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 Nyngan's time to turn Waste 2 Art
Nyngan's time to turn Waste 2 Art

15 April 2024, 7:40 AM

Thinking outside the square is a good thing when it comes to art according to Bogan Shire Council as they place the call out for the 2024 Waste to Art competition asking local residents to get creative. “Recycling isn’t ALL about placing the right stuff into your yellow lidded bins – it can be about making really cool art,” according to a shire spokesperson. The Shire is again participating in the NetWaste – Waste to Art competition and are hoping that residents of all ages will look at their rubbish in a new light and create a piece for a chance to win prizemoney. “It’s a fun competition with categories for school children, adults and professional artists who can make a two-or-three-dimensional artwork from what might otherwise be consigned to the rubbish bin,” says Bogan Shire.“This year’s featured waste material is “packaging” – but don’t worry if you’d rather use other materials because when it comes to this type of art, just about anything is fair game.”“One person’s trash is another’s treasure! Material scraps, old clothing, scrap metal, plastic containers, bottles, cardboard, string, glass.” Recycling artist Abigail McLaughlin. PHOTO SUPPLIEDNyngan local Abigail McLaughlin has entered the competition for many years and says she enjoys the creative process. “I love the W2A exhibition and find myself looking at every bottle or piece of plastic which I am about to throw in the bin and wonder if I should keep it to make art,” laughs Mrs McLaughlin.“I now have a recycling bin and an art bin. The art bin is getting so big that I am going to have to up my game making things, or it might take over the little space I call my studio.”“I’m inspired by what’s around me. For the past two years I’ve used plastic containers and other bits and bobs to make little dogs. I’ve paper mached them and painted them and used plastic bags or material scraps to make them clothing (superhero capes) or fur.”“This year I have started on a different idea which is getting completely out of control as my imagination takes off. I expect it will take a few all-nighters if I’m to finish it. I have to try fit it around my day job unfortunately,” said Mrs. Mclaughlin.Abigail McLaughlin's 2023 entry had success. Bill Tink from NetWaste visited Nyngan last week conducting workshops with school students and local community members with tips on how to create awesome projects and the importance of waste in and to the environment. Waste 2 Art’s aim is to challenge people’s perceptions about ‘rubbish’ and to celebrate the reuse and recycling of waste through arts and crafts. Waste to Art provides an innovative approach to waste education, invites school and community groups to take up the challenge and create a new life for materials that would otherwise have been thrown away.Bill Tink NetWaste Project Co-ordinator “To enter the competition, grab a form from the Council offices or find one on the Bogan Shire Website. Take a look before you start so you are sure you keep to the rules and can decide which category to place your masterpiece.” Entries will be judged and displayed at the Nyngan Show on 5-6 May. The finalists will proceed to regional judging.

Debate continues over JobSeeker rises
Debate continues over JobSeeker rises

15 April 2024, 7:36 AM

Australians on Centrelink have a little extra when money hits accounts after payments rose with indexation on 20 March, but the debate continues about whether it is enough. Single JobSeeker recipients with no kids receive an extra $13.50 per fortnight, now capped at $762.70. People on the age pension, disability support pension and carer payment get $19.60 for singles and $29.40 for couples combined each fortnight. Payments went up by $17.50 a fortnight for single parents under pension age, $12.30 for partnered parents. Social security payments are indexed regularly throughout the year to inflation. The Australian Council of Social Service called for JobSeeker, formerly Newstart, to be lifted to $80 a day, or $1120 a fortnight. The current rate sits at about $55 a day.  “It is completely insufficient for people who are barely surviving, forced to ration food and medicine or suffer through sweltering heat because they cannot afford to cool their homes,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said. “It is vital the government immediately lifts the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, and related payments to the new pension rate of $80 a day so that people can cover basic costs.” Local federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton said he opposes the idea because it would make it “more attractive to stay at home than actually go to work.”  “Nearly all councils in my electorate have opportunities for jobs. We need aged care workers, which people can take up with some training,” Mr Coulton said. “If you have a disability and you can’t work there are payments and this government looks after people like that, but I don’t think we should be making the Newstart payments that attractive “The idea that Newstart is somehow a permanent payment to live on is not what it’s designed for.” In the local federal electorate of Parkes, 7540 people received JobSeeker payments in December 2023, compared to 8140 in June that year, according to quarterly data from the Department of Social Services.  Coonamble ranked fourth out of NSW’s 129 Local Government Areas in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2021 Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage, followed by Walgett.  Cowra placed 21, Parkes 29, Bourke 30, Narromine 39 and Narrabri 44, followed by Cobar.  Non-profit job agency VERTO, which operates in the Western Plains, said any increase helps. "VERTO welcomes any increase in payments to pensioners, job seekers and students," VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said. "We understand that there’s a lot of extra financial pressure and stress on people who live in regional and remote communities. "Especially travel for employment and medical reasons, so any extra financial assistance to help the people who need it most is very important and will have a positive impact for many." Unemployment in Western Plains LGAs dropped in the latest quarterly report from the federal government.  From Septembers 2022 to 2023, Walgett dropped from 11.4 to 7.7 per cent, Coonamble 6.8 to 4.6, Bourke 9.9 to 7.2, Cobar 2.5 to 1.9 and Gilgandra 4.4 to 3.

