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Experience of poverty prompts sharing call

Birgit Albers listens to a performance by the Choir of High Hopes yesterday.Launceston’s Birgit Albers has seen poverty first hand.
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She knows the struggle people go through and she knows how hard it is for them to keep their families alive.

So why when then, when we live in a rich country are we still not sharing?

That was the message Ms Albers wanted to get across at yesterday’s Choir of High Hopes Christmas benefit at St Aidan’s Church.

The concert raised funds for Ms Albers’s Malawi Back to School Foundation, which she established in 2002 after travelling to the world’s third poorest country.

“I meet a young guy and he was sort of my personal tour guide,” Ms Albers said referring to her first trip to the African country.

“He helped me with whatever I wanted to see like a village tour or going swimming.

“After my tour time was over, I said, you were so great and so loyal, I’d like to do something for you.

“He could have said, I want some new sneakers or a backpack, but he said he wanted to finish school.”

Ms Albers, who moved to Tasmania from Germany in 1986, said she found out it cost $100 a year to send the orphan boy to secondary school.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“I said to myself what can I do to help.”

It was then that Ms Albers established her foundation to help others like the man she’d met get an education.

“Education is the step to getting them out of poverty,” she said.

Yesterday’s concert saw about 50 people listen to the harmonious sounds of the Hobart-based choir.

Funds raised from the event will be used to send Malawi orphans to secondary school and build an orphanage.

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

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2012 could be a year to keep students studying

THE Tasmanian education system is likely to undergo an interesting time to say the least in 2012. The start of this school year will also be the last with three terms as the state moves in line with the rest of the country and adopts a four-term model in 2013.
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And by the end of this month Education Minister Nick McKim is expected to receive the much-anticipated report from the School Viability Reference Group.

Which schools, if any, will close will be of interest to many communities and particularly to those 20 named on the government’s initial proposed hit-list in the June budget last year.

The state’s economy and the slashing of the department’s budget in 2011 will come more into play from the start of this year as programs, teacher aides and activities will be cut.

This is hurting both public and private schools and as revealed late last year it will result in about a $100 annual increase in Catholic school fees.

The focus for the government is getting the state back on track.

But at this time of upheaval it would be interesting to know what principals and teachers want to see happen in the education sector.

And what parents would like to see.

As other commentators have said there is no doubt that Tasmania has suffered economically due to the previous practice of allowing students to leave at the end of year 10 or age of 16 _ which ended in 2007.

The state’s split public high school (year 7 to 10) and college (year 11 and 12) system only exacerbated the problem as kids thought ”woo-hoo, I’m finished” and left after year 10, cutting themselves short.

Many more than not have suffered for it.

Year 10 formals and ”leavers’ dinners” to celebrate the occasion only cemented the feeling.

Thankfully students must now continue on with some form of education until they turn 17.

The reasoning behind holding a formal for year 10s beggars belief to someone who had to wait for that right until the end of year 12 interstate.

A trend taking off in Victoria at the end of last year was year 6 formals where 11 and 12-year-olds (or more correctly their parents) were spending $150-plus on dresses, then more money on hair and make-up, before partying the afternoon away in the back of a stretch Hummer.

There’s evidence of Tasmanian grade 6 students following the trend.In the department’s annual report it acknowledges Tasmania’s retention rates in post-compulsory education and training are lower than most other states and many OECD countries.

Despite a more than 10 per cent increase on the retention rate to 73 per cent in 2010 (the latest figures), Mr McKim is aiming for the state to meet a national target of 90 per cent of students to attain a year 12 education or its equivalent by 2015.

Overall public student attendance figures also increased slightly from 2009 to 2010.

One step in the right direction is the department’s implementation of the Retention and Attainment Strategy, which tracks year 10 students through to year 12 or its equivalent.

Students completing their education to a year 12 level today will better set up the state and economy of the future – something Tasmania desperately needs.

