Monthly Archives: February 2019

Hogan, hero: loved colleague returns to The Age

Jesse Hogan returns to The Age Photo: Eddie JimThe Age newsroom is a busy place but for a few minutes on Thursday morning the news could look after itself.
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When Jesse Hogan came to see us for the first time in 10 months there was something more important to think about.

To loyal readers of The Age, particularly the sports-mad ones, Jesse’s name would draw them to his stories: detailed, well written and well researched. With plenty of stats.

His name has been missing since he was struck down with a massive stroke at the start of February. It could easily have taken his life.

Survival was more important than recovery at that horrible time, but when he walked back in on Thursday for a visit we could all see how far he has come.

Jesse is still spending lots of time with his speech and occupational therapists as well as a physio and neuropsychologist. He has plenty more work to do.

But he has come an enormous way, in every way. He’s less reliant on his crutch, he’s finding more words and he is living with more independence.

He’ll begin a gym program in the next few weeks, and start building up more strength.

He’s been hanging his mum’s washing out for her, he’s started up a veggie patch, is doing more and more reading and has been keeping a close eye on the Australian cricket team.

His solution: bring in Peter Handscomb.

Many have followed Jesse’s progress through regular catch-ups at his rehab centre and since he has moved back home with his family, but there is nothing like seeing someone back where they belong.

It was, said Jesse, an overwhelming morning, but he was happy to see everyone and the feeling was mutual.

As the legendary John Silvester put it: in a business full of bastards, Jesse Hogan is truly loved.

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Trans students forced to register with VCE authority with unwanted gender tag

Trans students forced to register with VCE authority with incorrect gender Photo: Eddie JimVCE student Castiel McIntosh does not identify as male or female.
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Gender pronouns have been given the flick, as Castiel prefers “they” and “them”.

School authorities struggled to accept the transition, which contributed to the teenager’s mental health problems. The 18-year-old said it was particularly confronting when the VCE authority insisted on registering the gender that was on the birth certificate.

Castiel dropped out of year 12 VCE earlier this year. The hurdles involved in changing VCE records “was definitely part of it”, they said.

“There is not enough respect for our rights,” said Castiel, who is now applying to do VCE next year at RMIT. “They don’t understand how important it actually is and how invalidating it is for a person to say it doesn’t matter that you’re trans, we still have to use this gender pronoun and name.”

Students who are transgender, or feel their gender is fluid, are being forced to register with the VCE authority with a name and gender that reflects the details on their birth certificate.

This is an impossible situation for transgender students who cannot change their certificate without undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Doctors in Victoria do not perform surgery on people under 18.

But there is a ray of hope, as the Victorian Parliament debates the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 next week.

The bill, which would allow Victorians to change their certificate without surgery, was opposed by the Opposition in the lower house, and will need support from two cross benchers.

The Greens and the Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Pattern have signalled their support. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Daniel Young and Democratic Labour Party MP Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins will vote against it. The remaining cross benchers appear undecided.

Meanwhile, the education department is in talks with the VCE authority about making VCE registration easier for transgender students. A spokesman indicated support for the bill, claiming the law would make it easier for schools to change their records.

A Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) spokesman said while the authority’s certificates must “maintain uniformity” with birth certificate details, the organisation stopped including gender markers in VCE certificates in 2013 to avoid any further distress.

“VCAA has been proactive in taking steps to comply with individual’s wishes where possible,” he said.

The VCE authority’s position is contrary to education department policy on gender identity, which states that if a student intends to change their certificate at some point in the future, school records could be altered.

Hurdles in changing student documentation affected some students’ VCE performance, while some have previously hid their certificates, or were enrolled in university as the wrong gender, said Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward.

Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre Anna Brown said with the exception of the ACT, state birth certificate laws in Australia lag behind international best practice.

Malta, Denmark, Argentina, Ireland and parts of Canada do not require “invasive and unnecessary surgeries before birth certificates can be changed”, she said.

The bill will also ensure married couples do not need to divorce before changing a gender marker on their certificate (as same-sex marriage is illegal).

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Is Victoria really in the middle of a massive teenage crime wave?

Youths protesting on the roof of the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville in March. Photo: Jesse Marlow Members of the Apex gang have been blamed for the Moomba riots in Melbourne’s CBD in March. Photo: Courtesy of @russmulry, via Twitter
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Damaged caused to the ceiling of the Youth Justice Centre by rioters in March. Photo: supplied

There was rioting in Parkville again on the weekend. Photo: Luis Ascui

Riot police and dog handlers were called to the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville on Sunday. Photo: ABC News

A Domino’s Pizza deliveryman delivers an order to the centre on Monday aternoon. Photo: Justin McManus

Postcode by postcode: How safe is your suburb?