Small boost to aged pension, JobSeeker
Small boost to aged pension, JobSeeker

15 April 2024, 3:40 AM

Australians on Centrelink will have a little extra when money hits accounts after payments rose with indexation on 20 March but the debate continues about whether it is enough.Single JobSeeker recipients with no kids will receive an extra $13.50 per fortnight, now capped at $762.70.People on the age pension, disability support pension and carer payment will get $19.60 for singles and $29.40 for couples combined each fortnight. Payments will go up by $17.50 a fortnight for single parents under pension age, $12.30 for partnered parents. Social security payments are indexed regularly throughout the year to inflation but some advocates say the current payments fall far short of what is required.The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) called for JobSeeker, formerly Newstart, to be lifted to $80 a day, or $1120 a fortnight. The current rate sits at about $55 a day. “It is completely insufficient for people who are barely surviving, forced to ration food and medicine or suffer through sweltering heat because they cannot afford to cool their homes,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.“It is vital the government immediately lifts the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, and related payments to the new pension rate of $80 a day so that people can cover basic costs.”Local federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton said he opposes the idea because it would make it “more attractive to stay at home than actually go to work.”  “Nearly all councils in my electorate have opportunities for jobs. We need aged care workers, which people can take up with some training,” Mr Coulton said.“If you have a disability and you can’t work there are payments and this government looks after people like that, but I don’t think we should be making the Newstart payments that attractive.“The idea that Newstart is somehow a permanent payment to live on is not what it’s designed for.”However, agencies and advocates who work regularly with Centrelink payment recipients say that the few extra dollars each fortnight is definitely needed to help people cover essential costs.Non-profit job agency VERTO, which operates in various locations across the western plains, says any increase helps."VERTO welcomes any increase in payments to pensioners, job seekers and students in Coonamble," VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said."We understand that there’s a lot of extra financial pressure and stress on people who live in regional and remote communities, especially travel for employment and medical reasons, so any extra financial assistance to help the people who need it most is very important and will have a positive impact for many."

'Tremendous bushfires':  New fire tanker for Condobolin
'Tremendous bushfires': New fire tanker for Condobolin

14 April 2024, 9:20 PM

A Mercedes Atego Class 1 tanker, valued at $660,000, has just been installed at Condobolin Fire Station.Regarded as a ‘jack of all trades’ vehicle, the tanker can travel off-road to respond to emergencies.Condobolin has a recent and older history of bushfires in the area.The last big fire incident happened in September last year when a night-time fire damaged a grain silo at Condobolin.FRNSW quickly deployed eight firefighters and two fire trucks to the scene, including specialists in hazardous materials response.The NSW Rural Fire Service provided additional crews in support.They were confronted by large flames which were impacting the silo, containing up to 4,000 tonnes of wheat, and the system used to load the crops into it.It took five hours to put out the blaze.A grass fire in Condoblin on a 41 degree day in February 2023. But going further back in 1891, the Telegraph reported of “tremendous bushfires” - which pushed along by hot, summer winds, got within 32 km of the town taking out several properties and killing 20,000 sheep.While in January 1926, 20 square miles of farm land was swept up by a fast moving bushfire.The new tanker boasts a ‘pump-and-roll’ capability that enables it to deliver water whilst moving to extinguish bush or grass fires and is designated as a “specialist Hazmat” appliance, capable of responding to significant hazardous materials incidents in the Central West region.The silo fire in September, 2023. Image: RFSFRNSW Region West Area Commander, Gary Barber, said the arrival of the new tanker represents a significant boost to the local FRNSW fleet.“This new truck is packed with a range of great features including a HALO sprinkler cabin protection system, which will safeguard the crew, particularly if a burn-over situation occurs,” Chief Superintendent Barber said.“It's four-wheel drive capability also means it can travel through rugged terrain, handling hilly environments with ease, to tackle any emergencies.”Spokesperson for the Condobolin region, Stephen Lawrence MLC, said the NSW Government is investing in quality equipment and vehicles for firefighters so they can better protect their communities.“This tanker is one of many that will be strategically placed across the the state to help protect the communities of NSW,” Mr Lawrence said

Marra man inducted as ICPA Life Member
Marra man inducted as ICPA Life Member

14 April 2024, 7:40 AM

David Butler of Nyngan is what can be referred to as a “quiet achiever”, but his unwavering commitment was recognised recently with a life membership to the Isolated Children’s Parents Association (ICPA) at a state conference luncheon held in Dubbo. Surrounded by ICPA representatives from across the state, David was applauded for his life as a volunteer targeting education. David's parents Neil and Geraldine Butler were among the 41 people who brought the Nyngan ICPA branch to life in 1971, thus commencing David's lifelong association with organisation. With grazing properties in the Marra district, north west of Nyngan, the Butler family are well aware of the issues surrounding education in rural and isolated areas. With his siblings and then his own three children David and wife Shelley (another amazing contributor to the organisation) have more than learnt to navigate the obstacles of life in a rural area in terms of education, they have also contributed to its success through work with the ICPA. “I was not expecting the life membership but thank the Nyngan branch for it,” said Mr. Butler. “There would not be many families or students (past or present) that have not benefitted from the work of ICPA, whether it was allowances, communications, distance education or travel. It is a fantastic organisation,” he said.Alison Campbell, Nyngan ICPA. PHOTO SUPPLIED For around 53 years the volunteer run organisation has committed to highlighting equity of educational needs of children and families living in rural and regional areas across Australia. The ICPA members have lobbied governments and policy makers to provide equal access to education and pushed for improved access to transport, internet and providing support to students living away from home to reach educational goals. Fellow Nyngan ICPA member Alison Campbell spoke of David Butler's contribution to the organisation.  “A Branch Committee chooses to recognise a branch member who has made exceptional contributions to the branch, by awarding them Branch Life Membership and when it comes to the importance of education for rural and remote children, having an ability to bring people into the ICPA family and an ability to take the issues to those who need to hear them, David has gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to supporting and representing his local ICPA branch.” “David’s mother Gerry was an active branch member locally throughout her life, attended Federal conference in Perth in the early years and remained a branch member until very late in life. David’s mother-in-law, Jenny McLellan is a life member of the Brewarrina Branch of ICPA, Jenny is a former state councillor and a former federal president of the ICPA giving many years of service to the organisation, so you can say ICPA is in David’s blood.” said Mrs Campbell.It's not just School of the Air students who benefit from the work of ICPA members. IMAGE: ICPA “David has many years of ICPA involvement, he was Vice President then President. and I had the pleasure of being secretary to David’s branch presidency. I never knew what time of the day I might receive a phone call, but they came often and generally always with the quad bike idling in the background. David continues to attend all branch meetings and volunteer his time.” Mr. Butler joined the NSW State council in 2016 and has held the position of Vice President on State Council and travel convenor during this time. Nyngan Branch has a long history of state councillor representation and Mr. Butler is one of the longest serving members. According to Mrs Campbell, the Nyngan Branch of the ICPA unanimously bestowed life membership upon Mr. Butler for all that he has done for the branch, his unstinting support, undertaking of various roles and importantly continuing the diligent lobbying for equity in accessing education for rural and remote children of NSW.