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

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Regaining confidence a big mission for Orica

ACCIDENT-plagued chemical company Orica has been told it must do much more to restore the public’s confidence in its operations.
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Premier Barry O’Farrell issued the warning yesterday and threatened to shut Orica’s Port Kembla plant if it failed to comply with environmental laws after an acid leak on Friday.

Orica has only partially restarted operations on Kooragang Island after a series of spills forced the closure of both its ammonium nitrate and ammonia plants.

On Friday, Orica disclosed its Port Kembla plant leaked up to 4000 litres of concentrated sulphuric acid.

Mr O’Farrell said the company would have to work hard to restore confidence.

‘‘They will only get their licence, they’ll only continue to keep their licence, if they are able to abide by the state’s environmental laws,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

‘‘Orica will have to do an enormous amount in order to restore public confidence in NSW.’’

A spokesman confirmed later that Mr O’Farrell was referring to the licence for Orica’s Port Kembla operation.

An Orica spokeswoman said last night that all of the Kooragang Island ammonium nitrate and nitric plants were now back on line, allowing it to produce explosive using ammonia feedstock brought onto the site.

The ammonia plant, which makes ammonia from natural gas – and which was the site of the August hexavalent chromium emission – remained offline.

‘‘Orica’s emphasis is on restarting the ammonia plant safely and while conducting some prestart checks, we determined there was a part of the plant that required repair work before the restart process could continue,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Once repairs are complete, the restart process will continue.’’

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Promise turns to pain as Newcastle teeter on brink of disaster

WORRYING TIMES: The Jets bench surveys the action against Sydney. – Picture by Simone De PeakELEVEN games into the A-League campaign, and the Jason Culina affair lingers over the Newcastle Jets like a black cloud.
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Back in February, when the Jets announced they had recruited Culina to a three-year deal, it was widely accepted as a coup – a foundation stone in the empire Newcastle’s billionaire owner Nathan Tinkler was intent on building.

But with the benefit of hindsight, how wrong we were.

At the time, the Jets were expected to further supplement their roster with a proven goal scorer, and names such as Shane Smeltz and Michael Owen featured in dispatches.

For whatever reason those plans were subsequently aborted, but the club maintained a brave face.

Culina’s presence, it was explained, would create opportunities that brought out the best in Newcastle’s existing strike force.

That tenuous theory disintegrated soon afterwards when Culina broke down at training and required season-ending surgery on his knee.

The same knee that had been under the scalpel seven months earlier, before he joined Newcastle.

So suddenly the Jets were not only down a marquee midfielder, but also the man who was supposed to convert his handiwork into goals.

If only they could have their time over.

Culina’s unavailability left Newcastle with a squad that, on paper at least, was arguably not even as strong as it had been 12 months earlier, when the Jets were not good enough to reach the play-offs and finished seventh.

Out went Ljubo Milicevic, Sasho Petrovski and Adam D’Apuzzo.

In came Tiago, Chris Payne and Byun Sung-hwan.

Jeremy Brockie and Ryan Griffiths, admittedly, were like new signings, having scarcely featured in 2010-11.

If the season ahead shaped as a tall order for Jets coach Branko Culina, it was soon no longer his problem as he was unceremoniously punted – along with his injured son – and replaced by Gary van Egmond.

Van Egmond was no stranger to such circumstances.

In season two of the A-League, the man they call ‘‘Dutchy’’ was parachuted into the top job after Newcastle started disastrously under Nick Theodorakopoulos.

Van Egmond famously steered the Jets from the competition cellar to within one win of the grand final, then a year later they captured the ultimate prize.

But even Jesus managed only one resurrection.

Newcastle’s 2-1 loss to Sydney at Ausgrid Stadium on Saturday, after leading 1-0 at half-time, highlighted the challenge van Egmond is facing.

The squad he inherited from Culina has shown few signs of emulating the one Theodorakopoulos left behind.

A host of Newcastle’s players are off contract, and if results do not improve then tough decisions will have to be made.

Having lost eight of the past nine games on the road, the Jets can scarcely afford to slip up at home, as they did against Sydney.

