Heaters pose fire risk for winter

HeatersHowever it’s also time to make sure our beloved warmth-giving appliances are safe to use.

Every winter brings stories of devastating house fires caused by old heaters, blocked chimneys or faulty electric blankets.

David Hallett is the general manager of Archicentre, an inspection and design group owned by the Australian Institute of Architects.

He says those dusty, old heaters can be a source of disaster.

“I guess that was a warning to everyone who’s firing up their heater that might have been locked away for the summer months to get it checked out if necessary,” he says.

“But certainly give it a clean before they start using it through winter.”

The build up of dust around heating elements in column and bar heaters, even ducted heating systems, can spark a major blaze.

“They can accumulate a lot of dust when not in use and even when in use,” he says.

“That dust can ignite if the heater is left on for a period of time in winter.”

Mr Hallett recommends if you have a ducted system, or have recently moved into a house which has one, you might need to call in an expert to have it cleaned.

“It’s possible to clean parts of it yourself, but if you want the entire duct cleaned… you need to get a contractor in to do that,” he says.

While good old-fashioned wood heaters and fire places may provide warmth incomparable to electric heaters, they’re also a source of potential danger.

“There can be a lot of built up material, particularly in an open fire, that does need to be carried out periodically,” he says.

“There are still such people as chimney sweeps.”

Heat lamps, commonly used in bathrooms, can also present a risk if they’re not properly maintained.

“Exhaust fans and some of the fan-light combinations that are commonly used in bathrooms and laundries can build up a lot of dust on them,” Mr Hallett says.

“Particularly in laundries where there’s a lot of lint flying around if the dryer’s been in use.”

Safety is paramount and of course electric appliances should be disconnected before cleaning.

Port Phillip home composting plans binned

A PLAN to trial a home composting program in 50 Port Phillip households didn’t get off the ground because the council’s application for state government funding was knocked back.

Earlier this year Port Phillip council applied for almost $35,000 from a pool of $5.5 million.

About half the funding was to go towards a home composting trial that measured waste output.

Under the proposal, the council wanted to install a kitchen receptacle and compost bin in 50 homes.

But the Metropolitan Waste Management Group, which provides funding for projects aimed at improving waste collection and management, refused the council’s application because it lacked “long-term viability”. The proposals were also labelled less innovative than those put forward by other councils.

Of the 30 metropolitan Melbourne councils eligible under the scheme, 27 applied for funding in 2012. The City of Port Phillip was one of eight councils that were unsuccessful. MWMG acting chief executive Graeme Stewart said the council’s projects did not score highly against the selection criteria.

“They did not provide an appropriate level of detail about their long-term viability,” he said.

“Projects that were funded had displayed more innovative solutions and had well articulated objectives and actions for delivery.”

This year, Whitehorse, Casey, Bayside and Kingston councils were awarded $85,000, $75,000, $50,000 and $21,000 respectively to roll out home composting programs.

VIDEO: Bodies found at remote Victorian farmhouse


HOMICIDE detectives investigating the mysterious deaths of brothers John and Doug Streeter have moved their investigation to Bendigo,

The discovery of a wallet is believed to be the link that has moved the police investigation to Vatmi Recycling in East Bendigo.

Workers at the site were told a wallet was found which could have been linked to the suspected double homicide.

The workers said police arrived at the recycling plant about one hour ago.

They said workers were sent home and the plant’s trucks were sent away.

Police are at the scene as investigations continue.

It has been reported that Helen, the wife of Doug Streeter, discovered the bodies in the garden of the Natte Yallock farmhouse after returning to the property just before 6pm last night.

They were both aged in their 60s and police have ruled out murder-suicide.

Neighbours say the brothers were well respected and had farmed their whole life.

They were very active in the community were key members of the Loddon Valley Merino Breeders Association.

Port Phillip Council helps to close the gap

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where we are meeting today, the people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and all other Elders here today.

I make that acknowledgement not because I have to, but because I choose to. Because it’s the right thing to do.

I welcome everyone here today – Jill Gallagher, Jason King and all the staff at VACCHO, my colleagues, and all the community members.

And I do so with a spirit of partnership – and bipartisanship.

Some issues are too important, too urgent, to drape in the colours of our politics while nothing gets done.

That’s why Mr Guy and I will be issuing a joint statement about our shared goal to close the gap and lift the living standards of Aboriginal Victorians.

But I didn’t seek the gift of Government just to say things and sign things.

I’m here to do things, and our work is underway.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins, will be running through some of our recent progress.

She’ll also have some words to say about a great friend and leader, Alf Bamblett, who left us on Saturday.