Farmers an easy target for biosecurity costs
Farmers an easy target for biosecurity costs

14 April 2024, 3:40 AM

The Albanese government’s biosecurity package took another step towards the finish line as it passed to the Senate on 27 March.  Despite broad opposition including the Coalition, the Greens and Independents the Biosecurity Protection Bill passed the House of Representatives   The bill would see a levy imposed on Australian primary producers to raise an extra $50 million a year for the country’s biosecurity system. While many farmers seem resigned to the extra levy, debate continues to rage around the equity of who pays to protect our borders from imported risks. “Primary producers, whether growing for the domestic market or exporting into premium overseas markets, benefit considerably from our favourable biosecurity status,” Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, said the day she introduced the bill to Parliament 28 February. “We know that many producers already invest in biosecurity preparedness and response capabilities. “These investments are critical to biosecurity. But they do not fund our biosecurity efforts at the border, at airports, at seaports and at mail centres, and nor do they fund the technical, scientific and surveillance work that is funded through the Australian government biosecurity budget. “It is not just down to producers to contribute more. Under the changes we have introduced, risk creators, like importers and travellers, are also contributing more to Commonwealth biosecurity funding.” Can farmers pass on the additional costs to other stakeholders?NSW Farmers Brewarrina branch Chair, Gerard Glover, agrees farmers should pay the levy, but said there are other groups who should as well. “Everybody suffers if we have an outbreak,” Gerard said. “A lot of households also benefit from the biosecurity levy and I don’t think a lot of them realise they have to contribute to some of that cost.” “Shipping containers, they don’t contribute to it at the present time, businesses coming in from overseas don’t.” Parkes MP Mark Coulton spoke against the bill during debate on 20 March.  “This just seems to be an easy hit that makes it appear that the government is doing something,” Mr Coulton said.  “If the cattle are going to an overseas market, then there would be an obligation for that consignment to be paid for by the Australian connections, whether it's the processors or the farmers going into the other country.  “It should be the same when products come back again.” Speaking during debate on 26 March, MP for Calare in the NSW mid-west, Andrew Gee, said the levy would add to farmer cost-of-living pressures. “It is outrageous that our farmers should be slugged with a new tax to pay for biosecurity, which is the responsibility of all Australians, not just farmers," Mr Gee said. “It's also concerning that, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the government is going to add to agricultural production costs, which will end up making this crisis even worse.” Member for Parkes Mark Coulton argued against the bill in parliament.NSW Farmers representative for the Orana region Catriona McAuliffe said the levy’s passage through the Senate is “disappointing.” “The farmers bear so much of the cost of biosecurity,” Ms McAuliffe said. “The incursion of new pests into the country is really something that should be on the people importing the products. “The expectation that farmers will have to pay more to manage that risk is a little bit disappointing.” The levy is due to begin 1 July this year if it passes the Senate, where the government does not have a majority.  There, the Coalition hold 31 out of 76 seats. Labor hold 26 and the Greens have 11 while independents and other minor parties hold eight.

"This must stop": child assaults filmed and put on social media
"This must stop": child assaults filmed and put on social media

13 April 2024, 9:40 PM

Member for Barwon Roy Butler has told parliament not enough is being done to divert young people from crime.But, he says, that doesn't mean he thinks we should go soft on crime and a recent disturbing trend of 'sharing' violent offences using social media is particularly disturbing.Mr Butler was speaking to offer his conditional support for a Minns Labor government bill to amend laws to make it harder for teenagers to get bail and to criminalise “posting and boasting” about offences on social media.“If you mix people who have committed minor offences with people who commit more serious offences then it is likely that those who commit minor offences will up their game. Custody needs to be avoided for minor offences” he said.“But per capita - in Barwon our crime rates are through the roof, they are some of the worst crime rates in the state”Before entering parliament Mr Butler has worked in three adult prisons, as well as probation and parole. He has co-ordinated offender management programs, and been part of the executive for the police in western NSW.However, he said that he was particularly shocked by seeing assaults on children by other children in the area being filmed and put on social media.Roy Butler. Image: Supplied.“It must be stamped out” he said.He said places like Bourke, Walgett and Condoblin “have some pretty serious offences going on”.“In some parts of my electorate people have come into the nurses quarters with a knife and side-swiped a Doctor’s car - it makes very hard to attract and retain professionals.”Mr Butler said that while he would not “oppose the bill”, it “does not deal with the issue of diversion” and too often police in small towns had just two options - bail or custody.It comes as Amnesty International Australia urges the NSW government to closing the gap Target 11, aimed at reducing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (10-17 years) in detention by at least 30 percent.Image: Catholic Leader. “Tightening bail laws is anticipated to detrimentally impact the incarceration rates of First Nations children, consequently undermining the Closing the Gap outcomes” said Kacey Teerman, Indigenous Rights Campaigner.“The NSW Government says ‘the current status quo is not working for young people who are reoffending and being caught up in this cycle’, but boosting funding for punitive measures such as increased police numbers and judicial resources is just more of the same.”She urged Premier Minns to “listen to experts, create policy based on evidence and to follow the Federal government’s lead by adequately investing in diversionary programs for young people”.