After consecutive losses to Central Coast and Sydney, combined with Melbourne Victory’s win against Wellington yesterday, Newcastle have dropped out of the top six.

If van Egmond’s troops hope to avoid finishing with the also-rans for the second year in a row, they could do worse than heed Sydney captain Terry McFlynn’s comments after his team’s gutsy victory on Saturday.

‘‘There were a few home truths said at half-time,’’ McFlynn said. ‘‘Everyone took it on the chin and we played for each other.’’

If only it was that simple.

This week the Jets head to Wellington, where they have suffered seven successive defeats.

‘‘But what an opportunity,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘If there’s a place where you want to make a statement and show that we’re back, that’s the place.’’

One thing is certain. Jason Culina won’t be able to help them.

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Disabled woman’s wheelchair funds taken

BURGLARS who stole the savings of a disabled South Launceston woman may have destroyed her chance of returning to work.
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Cerebral palsy sufferer Natasha Street had saved $6000 to buy a specially-designed electric wheelchair needed to allow her to cope with full-time employment.

When she returned home to discover the cash and some medication stolen on December 8, four years of study, surgery and saving were washed away. The 37-year-old, a regular sight around Launceston with her dog Freda at her side, said she felt violated.

Ms Street had put all her spare change for the past four years in a large tin belonging to her grandfather. It was because of a promise to him that Ms Street endured five leg operations, including two surgical breaks, and then returned to university.

He had been “like her best friend” and passed away the day before her first leg correction surgery in 2007.

She had planned to start work as a social worker this year but cannot do it without the new chair.

“I have a good brain, I just can’t walk long distances,” Ms Street said.

“I was saving up for a mobile office.”

Government programs offer grants of up to $20,000 towards the cost of a wheelchair, but the electric chair Ms Street needs is $25,000.

And she is “quite rightly” not a high priority for a grant, adding “there are people a lot worse off than me”.

Ms Street can walk short distances using walking sticks but has outgrown her current electric wheelchair.

“My body shape has completely changed (because of the operations), so I’m a lot taller, a lot straighter, and my wheelchair no longer fits me,” she said.

She describes her walk, using walls for support, as “a bit like a toddler _ I can walk unaided but only for short distances and I pay for it in pain.”

Detective Constable Mandy Ladson, of Launceston CIB, said police had gathered forensic evidence from Ms Street’s home and the investigation was ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call Launceston CIB on 6336 3915 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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

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Tony Robinson makes history in Newcastle

HERE’S TO YOU MR ROBINSON: Tony Robinson at Nobbys Beach yesterday filming for his new series Time Walks. – Pictures by Jonathan CarrollTO many he is Baldrick of Blackadder fame, to some he is children’s favourite Fat Tulip and to others he is that documentary-maker from the History Channel.
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British television presenter Tony Robinson was filming in Newcastle yesterday for an episode in his next series Tony Robinson’s Time Walks.

In the ten-part series Robinson will uncover the hidden histories, characters and untold stories of some of Australia’s oldest cities, including Newcastle, while walking its streets.

For more pictures of Tony Robinson in Newcastle, click on the image below.

Robinson expects to be in town until Wednesday.

They have already been to Hobart, Woolloomooloo, St Kilda, Carlton, The Lanes, Bendigo and in the new year will visit Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle.

The series follows Robinson’s hugely successful Tony Robinson Explores Australia.

Robinson said he had always been intrigued by Newcastle and how it compared to its British namesake.

‘‘I know it’s a coal town but the idea of a Newcastle with a beach did not quite compute,’’ he said.

‘‘When a town is known for one thing there are other histories buried away in there. That’s what I wanted to learn.’’

Robinson said he hoped to teach Novocastrians about their past for example, that a convict wrote Australia’s first dictionary in Newcastle.

‘‘I do know Captain Cook, when he got here found Nobbys but totally missed the magnificent harbour behind it.’’

He said there were similarities with Newcastle, England.

