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Mayor furious over Port Stephens councillor’s comments

Port Stephens Council will lodge a formal request with the Minister for Local Government Paul Tooleto consider amerger with Dungog.
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The application underthe Local Government Actasks that Mr Toole refer a merger with Dungog Shire Council, in part orwhole,to the Boundaries Commission.

Clarence Town has already asked the government to consider making it part of Port Stephens.

Port Stephens’ councillors supported the idea unanimously as a mayoral minute last Tuesday nightas an alternative to a merger with Newcastle.

“It was Cr John Nell who said “I think this is our ticket out of jail”.

“And in the long term it would safeguard Port Stephens against any further mergers.”

Cr Johnston said this comment pretty much summed up what Port Stephens really thought about Dungog.

“They don’t care about Dungog and our community, they are only looking after theirselves,” he said.

“They are just using us because they don’t want to merge with Newcastle.

“It worries me what is going to happen as I just want the best for this community.

“Whether we stand alone, merger with Maitland or Port Stephens, we will still need a bucket of money to be spent in the Dungog Shire.

“Maitland and Port Stephens’ residents won’t want to spend money in our shire so the state government will need to have a bucket of it to be used here.”

The application, under section 218E and 218F, would require a survey of electors in Port Stephens and Dungog, through public meetings and postal surveys as two examples.

The application seeks to cut off the Dungog-Maitland merger option. It’s back on the table because Gloucester is now in discussions with Great Lakes and Taree.

Port Stephens councillors agreed that it was still preferable for Port Stephens to stand alone. If not allowed to, they will press the case for the Dungog option.

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Community spirit is strong in sport events

FEARLESS: Genetics owner, trainer and first-time triathlon competitor Danielle Rees in action during the Sparke Helmore triathlon run leg.Standing around on Horseshoe beach waiting for the start of the women’s triathlon just over a week ago gave me the chance to shake out some of the nerves I always feel by talking to other entrants.
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I was with my trusted triathlon companion and long-time friend Allison Currey, reminiscing about events past and talking about what we will perhaps do next year if we survive this year’s race.

I am turning 40 next year and am already thinking of ways I can celebrate the milestone by hopefully being ‘Fit and Fabulous at 40’.So I was suggesting to Allison we do a half marathon and perhaps the Olympic distance triathlon as part of the 2017 Sparke Helmore Triathlon, when I was tapped on the shoulder by a familiar face.

COLLECTIVE: When the race is done and dusted, it is the collective feeling of “We made it” that is nice to share with others.

Part of the reason I like doing community sporting events is because of the community members you meet or get to catch up with doing them too.

When I turned around I was met with the beaming face of Genetics owner and trainer Danielle Rees, who was also a former teammate of mine in a Swansea-Belmont beach sprint relay team many moons ago.Now mother of two young girls, Danielle was one of a number ofmums I saw milling around at the end of the race with kids around them. Danielle admitted this was her first-ever triathlon and it was on her own ‘Turning 40 bucket list’ for this year.

It was not long later that a footballing teammate of mine, Natalie Gilbert, also tapped me on the shoulder and nervously confessed it was her first triathlon too.

It is the moments like that I actually enjoy more than the events themselves sometimes –being able to talk to other members of our community and be inspired by their fitness goals and achievements. It is sharing together in nervousness then sharing the pain as the race progresses and also encouraging each other along until the end.

When the race is done and dusted, it is the collective feeling of “We made it” that is nice too. Danielle likened the experience to giving birth but she was still smiling and I got the sense she would be back again next year for an even stronger showing. Incidentally,she still managed to finish18thoverall and seventh in her age category!

And after finishing, a few of us were alreadylooking forward to shouting out a cheer of encouragement to each other during the Hill2Harbour 10-kilometre as part of NewRun coming up in three weeks.

While I am talking about the triathlon, the winner of the ladies event was Juliana Bahr-Thomson. In case you have not heard of her, Juliana is quite the inspirational young lady herself.

Last year she battled sharks and blue bottles to board paddle 180 kilometres from Newcastle to Bondi, and this year she will take onan epic 1000km never-done-before paddle over 40 days from Newcastle to Noosa.

I think immersing yourself among other community members who have a passion for health and fitness can be beneficial for your own health sometimes too. It certainly inspires me.