Handicraft, France and Bats on CWA agenda
Handicraft, France and Bats on CWA agenda

13 April 2024, 7:40 AM

Their interests are wide and varied so whenever members of the Country Women's Association gather, the discussion is bound to be diverse.The Castlereagh branch was a case in point last month when the agenda swooped from Handicrafts to French culture and ... Microbats.Embroiderers, knitters and sewers throughout the region have submitted their best work for the upcoming Country Women’s Association (CWA) state competition.Members of the Castlereagh Country group of CWA gathered at Ilford on Monday, 25 March for a council meeting and judging of the group handicraft competition.Group president, Annie Johnston welcomed everyone with a reminder that the CWA of NSW annual conference will be held in early May at Coffs Harbour and thanked all the branches who are fundraising for the new CWA accommodation wing at the Macquarie Homestay in Dubbo.Castlereagh Group handicraft officer Barbara Gow, presented Brenda Croxon with the Michelle Sell trophy for winning the over 80’s handicraft section. (image: E.Hampton) Group international officer, Helen Marsonet reported on the international seminar on France, this year’s CWA country of study, which she recently attended in Dubbo.“There were a large number of members in attendance to listen to the French ambassador, His Excellency Pierre-Andre Imbert, give his address,” Helen said. “He talked about some of France’s cultural achievements during its diverse history and the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Paris.  He mentioned the fact that France produces 1,000 varieties of cheese and is well known for its gastronomic achievements.“Various speakers gave an insight into the culture and history of this interesting country.  Art historian and author, Dr. Susan Steggall talked about her life in Haute-Savoie, a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France, bordering both Switzerland and Italy, and Ruth Shanks, former ACWW world president, presented a wonderful illustrated talk on the handicrafts of France.”PHOTO: Brenda Croxon’s embroidered box was selected to go to State judging. (image: E.Hampton)MicrobatsAgricultural and environmental officer, Louise Press informed members that the competition for primary school children from kindergarten to year 3 was a colouring-in stencil and a short story (200-400 words) for students’ years four to six. She also provided some information on Microbats, the study animal for 2024.“Microbats are the only mammals capable of flying a sustained distance and there are more than 60 different types of Microbats in Australia,” Louise explained.  “The smallest microbat weighs only 3 grams, the largest, the carnivorous ghost bat, weighs just 150 grams. They move fast and are rarely seen or heard. “You may be lucky to hear a White-striped Freetail Bat as it sends out its high-pitched echo-location, which is one of the few bats that can be heard by humans."White-striped freetail bat. IMAGE: M Pennay allaboutbats.org.au“During summer and autumn, microbats go into a feeding frenzy as they fatten up on insects to help them survive the winter. Adult microbats feed on lawn grub moths, weevils, caterpillars, beetles, midges, flying termites, mosquitoes and other insects. “They can eat as much as 40% of their own body weight in a single night or several hundred insects per hour. Once the nights become cooler and the insects disappear, they lower their body temperature and go into a state of mini hibernation until their food returns in spring."Handle the precious microbats with care. IMAGE: ABC“Many of our microbat species are hollow dependent, which means they live during the daylight hours inside the hollows of trees or branches. Competition from birds, possums and gliders along with the clearing of many old trees means that microbats may find the roof or walls of your home the perfect roosting place. “If you have microbats in your walls or roof and don’t want them there, visit Bat Rescue Inc for more detailed information on how to remove them.”In the handicraft competition Baradine member, Brenda Croxon took out the over-80’s trophy for the second year in a row. Two of her items, a beautiful hand embroidered box and a little teddy bear were chosen to go to State for judging. Baradine branch was only four points behind the winner of the branch challenge of eight items.

Placement poverty among social work students
Placement poverty among social work students

12 April 2024, 9:20 PM

"Placement poverty" is a reality for those studying social work and creates unnecessary hardships for families trying to provide for them.Students, academics and union representatives are pressing for an end to unpaid placements for social work students in the wake of the 'Per Capita Report' commissioned by the Australian Council of Heads of Social Work (ACHSWE). The new research has provided a model the federal government could adopt in the shape of a government-funded stipend that social work students would receive from the employer-host at the minimum wage. The current requirement for social workers is 1,000 hours of unpaid placements - equating to six months full-time work with no pay.It creates a significant barrier to meeting the rapidly increasing demand for caseworkers, youth workers and other social work professionals, especially in rural areas where placements are likely to be hundreds of kilometres from home. The discussion came about following the Australian Universities Accord recommendations that the federal government work with universities, unions and stakeholders to implement financial support to students undertaking placement. Nyngan Social Welfare graduate Tayler McBrien struggled with getting through the many hours of unpaid placement required for the course and found it a real burden for her and her family. “Unpaid university placement was a very stressful time for me,” said Miss McBrien.“It meant giving up the life I had made in my uni town and moving back in with my family in a rural area.“For another placement I had to relocate again to find an appropriate organisation match which meant paying bond and moving furniture etc.“I worked nights and weekends at a paid job while completing placements throughout the day and had very little time to complete school work and reflect on placement.“Given the heavy and impactful nature of social work, it was a really hard time trying to balance paid work, placement and the stress of moving,” said Tayler. The research begs the question why just social work students? with students from many other faculties required to do long and unpaid for placement, placing financial and emotional strain on students who are already under the pump with study. Despite the fact it is a widespread issue throughout university students, it was deemed of higher importance for social work students who have less access to scholarships and incentives compared to other courses currently running.  “There’s mounting pressure on the federal government to provide an appropriate policy response to unpaid student placements, especially for the social work education sector,” said Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson.“Our research recommends a government-funded stipend paid to the employer-host because it is the most equitable and inclusive of the examined models. This option is also the most effective and legislatively simple model.“Regardless of the federal government’s decision, the payment must be the Commonwealth’s responsibility, inclusive of all students and equivalent to the minimum wage.”“Placement poverty among social work students is rife and must end. The very students who are dedicated to helping society’s most vulnerable are facing disadvantage and financial hardship themselves as a result of unpaid work placements,” according to ASU NSW & ACT secretary Angus McFarland."Students can’t afford to complete an already expensive degree and forgo their paid job for months. Unpaid placements are an issue of poverty, equity and gender equality - most social work students are women, and many are mature aged and have caring responsibilities.“One in five social work students are withdrawing from study due to financial stress."In a sector riddled with workforce shortages, unpaid work placements risk the loss of future staff in vital services including family violence, homelessness, and disability. We need the federal government to seriously consider the options presented to them and act swiftly on the best solution for social work students - our future community heroes.”Professor Christine Morley. IMAGE: QUT According to ACHSWE representative Professor Christine Morley unpaid placements have huge consequences for students and the future of tertiary education. “Social work students experience a significant reduction in income resulting in a real poverty trap with some struggling to afford rent and basic necessities,” said Professor Morley."It’s resulting in students delaying taking placements and dropping out of their courses altogether. Social work degrees have high rates of students from diverse backgrounds yet unpaid placements are becoming a barrier for these students to complete their degrees.“To improve inclusivity and access to higher education, social work placements must be paid. The Accord recommendations must be implemented in a way that promotes greater access to our higher education system for all students.”