‘‘It’s got the same sense of grittiness about it,’’ he said.

More than 20 years since cult hit Blackadder finished Robinson said people still called out lines to him, which was nice because the show established his career.

People also asked him about his documentaries and the ABC hit archaeological series Time Team, which created demand for his work Down Under.

Crews would also be talking to people on Newcastle’s streets, he said.

‘‘So, if they do see me please do not sneak away.’’

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Van Egmond considers tactical switch for Jets

BATTLING AWAY: Francis Jeffers contests possession with Pascal Bosschaart. — Picture by DARREN PATEMANJETS coach Gary van Egmond admits a formation change could be required to get the best out of English striker Francis Jeffers after Saturday’s demoralising 2-1 loss to Sydney FC at Ausgrid Stadium.
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After opening the scoring with a stunning Jeremy Brockie volley and dominating the first half, the Jets conceded soft goals in the 59th and 84th minutes to suffer their second defeat in as many weeks.

For pictures of the weekend’s game, click on the image below.

Adding to Newcastle’s woes, skipper Jobe Wheelhouse was sent off in the 85th minute for a second bookable offence and now faces a mandatory one-match suspension.

Van Egmond has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation since he assumed the reins this season but now appears likely to revert to a 4-4-2 line-up.

‘‘What we’re going to have to do, and it’s more so my fault, we’re going to have to get someone up there to play alongside him,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘As much as I love playing a certain system, I don’t think we probably might have the players here right at this moment, so we may change that … it’s more what we have to do for Francis to try and help him within the game, and that’s having more people in contact with him.’’

Asked who was likely to partner Jeffers up front, van Egmond replied: ‘‘We’ve got a number of players.

‘‘We’ve got Brockie, obviously, we’ve got Marko [Jesic] who can play in behind, you’ve got Ali [Abbas] who can play in behind, you’ve got Labinot [Haliti] up there, you’ve got Chris Payne, you’ve got Ryan [Griffiths].

‘‘There’s obviously a number of options.’’

Jeffers, the former Everton, Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday target man, had a talismanic influence when he joined the Jets on a guest stint last season, inspiring them to a seven-game unbeaten run.

But this season he is yet to find his feet. He has played 343 minutes in six games without producing a goal or an assist and missed a one-on-one chance on Saturday night.

Van Egmond felt the 30-year-old played ‘‘quite well’’ against Sydney before being replaced in the 59th minute and was not restricted by a groin injury that sidelined him recently.

‘‘He’s getting through training,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘He’s working well. By his own admission, he feels a lot fitter than what he did last year.’’

Van Egmond said his players paid the price for being ‘‘lackadaisical’’ in the second half and allowing Sydney to seize the momentum.

‘‘There’s times we just play how individuals decide they want to play a little bit and you just can’t afford to do that with the type of game we’re looking to play … if certain players decide they want to play a certain way then it’s going to hurt you if you turn the ball over,’’ he said.

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Stockton Beach Tourist Park set for revamp

IMPROVED: Grace Edwards, 5, with brother Harper, 3, check out the new cabins; the Stockton ferry terminal, below. Picture by Jonathan CarrollNEW tourist cabins to be unveiled today at Stockton Beach Tourist Park are set to be the first in a host of overhauls planned for the town’s waterfront.
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The $2.3million project involved building 11 cabins at the park’s northern end.

The accommodation will be available for holiday hire from Friday, and bookings have already been taken for the busy Christmas and new year period.

Newcastle City Council commercial enterprise services manager Daniel Ballantyne said the cabins were built in response to demand.

‘‘There’s a shortage of quality tourism accommodation in Newcastle,’’ he said.

Revenue raised at Stockton would be invested into coastal revitalisation. Stage two of the development, comprising 15 cabins, is to come in 2012.

Extensions to the park are also envisaged in a new planning document that will go before the council tomorrow.

The draft South Stockton Reserves Public Domain Plan suggests extending the park east around the nearby public swimming pool.

This area could accommodate up to 25 cabins, with the potential to raise $1.2million a year, which would be invested in to the coastline.