Renee is a qualified personal trainer, mother and writer. [email protected]老域名出售

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Import prepared to shoot down Comets

Justynn Hammond playing against North Sydney last weekend. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNEWCASTLE Hunters import Justynn Hammond expects to be better for the run when he lines up against defending Waratah Basketball League champions Sydney Comets at Broadmeadow on Saturday night.
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Just 48 hours after arriving in Australia, the 28-year-old American came off the bench in Newcastle’s 91-77 loss to 2014 champions Norths Bears in the season-opener at Broadmeadow on Sunday.

Hammond, who is back at the Hunters after a successful campaign in 2013, picked up two quick fouls and was used sparingly against Norths, tallying 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in a little less than 13 minutes.

“Last weekend was a little bit rushed. I just jumped into it and was still a little bit jet-lagged, but I’ve had a week under my belt now and I’m ready to go,” Hammond said.

The Hunters recovered from a 29-9 quarter-time deficit to match strides with Northsbut could not convert consistently from the free-throw line (24 of 40) or cool down the hot hand of Bears guard Nick Blair (33 points).

Sydney began their title defence at home by beating Manly 80-77.Led by experienced big man Tom Dawson (17 points, 14 rebounds), the Comets out-boarded the Sea Eagles 48-40.

“One of the positives coming out of last week’s game is we will get better,” Hunters coach Larry Davidson said.

“Sydney are big so we must win the rebound count and put their shooters under pressure.”

The game against the Cometstips off at 7.15pm.

The Hunters women’s team will play Sydney in a trial game at 5pm.

Maitland will try to open their account when they travel to Manly on Saturday. The Mustangs lost88-78 to Norths at Maitland last Saturday.

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Kookaburras flying on self belief for play-offs

DANGER MAN: Restricting Joe Price’s influence will be essential to Hamwicks beating Toronto this weekend. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTORONTO Workers captain Paul Toole is brimming with confidence for Saturday’s semi-final against Hamilton-Wickham at No.1 Sportsgroundand said he “wouldn’t want to be playing us at the moment.”
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The Kookaburras have been the surprise packets of this Newcastle district cricket season. Three straight wins leading into the play-offs, including outrights over Wallsend and Waratah-Mayfield, rocketed the western Lake Macquarie club to second on the ladder above the more-fancied Hamwicks and University.

Led bytalisman NSW Countryall-rounder Joe Price, the Kookaburras have timed their run into their first finals series since 2008-09 toperfection. Last weekend Price (160) Nathan Hudson (116) and Greg Hunt (96) belted Cardiff-Boolaroo into submission in a declaration of 4-436.

Toronto have lost seven matches this season compared toHamwicks’ three, but the Kookaburras are undefeated in two-day cricket.

“We’re going into this finals series as under dogs because all the other teams have been there in recent years,” Toole said.“But what I’ve saidaround the place is,‘I wouldn’t want to be playing us at the moment as we’re playing good cricket’.”

The Kookaburras have lost teenage quick Griffin Lea, after he pulled up lame at theNSW Schoolboys Cricket Championships at Bankstown during the week. That has allowed for veteran all-rounder Ashley Weeks to earn a promotion after one week in second grade.

Toole is unsure whether Lea would be fit if Toronto reach the final.“Once we knew he was crook, I just left it,” he said.“We’ll see how it pans out this weekend.”

Hamwicks have qualified for six straight final series but arestill searching for that elusive victory. After a measured opening seven rounds where they lost two matches, Hamwicks have lost just oncesinceNovember and they toasted their inaugural Twenty20 title a fortnight ago.

Despite their own form,Hamwicks captain Josh Trappel said the momentum was with Toronto.

“Toronto are the team in form,” Trappel said.“You look at the last few weeks of the competition, they are the dark horse. You can’t underestimate them at all.

“They have some quality players in Pricey and Lumpy [Greg Hunt] and they’re showing that in the last couple of weeks by leading from the front.

“You just have to keep Priceyunder wraps.

“Weneed to take our chances, because he’ll give you chances.”

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Sporting Declaration: So near, but yet so far

POLARISING: Brian Smith parted company with Wakefield Wildcats this week. Will he coach again at professional level?HAS Brian Smith coached his last game of professional rugby league?
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If the answer is “yes”, there will be plenty who say “about time” and“good riddance’’.

Sporting Declaration is probably one of the few people in Newcastle who would beg to differ.

Typically, when Smith parted company this week with Wakefield Wildcats, it was in controversial circumstances.