A winning night for Gular MPS
A winning night for Gular MPS

12 April 2024, 7:40 AM

Gulargambone’s Multi Purpose Health Service (MPS) is clearly highly valued around the district with the local Bowling Club packed to the rafters with supporters of all ages on Saturday night 6 April.Things didn’t go exactly according to plan at the end of the night’s trivia fundraiser.  The final raffle was drawn from hundreds of tickets in front of a crowd up to 150 people for the top prize of half a steer in meat.When event MC John Alchin read the ticket, the winner turned out to be from the butchery sponsoring the prize - Gilgandra’s Johnson's Gourmet Butchery. Thinking on his feet, John called owner Michael Johnson and asked what he wanted to do.“You just won the half a beast at the trivia night. What do you want to do?” John told Michael over the phone.“Roll it again, take it?”John then put Michael on speaker and pressed the phone up to the microphone. Team ‘Big Paddock’ putting their heads together for trivia.  “Draw it again,” Michael said to cheers from the crowd. The re-draw win went to Gilgandra local Eileeyo Louie, who will fill her freezer with the prize. The re-draw decision wasn’t the only surprise that night, which raised over $5000 for Gulargambone Multi Purpose Health Service.The hospital’s Nurse Manager, Belinda Alchin, said that was “three times more” than she was expecting.Cody Searle (left) and Gular local James Spora. James won a $25 Baker’s Delight voucher in the raffle.“We’re trying to get new furniture for the residents’ lounge, appropriate furniture for them, and new curtains,” Belinda said. “I didn’t think so many people would turn up. It was amazing.”Throughout the night, 15 teams of eight wrangled their brains over eight rounds involving music, science, geography and Australian roads. They faced questions from the name of Coonamble’s main street (it starts with a C) to whether people get shorter or taller in space, with some cheeky teasing from John.“If I offend anybody, the carpark’s out there,” John joked. 

Indigenous students taste life in the defence force.
Indigenous students taste life in the defence force.

12 April 2024, 3:40 AM

Twelve local high school students from the Walgett and Lightning Ridge region headed off on a week-long program across NSW and ACT Defence sites recently, immersing themselves in this unique way of life. They got to learn about careers and tackled activities such as sea survival skills at HMAS Albatross and the over-water obstacle course at the Australian Defence Force Academy.  This was all possible as part of a defence-focussed Indigenous Youth Program. Head teacher NSW Education Educational Careers Pathway Program Timothy Wykes said the program was incredibly rewarding for students because they dove headfirst and immersed themselves in Navy, Army and Air Force life.  “The program pushed the students out of their comfort zones and encouraged them to apply teamwork, leadership and communication skills,” Mr Wykes said. “It was great to see the students still buzzing with excitement long after the bus ride home.” Year 12 student George Kennedy from Walgett took up this opportunity of a lifetime and joined students from Lightning Ridge and Goodooga to visit bases at Wagga Wagga, Canberra and Nowra. George was inspired by his grandfather’s service in World War 2 and aims to follow in his footsteps and become an Army officer.George Kennedy conquers the over-water obstacle course at the Australian Defence Force Academy. IMAGE: Kym Smith Manager for Defence Work Experience ACT and Southern NSW, Isabel Massey, said it was a privilege to meet and spend a week with the 12 students.  “It was inspiring to see these students taking on leadership roles and achieving things they may not have previously thought possible,” she said. “The feedback from the teachers is that the students are still buzzing with excitement over their experience.” Activities also included taking part in pre-fitness assessments which are a requirement for anyone wanting to join the RAAF as a cadet. They also had access to air simulators, and even got a sneak peek at the Prime Minister's aircraft which had landed at their location.Skye Noye finishes the tunnel course as part of the Indigenous Pathways program in Canberra. IMAGE: Kym Smith The students participated in some of the leadership and teamwork scenarios that are given to serving members which required them to work together as a team to achieve their goals. Not easy tasks however they all worked together and were able to come up with solutions and worked towards achieving their goals. For students such as Bryton Seabrook and Nick Newton, they now have a challenging decision ahead of them, drawn to multiple career paths within defence.  “Exploring the role of an aviation technician in the Navy is very interesting, but also working on helicopters sounds great,” Bryton said.Nick Newton in the tunnel course in the defence work experience program. IMAGE: Kym Smith Nick took a shine to army life. “I am really interested in an infantry role in the Army; however, being a seamanship and small-arms specialist [boatswain’s mate] also looks cool,” he said. Two other students had their say on their preferences. Markel McBride dreams of navigating the seas as a Navy chef and Skye Noyes aspires to be a boatswain’s mate in the Navy.  Defence’s work experience program invests in developing the skills of young Australians. You can find out more about the program and the wide variety of pathways into Defence here.