Young people run riot during Melbourne’s Moomba festivities. Out of control teenagers create chaos at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre, causing more than $1 million damage. Premier Daniel Andrews pronounces himself utterly sick of the behaviour. “I am sick, and the Victorian community is sick of it,” he said. Q: So what is the scale of the problem at our youth justice centres?

There are two elements to Victoria’s so-called youth crime crisis: the recent frightening and chaotic scenes at the Parkville youth justice facility and Malmsbury juvenile jail, and fears about young people committing crimes under the banner of the so-called Apex gang.

The problems plaguing the state’s youth justice facilities are real, and getting worse.

Over the weekend and on Monday, young people ripped ceilings and walls apart at Parkville, threw computers through the windows and armed themselves before climbing onto the roof.

The damage to the centre was so great that the government has been forced to make arrangements to send dozens of young people to the adult prison at Barwon.

It didn’t hurt that the move made the government look tough on youth crime.

In September, inmates and guards clashed for three days at Parkville. Last month, there was unrest at Malmsbury, which mirrored similar scenes there in September. It’s understood there have been about a dozen serious incidents at youth justice facilities in Victoria since last October. Q: And what about youth crime?

Here, the picture is less clear cut.

Shadow corrections spokesman Edward O’Donohue issued a press release on Thursday bemoaning the “crime tsunami engulfing Victoria”.

The truth looks very different. While overall crime rates in Victoria are up 11 per cent, according to the latest data from the Crime Statistics Agency, the number of young people aged 10-19 caught committing crimes has actually dropped over the past four years. So too has the number of offences they are committing.

The numbers are interesting. In the most recent financial year (2015-16), 23,865 children aged 10-19 were caught committing 64,369 offences.

Four years ago, 32,761 young people  were responsible for 73,427 offences – so the rate of offending is dropping at a much lower rate than the number of offenders. Q: What has changed?

The data backs up perceptions that there is a small group of young people who are each committing more and – often – violent crimes.

Eight years ago, 17 per cent of offenders aged under 25 had three or more offences against their name. In 2015-16, this rose to 22 per cent.

The other big change seems to be the enthusiasm for two particular types of crime – car-jackings and aggravated burglaries – among young people.

While car-jackings are still not counted as a separate offence, the number of motor vehicle thefts coinciding with burglaries – which police said was the most reliable way of understanding car-jackings –- went from 95 in 2014-15 to 171 in 2015-16.

On Thursday, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said there had been a three-fold increase in the number of young people arrested for aggravated burglaries in the past year.

The crime problem is certainly getting worse in Greater Dandenong, the area that’s home to much of the “Apex” problem.

In the past financial year, the number of offences committed there per 100,000 residents rose by 16.6 per cent.

Even so, Greater Dandenong was the fifth most crime-affected local government area, trailing after Melbourne, Latrobe, Yarra and Horsham. Q: So what can authorities do with young people who seem to have no regard for the law?

Because of the mandated privacy about children’s court cases, we just do not know whether the young people rioting in Parkville and Malmsbury are the same people behind recent car-jackings and aggravated burglaries.

And while the government and opposition talk tough, Liana Buchanan, the state’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, says it’s important to remember that many if not most of the young people responsible for the rioting come from damaged backgrounds and have been subjected to neglect, abuse or trauma.

“Among the experts I think there’s consensus that a more punitive approach doesn’t work with these kids,” she said.

“The evidence is clear that an approach that’s going to the heart of their offending is going to work.”

Ms Buchanan would have the government look at putting money into early intervention, intensive case management and clinical assistance, including trauma-led treatment.

“The numbers of youth offenders is dropping; the reality is that this massive concern about a youth crime wave is exaggerated.”

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Our town, our team, our teen

BRIGHT KNIGHT: How Kalyn Ponga will look in Newcastle’s colours.RUGBY league’s hottest young talent –North Queensland dynamo KalynPonga –appears certain to join the Newcastle Knights.
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The only question is when.

Ponga, the 18-year-old utility back who has played in only two NRL games, is understood to have signed a five-year contractwith Newcastle that some media outlets have reported could be worth more than $700,000 per season.