He was reported to have unexpectedly resigned, effective immediately, prompting club chairman Michael Carter to reveal: “I was a little stunned.But, by his manner, you could tell it was a decision that wasn’t going to get changed …we’ve had a frosty relationship since Christmas.’’

In that case, it is certainly notthe first “frosty relationship’’ of a coaching career that started with Illawarra Steelers way back in 1984.

The 61-year-old has endured many highs and lows along the way, and at times attracted fierce criticism and some lifelongenemies.

But for mine, he has never received the credit he deserves, not least for histhree-year stint at the helm of the Knights.

The critics will point to the fact that Smith was never able to win a premiership. But I find that a simplistic view, especially when you consider the teams at his disposal.

With the benefit of hindsight, the four sides Smith steered to grand finals (St George 1992 and 1993), Parramatta (2001) and the Roosters (2010) always had the odds stacked against them.

The Dragons twice finished runners-up to a Brisbane Broncos line-up that was almost an unofficial Test team.

The Eels ran into a future Immortal called Andrew Johns, surrounded by a handy support cast includingBen Kennedy,Matt Gidley, Robbie O’Davis, Timana Tahu, Steve Simpson and Adam MacDougall.

And the Roosters did well to lead St George Illawarra, the dominant team for two seasons, at half-time in the last game of the year.

Smith’s zero-from-fourrecord in premiership deciders pales alongside his arch-rival Wayne Bennett, who came within one tackle of eight-from-eight before Johnathan Thurston conjured up an act of Godlast season.

But Bennett has never mastermindeda turnaround as remarkable as Smith managedin taking the Roosters,2009wooden spooners, to the grand final a year later, which surely rates as one of the great coaching feats of the modern era.

Perhaps the only thingBennett and Smith havein common was that they were unable to deliver the success Newcastle fans craved.

Bennett guided the Knights to the 2013 grand final qualifier, but in 2012 and 2014 they were shot ducks by the time those seasons had reached the halfway point.

Whereas Bennett imported a host of big names and tried to give the Knights a silvertail makeover, Smith favoured a bargain-basement recruitment policy.

Most of the players he signed for Newcastle were either unknown orunfashionable, such as Zeb Taia, Cooper Vuna, Mark Taufua, Junior Sa’u, Isaac De Gois, Matt Hilder, Chris Houston and Richie Fa’aoso.

None of them were champions, but it is hard to deny they provided Newcastle with great value for money.

And what is too often forgotten is that the Knights, during Smith’s tenure, were making progress.

His first season, 2007, admittedly was a disaster.

Three games into that campaign, Johns was forced to retire. Other injuries to key players decimated Newcastle’s ranks, and morale plummeted when it became obvious a host of long-serving veterans would not be retained.

All things considered, it was a minor miracle that the Knights were able to avoid the wooden spoon with a last-round victory against Wests Tigers.

Yet 12 months later, they finishedwithin one win of the play-offs.

The following season, 2009, Newcastle’s improvement continued. After seven wins in the first 10 rounds, they were second on the points table.

In the process, they had beatenManly, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canterbury and St George Illawarra, all of whom subsequently featured in the play-offs.

Butjust as Knights fans were daring to dream of reaching the finals, and perhaps doing some damage, news broke that Smith had signed a four-year deal with the Roosters.

Three successive losses followed, and then Smith was sacked.

The rebuilding project he had beenoverseeing was handed over, incomplete, to his assistant Rick Stone.

Few Knights fans have anysympathy for Smith, but sometimes I wonder what might have been hadthe clubre-signed him long term, hence removing the temptation to explore other opportunities.

As new Knights coach Nathan Brown noted last week: “The reality is, wherever Brian has been, clubs have been successful and made grand finals. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen in Newcastle.’’

Many would say Smith simply wasn’t the right fit for Newcastle. To that I would respond by pointing to the past few seasons and asking simply: “So who is?’’

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From one lake to another: leave us alone

NO GO: A move into the Lake Macquarie Council would not suit Lake Munmorah residents, says reader Stuart Durie.
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THIS is in response to Greg Piper’s article(Herald, Opinion,10/3) regarding Lake Macquarie Council’s proposal to have its southern boundaries adjusted to take in numerous southern suburbs from Wyong Shire.

This adjustment would take in the suburbs fronting Lake Macquarie and exclude Lake Munmorah.

However, a little-known ramification of the proposal would put the western portion of Lake Munmorah in Lake Macquarie Council and east of the Pacific Highway would remain in Wyong Shire, or its successor.