New Ultrasound machine for Nyngan
New Ultrasound machine for Nyngan

11 April 2024, 9:20 PM

The Bogan Shire Medical Centre is leading the way in rural medical care, having recently taken possession of a new ultrasound machine equipped with the latest digital Imaging technology.   With the original ultrasound reaching the end of its contract period, Council decided to update the equipment with money from their plant fund, to keep the service local and to provide safe and up to date technology for those in the community and outlying areas. The new machine offers higher quality imaging and a wider availability of imaging services locally and can be used for breast imaging, vascular issues including deep vein thrombosis, liver disease complications such as hepatocellular carcinoma, and intricate muscular ultrasounds.  While pregnancy and women’s ultrasounds are currently the most requested, paediatric and general imaging are also on the rise.  The new machine has advanced screening with technology so remarkable it is able to detect such things as heart defects, assisting Obstetric specialists in offering the highest of prenatal care. The Bogan Shire Medical Centre is the only practise west of Dubbo to offer an ultrasound service and will be an asset to many patients needing this service.   Debb Wood, Director of People and Community Services at Bogan Shire Council, is thrilled to see the new equipment in place following the decision by Council last October to obtain the machine.  “Not only are we able to offer Bogan Shire residents a great variety of timely imaging, but it is also of a much higher quality than what we could achieve with the old machine,” said Mrs. Wood. “We are saving our residents from having to travel hundreds of kilometres to access this type of service and we are also able to provide appointments within a day or two. In addition, we can also see acute and emergency cases on the day. Our reports come back either on the day or within 24 hours – it’s a really rapid turnaround. We accept all referrals – even if they aren’t made out to the BSMC." “We are hoping to also increase the number of patients coming to Nyngan from the wider area – places like Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Tottenham, Warren etc. hopefully helping to save patients from these more western and southern locations the additional time and expense of travel and appointments in larger regional towns,” Mrs Wood said.  “Elyce Bennet is our highly qualified and very experienced female sonographer who is regularly working with GPs, obstetricians, midwives and other specialists across the region to promote the Nyngan-based service. “She’s very passionate about providing the best ultrasound services locally and quickly and at very competitive rates. She helped the technician to set up the ultrasound machine – these types of machines can be customised somewhat for the operator’s personal preferences and needs.” New baby imaging technology The technology will deliver both improved patient outcomes and increased revenue for the community as people come to town to access the service according to Bogan Shire General Manager Derek Francis.    “The new machine ensures our community continues to receive the highest quality and safest imaging services available without the need to leave Nyngan and travel hundreds of kilometres to access this service.” 

A small step for farmers, a big leap for carbon farming
A small step for farmers, a big leap for carbon farming

11 April 2024, 3:40 AM

An agtech company born in the central west is cracking open a door for local croppers to safely step into the global carbon market and providing an opportunity to improve soils, and sustainability, at the same time.While western graziers have long been able to measure and trade 'above ground' carbon, there have been few genuine options for broadacre grain growers.That is about to change as the team from Loam Bio come out of their laboratories and field trials to offer growers across the NSW grain belt a chance to use their biotechnology to grow - a 'below ground' crop of carbon without changing their tools, technnique or their usual cropping program.Co-founder of Loam Bio, Guy Webb, had been a professional agronomist around twelve years when his "aha moment" came at a soils conference in Dubbo in 2012."Professor Peter McGee was presenting data at that conference," Mr Webb said."He did the first experiments with a special class of fungi on sub-clover that proved to dramatically increased the carbon sequestration."After fourteen weeks there was a 17% increase in soil carbon. It's not something ridiculously hard or expensive."That's what got myself and a few other local farmers interested."Along with Tegan Nock (Bogan Gate) and Mick Wettenhall (Trangie), Forbes-based Guy began working with an international team to turn that scientific breakthrough into a practical project that would put it into the hands of farmers to increase their soil carbon and allow them to enter the carbon market.Guy Webb, co-founder of Loam BioGuy and his farmer friends set up a not-for-profit research institute working on soil carbon sequestration.Their work was supported by funding from various government departments, the CSIRO, GRDC, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and attracted venture capitalists from around the world.So far, they have raised more than $150million and spent about $70 million on R&D.They have worked for more than ten years developing the science into a proven product in Australia, the U.S., Canada and Brazil."That's a lot of money to invest but we've come out the other end with some extraordinary research data."And we've come up with a high performing commercial innovation which is really a step change for the cropping industry to improve soil health and let farmers capitalise on the carbon market."At the moment the product is ready for wheat, barley and canola.Next year Loam Bio hope to release it for pulses, followed by summer crops like sorghum, corn and then pasture species.Guy Webb describes the technique as similar to legume innoculation, where seed is dressed with a fungal concoction during sowing."It's very easy to adopt, we've even made a special applicator that can be attached to an airseeder and operated from the cab of your tractor," he said."There's no practical change apart from applying the fungus. It's very adoptable and that's what got us excited."A sophisticated process is used to select the right microbes for specific crops and environments. IMAGE: Monique LovickHe says in terms of measurable benefits the product "has got to tick two boxes.""It has to increase soil carbon significantly, that's one, and we always look for yield uptick as well."The fungus has been proven to increase waterholding capacity, boost nutrient exchange capacity and improve water infiltration.Interest is building as Loam Bio emerge from their research, trial and product development closet to begin working commercially with farmers on what is essentially a long term relationship of 25 years because that's how long the carbon can be stored in the soil.Loam Bio's small plot trials at Canowindra. IMAGE:Rachael Lenehan"We've got farmers on the point of retirement, in their mid sixties and beyond, who've signed on because they have succession in mind and they can see the benefit of soil sequestion as a 'second crop'."And there are a lot of young people who are really cognisant of this carbon space who are coming on with open eyes and enthusiasm."It's usually growers who've taken a bit of time to educate themselves about the potential of a carbon economy."You've got to be able to account for it and be able to generate *ACCUs on your farm to put you in a position of power."As well as a comprehensive website available, the Loam Bio team of agronomists and support staff will be "out and about" across the cropping belt talking to producers. Their podcast series also allows grain producers to gain information they might need."We've been toiling away in the background making sure we've got our ducks lined up," Mr Webb said. "Now we're talking to industry, and we do have something of great value for the farming industry."I can hand on heart say this works. There really are no other tools in the toolbox to start carbon farming safely."It's a very significant technical jump and it is a world first," he said. "I think Australia should be very proud of what a group of central west farmers and a team of scientists have achieved. It's no small thing."*ACCU = Australia Carbon Credit Unit

 Narromine, Gilgandra top region for rental stress new report reveals
Narromine, Gilgandra top region for rental stress new report reveals