First, I want to talk about where we’re at, and where we’re headed.

Collectively, we have much to celebrate.

Compared to 2008, I can tell you that, in Victoria, we’re closing the gap on perinatal mortality.

We’re retaining more Aboriginal students to year 10 and beyond.

More Aboriginal people between the ages of 20 and 65 have post-school qualifications.

On almost every measure, there’s good news.

But, despite these efforts, there’s also bad news.

The number of 3 year olds in kinder – no change.

Halving the gap for Aboriginal students in reading, writing and numeracy – no trend.

Homelessness, over-consumption of alcohol, access to disability services – no impact.

Smoking – backwards.

Psychological distress – backwards.

Adult justice supervision – backwards.

We must recognise and thank the many dedicated organisations, staff and volunteers here who are working hard to turn this around.

We’re doing your work a disservice if we’re celebrating the good news without acknowledging the bad.

Closing the Gap targets exist to keep us accountable and we need to be honest.

Let’s consider early childhood development and education.

An early start to learning can change a child’s future.

And a quality primary and secondary education is about giving every child every chance for their life and their career.

Education is the roadmap to reducing Aboriginal disadvantage – it’s should be the essence of our effort.

But it’s clear that – despite flashes of good news – we’re not making the traction for which all governments aspire and all communities deserve.

There’s something else that’s close to my heart.

Something that affects every Victorian, whether they realise it or not.

And that’s family violence.

It’s the number one law and order issue in this state – the number one crisis in this country.

And I want to make this clear:

Family violence is not a low household income problem.

It’s not an Aboriginal problem.

It’s a Victorian problem.

It’s everyone’s problem.

Family violence can happen anywhere, to any woman, any child, in any home, in any postcode, in any city, town or community.

And we have to dedicate ourselves to its reduction – everywhere.

That’s why I was proud to establish Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence.

It will investigate our system from the ground up and nothing will be off limits.

It will look at courts, sentencing, alcohol and drug services, mental health services, hospitals, police – even the things our kids are taught in the classroom.

It will complement the work – honour the work – of our community organisations.

It will give us the answers we need.

And it will only succeed if it hears the views of Aboriginal people and responds accordingly.

But on all these issues – health, schools, family, justice, fairness – it’s not just about getting the right answers.

We need to make sure we’re asking the right questions.

And right now, I don’t think we are.

When government talks about this vital effort to close the gap and improve the living standards of Aboriginal Victorians, we must remember that those standards aren’t for governments to decide alone.

There’s a gap that we don’t talk about enough, and this is it:

Some communities in this country can determine their own identity and some can’t.

Why – amid all the good work we’ve all done – why have we stopped talking about self-determination?

Why – since the Intervention – have we stopped talking about self-determination?

Why – when we’re standing here measuring the things that make us healthy, the things that make us human, the things that make us whole – have we stopped talking about self-determination?

Too often, governments don’t extend real autonomy to Aboriginal Australians – because too often we’re there telling them what their street and their school and their lives should look like.

We come along and tell them precisely when they’re healthy and precisely when they’re not.

I’ll say this – I know you can be healthy, but that doesn’t mean you’re included.

You can meet a target, but it doesn’t give you a voice.

It’s not government’s job to dictate to our Aboriginal communities what a good future looks like and feels like.

Instead, we need to ask them.

Mick Dodson said that “imbuing young people with a strong sense of their culture and identity gives them the best chance of finding their way in the world.”

So, Government must help them live fulfilling lives in their own identity.

Yes, closing the gap is important – more important than ever.

But we must not turn a qualitative debate into a quantitative one.

Closing the gap must not become an accountant’s spreadsheet.

Because then we’d be imposing metrics of survival upon a people who have survived longer than us all.

We’d be lecturing about survival to members of the oldest continuous culture known to human history.

In Victoria, we rightly celebrate migrants who have recently made their country their own and pass on their culture to their grandchildren – pass on their culture to us all.

Aboriginal Victorians have that right, too. But we’re getting in the way.

Yes, I want to talk about improving aboriginal health outcomes, but there’s a fact we must accept:

Aboriginal health outcomes are best when Aboriginal Victorians control them.

And that’s the direction we have to lead.

At the moment, our definition of leadership is giving Aboriginal Victorians a seat at our table.

But real leadership is about making it their table, too.

Our effort must have heart and it must have ears.

It must be for Aboriginal people and by Aboriginal people.

It cannot simply be an obstacle course full of whitefella targets.

It cannot be a cold and clinical checklist that fails to reconcile with the past or reach for the future.

