tactic was.

“It’s easy in hindsight to say what you would and wouldn’t do,” he said.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville backed the operational decisions of fire authorities and emergency services.

“I absolutely have confidence, and I know the government has confidence, in all our chief fire officers and the emergency services commissioner,” Ms Neville said.

She also said there was no need for the Coroner to investigate because the Inspector-General of Emergency Management was already looking at the Wye River fire.

“They are always difficult decisions but … in an emergency situation, we’ve got to back these people that are making very difficult decisions,” Ms Neville said.

“This could have been much worse without the backburn.” 

The opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin demanded the government get to the bottom of the operation.

“[Premier] Daniel Andrews must investigate this and tell Victorians the truth about the fire,” Mr Battin said.

Source : The Age

Labor federal MP Kelvin Thomson calls for an end to duck hunting in Victoria

January 6, 2016 – 12:53AM

Neelima Choahan

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"The ducks fly around till they are exhausted, and are comparatively easy to shoot," Kelvin Thomson said.

“The ducks fly around till they are exhausted, and are comparatively easy to shoot,” Kelvin Thomson said. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Federal MP Kelvin Thomson has called on the Victorian government to cancel the 2016 duck season and put an end to an “inhumane” practice.

Duck season is usually between March to June of every year.

Retiring member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, has called for an end to duck hunting.

Retiring member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, has called for an end to duck hunting. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Thomson, who is the longstanding Labor member for Wills, tweeted he had written to the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, “urging” the government to cancel the season.

He said though it was probably the first time that he had called for it in a “formal way”, he had been against the practice for many years.

The message was retweeted 35 times and received support from his followers on Twitter.

Mr Thomson said it was time Victoria followed other states that had put an end to the shooting.

“It is not possible to ensure that birds are killed humanely, and there are inevitably many instances of animal cruelty with each duck season,” he said.

“It is also not possible that only legitimate target species are killed. Every year there are numerous examples of endangered species, and species that cannot lawfully be killed, being killed, presumably inadvertently.”

He said duck shooting was not a genuine sport and had no place in the modern world.

“The ducks fly around till they are exhausted, and are comparatively easy to shoot,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Thomson, who is set to quit his seat which takes in Coburg, Pascoe Vale and Brunswick, said another crucial reason to cancel this season’s shooting was the decline in the duck population.

“The severity of the El Nino drought is such that the number of waterbirds in eastern Australia has dropped to its second lowest level on record, and the number of breeding waterbirds is the lowest number recorded,” he said.

“Given this, I urge the government …(to) give the ducks and other waterbirds a chance to get through what is a particularly tough year in our wetlands without the pressure of being shot at.”

Mr Thomson said there was precedence of the government abandoning duck season in the past due to low population.

A spokesperson for Minister Neville said each year the government took independent advice regarding modifications to the duck season.

“[This] considers drought and environmental factors,” she said.

“The Minister for Environment is yet to receive that advice.”

Source : The Age

Do you want charges with that? Woman nabbed at drive-thru four times over limit

January 4, 2016 – 6:37PM

Chloe Booker

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A woman has been caught driving through a fast food drive-through with a blood alcohol reading four times the legal limit.

Hastings Police spotted the Baxer woman, 33, at the Somerville restaurant on Eramosa Road about 1am on Monday.

A breath test returned a blood alcohol concentration of 0.202 per cent.

Senior Sergeant Michael Lamb said it was a potential lucky escape for both the woman and the community.

“With a blood alcohol level this high, we are simply lucky that our road toll is not higher,” he said.

“Fortunately for everybody concerned and the community as a whole, diligent and observant policing prevented a potential fatality occurring.”

The woman will be charged on summons with drink driving offences.

Source : The Age

Blairgowrie rescue: trio save swimmer caught drifting off Mornington Peninsula

December 31, 2015 – 3:35PM

Patrick Hatch

Reporter for The Age

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Jack O'Sullivan, Liam Grigg and Alastair Firth at Koonya Beach, where they saved a man from drowning on Wednesday.

Jack O’Sullivan, Liam Grigg and Alastair Firth at Koonya Beach, where they saved a man from drowning on Wednesday. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Three young men heroically ventured half a kilometre out to sea to save a swimmer who was caught in rough conditions off the Mornington Peninsula on Wednesday.

The man, from Hampton Park, disappeared while swimming at Koonya Beach at Blairgowrie about 4.15pm on Wednesday and was then spotted drifting about 500 metres offshore.

Alastair Firth, 27, was bodyboarding when the alarm was raised and ventured out into the Bass Strait with diving equipment and a buoy when the alarm was raised.

Jack O'Sullivan and Liam Grigg return to the water at Koonya Beach, Blairgowrie.

Jack O’Sullivan and Liam Grigg return to the water at Koonya Beach, Blairgowrie. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Mr Firth said he reached the man along with Jack O’Sullivan and Liam Grigg, both 25, who had been playing soccer and hastily borrowed bodyboards from other beachgoers to use in the rescue effort.

“He was just too tired to hold on to the board and was getting flipped at every break,” Mr Firth said.

“We were just trying to keep the waves off of his face and at one point I was clamping my hand over his face, because I’d rather have him holding his breath than sucking in breaking waves.”

Mr Firth said the man was exhausted and barely staying afloat, but the trio was eventually able to start towing him to shore.

“If the other boys hadn’t got their first, he might not have been there,” he said.

After a nearly two hour ordeal at sea, the four men navigated through the rough break and onto the beach.

“We only thought we were out there for half an hour to an hour, so we were surprised to hear it was that long,” Mr Grigg told radio station 3AW.

Mr Firth, an IT professional who splits his time between Melbourne and Rosebud, said he had been swimming at Koonya Beach for nearly 25 years and didn’t feel he was putting himself in any danger by helping the man.

He did, however, say it could be dangerous spot for those unfamiliar with its rips, rocks and reefs.

“That beach at low-tide with not much swell is a beautiful place… [but] I’ve personally seen two people go out in that riff,” he said.

Victoria Police said the three men were heroes who had acted courageously.

Source : The Age

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