At a recent public meeting held at Chain Valley Bay, officials from Lake Macquarie Council expressed surprise on learning that the area immediately west of the Pacific Highway was in fact Lake Munmorah, not Chain Valley Bay.

At a recent meeting of Lake Munmorah Progress Association, there was an overwhelming majority opposed to the splitting of Lake Munmorah.

There is strong support for this northern suburb to remain in Wyong Shire and the prospect of our village being split in two is unrealistic.

The splitting of Lake Munmorah seems to be an unintended consequence of the changes being sought by Lake Macquarie Council.

It is hoped that this rectified before any decisions are made.

Stuart Durie,Lake Munmorah Progress AssociationRiddled with faultsACCORDINGto the NSWgovernment, local councils that aren’t deemed ‘fit for the future’ should undertake voluntary or forced mergers to improve their financial and operational sustainability.

Dungog,Gloucester, Newcastle and Port Stephensare potentially under the hammer.Even though I don’t agree with his argument and conclusions, Irecognise Premier Mike Baird’s logic.Economies of scale are the way to go.

Would that same logic also apply to the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s (NDIS) mammoth operations?

This program is almost entirely structured around the impending decentralisation andprivatisation of disability care services for more than 400,000 peopleacross the country.

For all of its plusses, it is riddled with faults.Among the largest is that the NSWgovernment, along with several others, is set to relinquish its local involvement, participation and controlling interest in the disability sector.Surprisingly, the federal legislation provides for this.

That is why the Stockton and other local residential care facilities are due to close.Visiting carers going into group homes are set to do the work.

This, in my opinion, is multi-tiered intergovernmental cross-party madness at its worst, even with the support of the likes of the Labor Party’s Jenny Macklin.

Despite its own no-disadvantage test, the NDIS already fails many people who are at considerably lower levels of need than those who have been institutionalised for much of their care.

I know this in part because I sat through three hours of high-falutin mumbo-jumbo during Monday’s joint parliamentary committee hearings at the Newcastle Town Hall.It was both edifying and uninspiring, in unequal measure.

After each and every question and scenario and clarification and non-answer, all heard in my head was thisgigantic elephant in the room calling out to me.No-one, it was telling me,was ‘fit for the future.’Did anybody else hear that?

Steven Micevski,DungogFrank, but falseFRANK Ward (Letters, 10/3)provides us with a jaundiced, inaccurate opinion on new aged care regulations.

There is no requirement for elderly people in need of full-time aged care accommodation to either be rich or risk being dropped at the door of some hospital.

People without funds areplaced in aged care facilities without charge, other than paying toward the cost of said accommodation. Surely it is reasonable that those whocan afford it, pay for their aged accommodation?

The Coalition have not and, as far as I can see, have no plans to make Medicare a US-like system and only the most biased commentator would make such a claim. The ALP are heavily into “say something often enough and the voters will come to believe you” –just like Tony Abbott did when in opposition. It would appear that Frank Ward is in the same game.

Mike Sargent, Raymond TerraceXPT’S TIME IS UPMY husband and I recently travelled to Queensland and back on the XPT.

The XPT has been in service since 1982. What a dirty, shabby train it is. I don’t know what travellers from overseas must think.

What an embarrassment to think that this the best we can do for NSW train commuters.

I am not criticising the staff of the train who were very helpful and courteous but I think it is high time this old dinosaur of a train was scrapped altogether and replaced with a new up-to-date service.

Margaret Priest,WallsendDemocracy duddedIT’Sfunny tosee the Greens ditching the system that has frequently got themelected via preferences as soon as it is in their interests.

This “reform” is a pathetic and self-serving attempt by the Liberals and Greens to shut out other political challengers through manipulating the electoral system. Democracy at its finest.

Stuart Southwell,Warabrook,Convenor of the Newcastle Branch of the Democratic Labour PartyFunds and gamesWITH a budget due very shortly, it is of interest to considerthe researchby the Australian Institute in 2012.

It showed that tax concessions paid out to encourage more people to contribute to theirretirement,which results in giving small benefit to low and average earners but a massive saving to big earners by 2016, would be equal to the amount paid out to the old age pensioners.

Therefore it has to be asked – can they claim to be self-funded if the cost to the country to get them there is going to nullify any benefit? And is it serving a purpose?.

Allan Earl,Thornton

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It’s Lifeline calling: for commitment

LIFELINE has launched an online campaignin the wake of statistics revealing a 13-year high in the rate of suicide in Australia, making it the leading cause of premature death.
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Lifeline CEO Pete Shmigel says it’sa “growing national suicide emergency”, and wants theFederal Government to act accordingly.