Justice isn’t about hectoring, lecturing and measuring.

Justice is about a decent, fair and healthy standard of living – with Aboriginal Australians as its guardians and interpreters.

Clearly, we’ve got a lot of questions to ask.

And a lot of work to do.

And I will have a lot more to say about this soon.

But I know this for sure.

I don’t want to tell Aboriginal Victorians what their future looks like.

I want to hear it from them – in their own voice.

Shift in the Balance

The world is beginning to realize that a seachange in world affairs occured on September 28 when President Putin of Russia stated in his UN speech that Russia can no longer tolerate Washington’s vicious, stupid, and failed policies that have unleashed chaos, which is engulfing the Middle East and now Europe. Two days later, Russia took over the military situation in Syria and began the destruction of the Islamic State forces.

Perhaps among Obama’s advisors there are a few who are not drowning in hubris and can understand this seachange. Sputnik news reports that some high-level security advisors to Obama have advised him to withdraw US military forces from Syria and give up his plan to overthrow Assad. They advised Obama to cooperate with Russia in order to stop the refugee flow that is overwhelming Washington’s vassals in Europe. The influx of unwanted peoples is making Europeans aware of the high cost of enabling US foreign policy.  Advisors have told Obama that the idiocy of the neoconservatives’ policies threaten Washington’s empire in Europe.

Several commentators, such as Mike Whitney and Stephen Lendman, have concluded, correctly, that there is nothing that Washington can do about Russian actions against the Islamic State.  The neoconservatives’ plan for a UN no-fly zone over Syria in order to push out the Russians is a pipedream.  No such resolution will come out of the UN.  Indeed, the Russians have already established a de facto no-fly zone.

Putin, without issuing any verbal threats or engaging in any name-calling, has decisively shifted the power balance, and the world knows it.

Washington’s response consists of name-calling, bluster and more lies, some of which is echoed by some of Washington’s ever more doubtful vassals.  The only effect is to demonstrate  Washington’s impotence.

If Obama has any sense, he will dismiss from his government the neoconservative morons who have squandered Washington’s power, and he will focus instead on holding on to Europe by working with Russia to destroy, rather than to sponsor, the terrorism in the Middle East that is overwhelming Europe with refugees.

If Obama cannot admit a mistake, the United States will continue to lose credibility and prestige around the world.

Students swot up on sleeplessness

YEAR 12 students are about to enter the most sleepless time of their schooling life, with adolescent health specialists overwhelmed during the Higher School Certificate period.

Paediatric sleep specialist at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Chris Seton, is overwhelmed by bookings every September, with only a month to go until students start their written exams on October 15.



”Normally that age group makes up about 5 per cent of my patients. This time of year it’s about 50 per cent,” he said.

ReachOut.com, Australia’s leading online youth mental health service, has a similar surge in activity from October to November with up to 4000 people looking at its exam-related content every day.

Kerrie Buhagiar, an adolescent mental health specialist with ReachOut.com, said the HSC was a particularly stressful time for students and their families.

”We find students don’t look after their physical and mental health,” she said. ”There are higher levels of not sleeping well, not eating well and not taking time out.”

Vijaya Manicavasagar, a director of psychological services for the Black Dog Institute, calls it ”September anxiety” and notes that it spreads quickly through the school yard.

”Anxiety is quite contagious,” she said. ”If you are hanging out with a group of anxious kids that level of anxiety can escalate and spread throughout the group.”

However, with most of the 72,000 year 12 students finishing school this week to knuckle down for their exams, help is at hand for parents and siblings who find themselves walking on eggshells.

Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist from the US National Institute of Mental Health in Australia last week to deliver the keynote address on changes in the teenage brain at the Brain Sciences UNSW Symposium, said today’s adolescent ”digital natives” need to learn how to switch off.

”We know that teenagers are great multi-taskers,” he said. ”But they need to set aside some time in the day to not be multi-tasking, through … meditation or yoga, where they can unclutter their minds for at least part of the day.

”Mindfulness is a good technique because there are no side effects. It’s not expensive to implement.”

Another simple strategy is eating a good breakfast, said Jenny O’Dea, a professor of health education and nutrition education at the University of Sydney, who is conducting a study of the eating habits of 10,000 students around Australia.

”We don’t know a lot about the physiology of the brain, really, but we do know that it likes to be properly fed and rested and that it likes to have at least eight to nine hours sleep,” she said.

”It’s essential that that is provided to the brain.”

South Melbourne park a ‘vagrant magnet’

PORT PHILLIP council has spent more than $1.25 million creating a park in the backstreets of South Melbourne which has been branded a waste of money and a magnet for vagrants.