10 April 2024, 9:20 PM

A new report has laid the state of renting - and many are spending more than a quarter of the income just pay the rent. The latest Suburbtrends "Rental Pain Index" for April 2024 lays bare the tough conditions many Western Plains App residents face in the rental market today. With rental prices climbing and homes hard to find, the report highlights the strain renters are under across the country.  In Narromine, people spend 28% of their income on rent, with the median rent price at $285 per week.  In Gilgandra, 25% of income is spent on rent, which is also $285 a week. In Warrumbungle and Brewarrina, it sits at 21%. In Walgett, it was 15% at $295 a week. Its 14% in Bogan. For Bourke and Cobar, the weekly rent is just 8% of income. Kent Lardner. Image: openagentnews Kent Lardner, the founder of Suburbtrends, points out the stark realities revealed by the data: "Our April 2024 findings show that rental stress isn't just sticking around; it's getting worse". Mr Lardner believes we need to think differently about housing solutions, like getting creative with incentives for homeowners to make better use of their space: "Imagine if we could encourage retirees to rent out their homes while they travel slowly through other countries. It could help them save money with a lower cost-of-living and instantly add more homes back into the rental market."  He concludes, "We urgently need innovative solutions to alleviate the rental crisis in Australia. Mobile home villages and prefabricated small homes represent immediate and practical options to expand our housing supply as quickly as possible."  The report comes as newly released government figures show as at 31 March 2024, the number of bonds held by the NSW Rental Bonds Board was 970,428. As at 30 September 2023, the number was 966,172 - an increase of 4,256 homes. However, the most recent ABS migration figures (up to the September 2023 quarter) show that the number of additional people who came to NSW from overseas in the year was a net gain of 186,433.  

Surprise quoll find near Coonabarabran
Surprise quoll find near Coonabarabran

10 April 2024, 7:40 AM

The discovery of Australia's largest mainland carnivorous marsupial on a local property is seen as a good sign for the future of the threatened species.When local resident, Meg Walton was woken in the early hours with a commotion in her duck pen, she thought at first that a large possum was responsible for the racket.“I had never seen anything like it before,” Meg said. “It took one of the ducklings and climbed up a tree in the back garden.  I had to look up a spotted brown animal on the internet to find out that it was a spotted-tail quoll!”However, Meg says the next night the quoll returned killing a total of two ducklings and three turkeys.“On advice from National Parks and Wildlife we bought two fresh chickens and put them in borrowed box traps in the turkey pen and the next day found the quoll caught in one of them,” Meg added.“It got into the pens by digging under the fencing, so we have now put all the ducks, turkeys and chickens in the same pen together and put mesh under the cage so nothing can dig through again.“It was a bit scary at first because I did not know what it was.”A spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPSW) says there have only been a handful of recorded sightings of spotted-tailed quolls in the Coonabarabran area in the last two decades.“The Spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) captured on private property near Coonabarabran was a male. The animal appeared very healthy, with a lovely shiny coat and weighed in at just over 4kg.“Spotted-tailed quolls are highly mobile. They can move several kilometres overnight and have very large territories, especially in lower rainfall areas where food can be scarcer. They are mainly solitary animals and will make their dens in rock shelters or hollow logs or tree hollows.“It is breeding season for quolls now, which is why this male may have been seen outside where it would normally live.”NPWS say that all confirmed quoll sightings are recorded in the Bionet system, which helps to increase our knowledge of these elusive creatures.Habitat“While the quolls natural habitat is the forest, they will sometimes travel across open country, including farms where they find abundant, accessible food such as rabbits and poultry. If you’ve got chooks, you are likely to have quolls checking out your animals.“To protect poultry, ensure your pen is designed to keep predators out, not just to keep your chickens or ducks in.“Quolls are awesome climbers and are smaller than you think, with juveniles capable of fitting through regular 40 mm hexagonal chicken wire. They are also accomplished diggers, so if your pen has an earthen floor, you will need to extend your fence below ground.”Historically, quolls were treated as pests and were trapped, shot or poisoned by people protecting their chooks. Occasionally, quolls died from injuries sustained from trying to enter or exit chook pens. These practices have contributed to a decline in quoll numbers, and quolls are now listed as an endangered species in New South Wales.If you suspect or see a quoll visiting your hen house, NPWS ask that you contact your Local Land Services or National Parks and Wildlife office. They may also be able to help you with a motion camera to identify the species or advise you on how to quoll-proof your hen house.After being checked out and its good health confirmed, Meg’s spotted-tail quoll was released back into the wild as soon as possible to give it the best chance at reproduction.

 NSW Farmers urge NSW Government to “rebuild community trust” over Dunedoo renewable energy
NSW Farmers urge NSW Government to “rebuild community trust” over Dunedoo renewable energy

10 April 2024, 3:40 AM

NSW Farmers have released a statement calling on the NSW Government to “rebuild community trust and relationships amid angst around the energy transition” with the many in the Dunedoo community expressing fears over the town’s new solar energy plant. Late last month, the Federal Government approved the major new renewable energy project that they say will turbocharge Australia’s transition to cheaper and cleaner power. The 840 megawatt (MW) Sandy Creek Solar Farm, located near Dunedoo, will generate enough electricity to supply 200,000 homes across the state. It includes a large-scale battery storage system to support grid reliability. The farmer body is warning that the ongoing uncertainty is taking a toll on the local community and pushing for more clarity around the project.It’s part of the 20,000 square metre Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone, centred around Dubbo, Dunedoo, Narromine, Gilgandra and Mudgee, which the state government says it hopes will deliver enough wind and solar power to provide energy to 1.4 million homes - about a quarter of the state’s energy demands. Central West Renewable Energy Zone. Image: Supplied. NSW Farmers Energy Transition Taskforce chair Reg Kidd warned, has warned the stress and uncertainty of these projects taking a huge toll on the region.  “The sheer scale and pace of the energy transition is forcing people into really difficult situations, being forced to give up parts of their family farms or face years of disruption to their operations, and it’s causing enormous stress,” Mr Kidd said. “We need the NSW Government to swiftly address these concerns not just about where and how transmission lines and energy developments will be built, but also how they will minimise the impact.” Reg Kidd. Image: Western Advocate. Mr Kidd said NSW Farmers had been actively advocating to the NSW Government and EnergyCo on the issue, raising concerns about Just Terms Compensation, mental health support, and the need for clear guidelines on how all parties should conduct themselves to minimise the impact on people and farm productivity.  “We heard the previous government spruik the 3000 jobs the Dunedoo development would create, but it’s left 1000 locals wondering about where these workers will live, how they’ll be housed, and what demands that will place on their small community,” Mr Kidd said.  NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said the government will “continue to work closely with communities” in implementing the project. Ms Sharpe said that in October 2023, communities in the region received a $128 million “down-payment” to fund public infrastructure upgrades, housing and accommodation, training and employment programs, and health and education programs. 