“We know the profound impact that suicide can have on individuals, families, friends and wholecommunities,” Mr Shmigel said.

Through an online campaign, launched on Friday, Lifeline isseeking a million signatures on apetitioncalling on the FederalGovernment to double funding to suicide prevention.

The nation’ssuicide raterose to 12 per 100,000 people in 2014, according toBureau of Statistics figuresreleased on Tuesday,the highest level since 2001.

In the Hunter New England health district, suicide deaths are higher than the state average, whileself-harm hospitalisations rates are very high, particularlyamong young people aged 15-24, with 506 self-harm related hospital admissions per 100,000 people -50 per cent higher than the NSW average of335 per 100,000.

“The number deaths by suicide is more than double the road toll, and yet government funding forroad safety is double that for suicide prevention,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Furthermore, while we have seen a 25 per centdecrease in the number of motor vehicle deaths over the past 10 years, the number of suicides hasincreased significantly in this time.

“We are disappointed and even heartbroken when someone has to wait for extended periods as aresult of our lack of resources, but my message to those people is to please hang on the line or trycalling again later – you will get through.

“By sharing Lifeline’s online petition via social media or email, we have the opportunity to create agroundswell of support to show the government that we as a community care about this issue, wedo not accept this needless loss of life and we want to do something about it.”

The national suicide rate has been driven up by some age groups more than others, rising by 58 per cent among men aged 55 to 64 in the ten years to 2014, and by 50 per cent in women aged 15-24.

Black Dog Institute director Professor Helen Christensen said the rise in self harm among young girls was occurring at the same time as rising rates in alcohol and substance use.

“Adolescent girls are becoming a concern for suicide risk, and we know that young girls are starting to drink for the first time just over the age of 14, and also that they’re just as likely as boys, now, to have engaged in binge drinking by the time that they are 16,” she said.

“It’s almost like a catch up by women with behaviours that were generally more consistent with boys.It’s happening at the same time of increased suicide behaviour and drug use. “It is certainlysomething noticeable when the drinking age for girls used to be 17, and 14 is not all that mature.”

As reported by the Newcastle Herald,Black Dog researchers will call for expressions of interest from primary health networks in NSW in the next two weeks totrial the world’s first suicide prevention trialswhich they believe will reduce the suicide rate by 20 per cent in the first few years.

The Newcastle local government area is one of the 11 candidate sites, with reported rates of self-harm hospitalisations of 2282 per 100,000 people. That rate is driven upby the fact thatNewcastle has a “very pro-active sentinel hospital”,Professor Christensen said, taking in patients from a large region. It is important, she said forpeople to be properly looked after upon discharged, with continuity of care.

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Wellington’s Country Championships qualifier to run on Boot weekend

After winning a Country Championship Qualifier last year, Binalong Road will contest the Wellington Cup this weekend. Photo: JANIAN MCMILLAN (老站出售racingphotography老域名出售备案老域名)THE two $100,000 feature races at Wellington are not the only attractions on Sunday with the track playing host to a number of high-class events.
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As well as the Wellington Boot for two-year-olds and the Central Districts Country Championship Qualifier, the annual Wellington Cup, Wellington Town Plate and McDash will be contested.

The fields were released on Thursday and the Championship Qualifier will be battled out by a capacity 12-strong field.

Five last-start winners will start in the race, hoping for a top two finish that will grant passage through to the $400,000 Country Championship Final at Randwick on April 2.

Another race of note on Sunday is the $50,000 Wellington Cup.

The race will be headlined by Binalong Road, who won both the Central Districts Country Championship Qualifier and Dubbo Gold Cup last year.

A gelding with a penchant for the big stage, a win in the Cup will take Binalong Road’s career earning past $250,000.

Taree trainer Ross Stitt, another who has won Dubbo’s Gold Cup in the past, will have two chances in the race with Shazza’s Bubbles and Single Spirit making the trip to Dubbo.

The action at the track will begin on Saturday with a six-race meeting kicking off the Wellington Boot Carnival.

The highlight of that meeting is shaping as the Star Benchmark 62 Handicap (1400m).

Yes Zariz, who raced at Randwick in the Country Championship Final last year, will carry the top weight while Bulbadah is one with Country Championship aspirations of his own.