The park, in Emerald Hill Place behind the Clarendon Street shops, can’t be seen from the street and many residents and traders are unaware of its existence.

Ratepayers questioned the council on its rationale for creating the park at last week’s council meeting, claiming the secluded area would attract drug dealing and illicit activity.

The park is in a former car park at 25 to 36 Emerald Hill Place, previously owned by the Department of Human Services. The council bought the 18-space car park for $1.25 million last September and has spent $20,000 converting it into a park, with synthetic grass, park benches and a table tennis table.

On two separate visits to the park, RL witnessed a dishevelled man asleep on one of the benches.

Port Phillip mayor Amanda Stevens said the park was a temporary installation and community consultation would be undertaken to determine the future of the site, with a view to creating a permanent park. She said the council had not received any reports of vagrants in the park.

“With increased density of residential development in the city, the provision of open space is critical for liveability,” Cr Stevens said.

“We utilise as much available space as possible to provide a wide range of open space opportunities for the community and this includes road closures in Foote Street, medians within roads in Danks Street, and parks off laneways in Ashworth Street.”

Police hunt bandits over Port Melbourne armed robbery

Police are seeking witnesses to an armed robbery at a shopping centre in Port Melbourne.

Five people with covered faces, believed to be men, entered Bakers Delight and a Coles supermarket in Bay Street about 10.25am on June 16.

Staff were threatened with a meat cleaver and knives. The thieves stole cash from both stores before fleeing in a stolen silver sedan.

“It certainly was a very brazen attack at a peak shopping time, when there were children in prams at checkouts,” said Senior Sergeant Eric Strik, from South Melbourne police.

He said police had increased foot patrols in the area since the robbery to help restore community confidence.

Police have praised customers who took video footage of the robbery on their smart phones. Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via the website crimestoppers.com.au

VRU: Moorabbin Rams in huge win over Power House

MOORABBIN Rams strengthened their standing in the Victorian Rugby Union Premier 1 grade with a mammoth 53-19 win over Power House on Saturday.

While both sides were chasing spots in the top six, the Rams raced to a 26-7 half-time lead and never released their grip on the match.

An early try set the tone, and from there Moorabbin ran in eight tries to three.

Rams coach Justin Wilson said preparation was key to the big win.

“We were much better this week,” he said.

“Our players were a bit relaxed before they got on the field last week and we acknowledged that and fixed it this week.”

He said while the attack finally clicked there were still issues in defence that needed to be ironed out.

“I thought our defence was good for about 50 minutes,” he said. “But once we got a decent lead we fell back into old habits, which was frustrating.

“There’s always room for improvement and the big thing is going to be composure. We look to score too early when we have the ball.”

Power House coach Paul Hamer said his side had been given a lesson.

“They played to their potential and we were nowhere near it,” he said.

“Defence was a big factor and we let them run at us.

“They found lots of holes in our defensive line and exploited it as we sat back and watched.

Wilson said Power House would need to play out of its skin to make the finals.

“It gets trickier now,” he said. “In the next four games we come up against three sides sitting above us.

“But if we can play 80 minutes of good rugby then yes, we can be confident of knocking off a few clubs. “

Squabbling all the way to cliff edge

It was early on Friday Australian time that things really started looking grim.

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders threw their hands in the air, and then they pointed fingers.

They had come to the conclusion that the nation was probably going over the fiscal cliff.

The President, Barack Obama, was aboard Air Force One nearing Washington DC – he had cut short his Christmas break in Hawaii – when the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, rose to address the chamber.

“Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today.” he warned. “If we go over the cliff, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed, the House of Representatives … aren’t here. I can’t imagine their consciences.”

A spokesman for John Boehner, who as the Speaker of the House of Representatives effectively leads the Republican Party, fired back a terse denial of responsibility.

“Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more,” he said. “The house has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.”

That was not quite true, although Reid should take no comfort in that.

There is more than enough blame to go around in the mess over the fiscal cliff – enough for Reid and Boehner and for their troops in Congress. Enough too for the President.

Because of their failure, it is likely that some, if not all, of the measures collectively known as the fiscal cliff will kick in on January 1.

These include ending federal unemployment benefits to 2 million people, slashing defence and health spending, and increasing income taxes across the board.

Should the whole suite of measures kick in and remain in place, they would collectively gouge about $US600 billion ($578 billion) from this fragile economy, forcing it back into recession and costing millions of jobs.

So how did it come to this?

The fiscal cliff is not an economic crisis but a political one – a trip wire set in place by the very politicians now entangled in it.