Nyngan Rural Achiever leading the way
Nyngan Rural Achiever leading the way

09 April 2024, 9:20 PM

Bec George of Nyngan recently took part in the 2024 RAS Rural Achievers Award following her selection in the top 8, among contenders from all over NSW.    The Royal Agricultural Society Rural Achiever Award is a state-wide leadership program which recognises future leaders in the 20-29 years of age who are working hard to make significant contributions to both their communities and rural Australia with their love and dedication for the land and agriculture.  Bec says being part of the program gave her so much more than she expected.  The program which culminates in an overall winner during the Sydney Royal Easter Show, commits to promoting and facilitating agricultural industry networking opportunities with young rural achievers and rural industry leaders through RAS connections, Committees and functions throughout the annual Show.  “The Rural Achiever Program ran for 7 days, it began two days before show with personal development workshops and an industry panel, then into a jam packed five days at the Sydney Royal,” Bec told the Western Plains App. “Highlights included stewarding in various sections across the show, attending government house to receive our Akubras and also attending the Show opening dinner and meeting the Governor General of Australia. “It was everything I expected and so much more, the networking opportunities were amazing as well as having a behind the scene experience with the running of the Sydney Royal Easter show.”  Despite the fact Bec completed a Bachelor of Criminology in 2018, the call of home and the family farm took her back to her roots and a passion for agriculture, where she has continued to live and work since on the family farm.   Following a win in the Nyngan Young Woman (formerly Miss Showgirl) Competition, Bec says she truly recognised the importance of country Shows to their communities and formed a network of contacts and friendships. This forged her desire to do more and so she applied for the RAS program.   As well as the intensive week throughout the Show, the selected recipients go on to represent NSW at the National Rural Ambassador Award and to be involved in an exchange program at the. Royal Adelaide Show, with the hope that the Rural Achievers also become RAS ambassadors for NSW and the wider Show movement.  “I stewarded in the arts and crafts pavilion, woodchopping, as well as in the sheep and goat pavilion. Every section was really insightful into how different areas are run and all stewards and judges were so welcoming, knowledgeable and generous with their time. “We took part in one of the Grand Parades and it was amazing to see the amount of people on the grounds watching and attending the show,” said Bec.  “Meeting the South Australian Rural ambassadors and National winner Reece was also a highlight and I look forward to having the opportunity to attend Royal Adelaide show at the end of the year and catching up with everybody.”  Grace Collins of Armidale went on to win the Award as 2024 Rural Achiever but Bec is thrilled with her time spent in the program and only has praise for the organisers and fellow competitors.  “I took a lot away from the experience it has really helped me to develop leadership skills as well as the networking aspect of the people we were introduced to and most importantly the seven others in the program are going to be lifelong friends as well as like-minded individuals who are all passionate about agriculture and their communities. “I would highly encourage anyone thinking about applying to put yourself forward, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that has really given me a lot to consider for my community involvement but also the way in which agriculture in Australia is heading. “Royal Agricultural Society and the mentors Yvette Mackenzie and Prue McCormack and RAS Co-ordinator Kane Garretts made sure we were provided with every opportunity to be involved with all aspects of the Show.” "I am honoured to have been chosen to take part and represent not only my community but also the lifelong dedication of my parents and grandparents to the land in rural NSW, it has been an amazing experience."  

Coonamble Branch Royal Far West prepare to celebrate 90 years
Coonamble Branch Royal Far West prepare to celebrate 90 years

09 April 2024, 7:40 AM

It's a really big birthday for the Coonamble Branch of the Royal Far West later this year.Local members are already hatching their 90th anniversary plans and have asked locals and former residents to mark their calendars for 4pm Saturday 21 September."We're working with Dubbo Street Food Cart to host a high tea style event at the Showground Pavilion," said President Irene Reeves."Right now we're trying to get the word out to anyone who's been involved with Royal Far West at any time over the decades."That means stories, recollections, information or photographs.Perhaps someone in your family was helped as a child by the Royal Far West and made the long trip to Manly?If you have photographs the local branch would love to get a copy and if you have a story to tell they'd love to hear it.Chair of Royal Far West Joan Treweeke with Coonamble President and forty year veteran volunteer Irene Reeves. IMAGE: Coonamble TimesPerhaps you were on the committee, or had a friend who was a member when they lived in Coonamble? Let the current committee know if you have stories or information to share about fundraising activities of the time.Perhaps you were the lucky bidder on a memorable item at one of the Royal Far West's famous auctions?Jake McGlashan, Tristan Crowley, Nick Jackson, Ellie O'Connor, Maddi Gallagher, Maddy Strudwick, Bridget Ryan and Evan Jackson supported the Coonamble branch of the Royal Far West at their 2023 dinner and auction.If you joined in at any events in the past and have photos or reminiscences please get in touch.In the meantime the branch are rounding up special guests and doing their research."I think during those ninety years the branch has only had about five Presidents!" says Irene, who has been a member for more than forty years.On the day, it's open invitation so if you're a supporter make sure you keep the date free."It's a major milestone for one committee of local volunteers to last so long," said Irene. "So we'll have a small auction and a big party."

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