The public domain plan proposes a cafe, community centre and library in Griffith Park, near the ferry terminal.

A playground and viewing platform, angled towards Newcastle’s Queens Wharf tower and Christ Church Cathedral, were other possible additions.

Timed parking is suggested in part of the ferry terminal car park, with all-day parking catered for around the perimeter.

The draft plan also suggests improvements to the Ballast Ground boat ramp, paths aligned with Bathers Way around all the reserves and tree planting.

Councillors will decide tomorrow whether to put the plan on public exhibition.

It forms part of a broader coastal revitalisation planning process for the Newcastle waterfront between Stockton and Merewether.

The Plan

The draft South Stockton Reserves Public Domain Plan

Pitt Street Reserve

■Stockton Beach Tourist Park expansion

■Remove and replace skate park, pending tourist park expansion

■Widen entry to northern breakwater

■Restrict vehicle access on the edge of the Pitt Street Reserve

■Shared pathway extension, north of King Street and adjacent to tourist park to connect to surf club and beyond

Lion Park

■Fencing

■Seating and tree planting

■Remove informal car park and return to open space

Griffith Park

■Cafe, community centre and library near ferry terminal

■Playground with cycle track, climbing structure, sand pit, swings, barbecue and picnic area

■Viewing platform angled towards Newcastle

■Timed parking.

Ballast Ground

(Including Stockton boat ramp)

Improvements to:

■trailer parking

■landscaping

■remove amenities block near Clyde Street

General (all reserves)

■Revegetation

■Align paths with Bathers Way

■Markers highlighting historic sites and points of interest

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Santorum ready for tough campaign against Romney

Senator Rick Santorum during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.NEW HAMPSHIRE – Republican White House candidate Rick Santorum has come within eight votes of winning Iowa, but faces an uphill battle against frontrunner Mitt Romney next week in New Hampshire.
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Fresh off his strong finish in Iowa, Mr Santorum, a staunch Christian conservative, was greeted by a large crowd at a town hall in New Hampshire, reflecting his new-found attention from voters and media.

He said campaign contributions were pouring in, and his campaign headquarters said phones were ringing off the hook with supporters eager to volunteer for the former Pennsylvania senator.

But Mr Santorum faces a tough battle in New Hampshire, where support for Mr Romney runs high and where he will have to convince more moderate voters that he can defeat President Barack Obama in the November presidential election.

”A lot of folks are trying to tell you there is this guy who is going to win,” Mr Santorum said, referring to MR Romney, who holds a commanding lead in opinion polls.

”Do not pay attention to what the polls and pundits say. Don’t trust them, trust yourself,” he said.

He is likely to get some help from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who blamed attack ads by Romney allies for his fourth-place Iowa finish.

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

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Azarenka looming as a majordanger to Stosur

Victoria AzarenkaSYDNEY – She’s flying under the radar but world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka looms as one of Samantha Stosur’s biggest Australian Open hurdles.
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Long touted as a major winner in waiting, Azarenka has arrived in Australia with a career-high ranking and quietly confident of finally breaking her grand slam duck at Melbourne Park.

“I really want it bad,” Azarenka said yesterday.

“Winning a slam is definitely one of the goals this year. I’m working hard to achieve this.”

The Belarusian has been knocking louder and louder on the grand slam door, losing to the eventual champion in six majors over the past two years, including to Serena Williams back-to-back at Melbourne Park in 2009-10.

But after collecting three titles and charging to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2011, Azarenka says she’s ready to take the next step.

The 22-year-old is drawing inspiration from Stosur, Petra Kvitova and Li Na, who joined the grand slam winners’ club last year.

“Oh, I’m ready,” Azarenka said. “It’s the little things – just a little bit more belief. I need to be more demanding in those big matches, and also sometimes a little bit of luck is good.

“But I’ve had great experiences. I’m really lucky and happy that I went through those tough moments so that next time I face it, I can learn from those experiences.”

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

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