Knights officials are yet to confirm any deal, but Cowboys coach Paul Green said on Thursday that he was resigned to losing the outstanding prospect, who had also attracted interest from a host of rival NRL clubs, rugby union and AFL.

“Look, it’s early days, so there’s a [10-day] cooling-off period, but we expect Kalyn to go there [to the Knights],” Green said.

Exactly when that happens remains to be seen.Ponga is contracted to North Queensland for next seasonand Green indicated they would be reluctant to grant him an early release.

But the Knights, who have a vacancy at fullback, will no doubt explore every avenue to secure Ponga before their 2017 campaign kicks off.

“Kalyn’s contracted to us for next year, he’s part of our plans for next year and as such he’s expected to play for us,” Green said. “So I’m going to pick the best team possible and if Kalyn’s part of that then he’ll be in the team, simple as that.”

North Queensland had hoped to offer Ponga a three-year extension but Green said they could not compete with Newcastle’s unprecedenteddeal.

“There were obviously things that were important to Kalyn in weighing up his decision – things that we probably couldn’t match,” Green said.

“Newcastle are paying what they felt they were able to pay.If it came down to money we were probably never going to be in the hunt if that’s what was the most important thing, and I’m not saying it is, but clearly that’s made up part of his decision.”

Cowboys CEO Peter Parr was quoted by News Limited as saying“we are bracing for the fact we can’t compete with what’s on offer at other clubs.”

North Queensland have a host of high-profile players coming out of contract, so were never likely to be in a position to enter into a bidding war for a player who is yet to establish himself as a first-grader.

“It probably takes a bit of pressure off trying to keep some of the other big names like Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo,’’ Greensaid.

“We are disappointed to lose him but we have got the big picture in mind. We have a plan in place.”

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and coach Nathan Brown declined to comment on Thursday and appear determined not to discuss Ponga until thedeal has beenrubber-stamped.

If Newcastle are unable to expedite Ponga’s release, they could be relying on a stop-gap fullback next year.

Brown said Nathan Ross, Peter Mata’utia and Dylan Phythian were being considered. He ruled out playing Queenslandstar Dane Gagai as his last line of defence.

Ponga and his family visited Newcastle last weekend and Knights officials rolled out the VIP treatment.

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Kembla Street’s $3.25 million view

GONE: The Master Builders Club has offloaded two assets, sold together with an attractive development application approved for 19 apartments. Picture: MMJ WollongongLiving next to the busy car park of the Master Builders Club might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at it will eventually comewith views of the ocean and the escarpment.
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Two oldweatherboard and brick houses on Kembla Street have turned to dust after collectively being sold for $3,235,000 at auction.

A Sydney developer snapped up 48a and 59 last week with the plan of building a 19 apartment complex on the 1,182 square metre block.

“It already had consent to develop which was a pretty appealing feature for the property and that certainly further encouraged interest,” MMJ Wollongong director Daniel Hastings said.

More than 50 enquiries about the site, the majority from local developers,while “numerous” bidders registered for auction night with 108 bids made in total.

“Both local andnon-local buyers are recognising the lifestyle benefits of our region andthe opportunity for viable redevelopment opportunities,” Mr Hastings said.

GONE: Already demolished, 48a and 50 Kembla Street crushed to make way for a 19-apartment development with a mixture of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units. Picture: Robert Peet

He the sale is testament tothe Illawarra’s residential development market showing now signs of slowing down in the months leading up to Christmas.

“There still seems to be a hunger for developmentopportunitiespredominantly with local interest with a sprinkling from outside the region,” Mr Hastings said.

Wollongong has been experiencinga housing boom with HIA statistics from earlier in the year showing units were going up faster than stand-alone houses.

In October,plans were approved for a new nine-storey apartment tower on the highest point in Wollongong’s CBD,Crown Lane.

The prime site of 35 units and 1600 square metres of commercial space is quite conservative to other developments on the cards.

Also in October, a 16-storey residential-commercial project including 250 apartments, was lodged with Wollongong City Council.

The $83.5 million, two-tower complex, would sit atop a huge Kenny and Atchison Street site.

Acting “as a catalyst for revitalisation within the area”, the plans said.

While close by, Sri Lankan developers lodged plans to build a $22 million apartment block on a derelict house on Atchison Street which has been plagued by squatters and fires.

On Auburn Street, next to the railway, an 18-level apartment tower is underway, while two other Atchison Street high-rise blocks have recently been built.

Picture: MMJ Wollongong

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