Trainer Clint Lundholm confirmed Bulbadah will back up for the Far West Country Championship Qualifier at Dubbo on March 20 if her performs well at Wellington on Sunday.

For Lundholm, the development of Bulbadah, who impressed when winning at Dubbo last month, makes up for the pain of losing Snippety Sip to long-term injury.

Snippety Sip, who was shaping as one of the favourites for the Dubbo Qualifier, underwent surgery recently to remedy some bone chips in his leg and the Dubbo trainer expects him now to be out for roughly nine months.

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Indigenous children need a road to safety

The recent death of a 10-year-old in the Kimberley is a tragedy and I pass on my condolences to her family at this particularly distressing time.
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This tragedy has heightened my conviction that the lives of all of our children in Australia are precious and should be protected at all costs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in the child protection systems of every state and territory at unacceptable levels. Our kids are nine times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be subjects of a care and protection order or in out-of-home care.

But the road to safety is not always as clear-cut as we might hope. We need to acknowledge that removing at-risk children from their families does not guarantee their safety, and may also compromise their quality of life and access to opportunities. We know that educational and developmental outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system are often poor.We also know that there is a significant overlap between children in the child protection system and those in contact with the criminal justice system.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are best served when they are supported to maintain their connection to family, community and culture. The experiences of the stolen generations demonstrate the devastation of severing these connections.

As such, efforts to improve the safety, welfare and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children hinge on enhancing the participation and self-determination of our families and communities. Our communities need to be empowered to lead the design and delivery of services. Evidence demonstrates that we are best placed to identify and implement solutions to the challenges facing our people.

Indigenous childcare agencies, led by SNAICC and the state-based sector peaks, are doing a great job representing the interests of our children in what is a very fraught space. However, they lack decision-making power in a system that is overwhelmed and often not accountable for its outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

To this end, I recommended the appointment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioners in every state and territory and the development of a target in relation to child welfare for closing the gap.

I also highlighted that greater investment in child-protection research, healing initiatives and early childhood services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are urgently needed. We know that integrated child and family services embedded within communities that draw on community strengths and networks of support are most effective in supporting vulnerable children and families. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services need to be properly resourced to design and deliver these integrated services.

These are just a few of the steps needed to tackle what is one of the most challenging human rights issues facing Australia today.

It is clear that the answers to this issue are not straightforward. However, we must not shy away from this challenge. We must concentrate our efforts on more than throwaway lines, or knee-jerk reactions. Instead, let’s direct our thinking, our policy and our funding to creating safe environments that truly provide for the best interests of our children and families.

Mick Gooda is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

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Local issues, local solutions for suicide prevention

HELP: The National Coalition for Suicide Prevention, of which the Hunter Institute of Mental Health is a member, aims to reduce suicide by 50% over the next 10 years. On Tuesday the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the causes of death data for 2014 and it was a sobering reminder for all those working in suicide prevention, and those affected by suicide, how far we still have to go.
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The data indicated that 2864 people died by suicide nationally in 2014, with 795 of those from NSW. This is a fact that should not sit well with anyone.

The data is a reminder that suicide is an issue that affects all age groups, with the highest rates of suicide in men over 85 years followed by men in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

The National Coalition for Suicide Prevention, of which the Hunter Institute of Mental Health is a member, set a bold target last year to reduce suicide by 50% over the next 10 years.

The figures this week seem to make that goal further away, but it is possible with renewed focus, renewed resources and renewed ways of working together.

Data released this week has shown that there is a clear and immediate need to refresh our approach.

The Commonwealth Government has announced, but not yet resolved, changes to the way it prioritises and funds national and regional approaches to suicide prevention. It has also committed to a fifth National Mental Health (and suicide prevention) plan in partnership with the states and territories.

But what the community needs and deserves is a commitment that all levels of government, the not-for profit sector and front-line services will work better and work together over the next decade to turn things around again.

Regions like Newcastle and the Hunter will play a leading role in planning and delivering regional responses to suicide prevention. There is already local commitment to better co-ordinate Commonwealth, state and local resources and a commitment to use all the expertise this region has access to – researchers, clinicians, public health experts, those with lived experience and the broader community.

Local agencies across health, primary care, emergency services, our NGOs and grief support agencies are already working together and reaching out to work with the community for local solutions.

That commitment has already paid off, with new funding coming to the Hunter region to develop and deliver an innovative suicide prevention program that is soon to be announced. By working together we will identify how we can best leverage further resources for this area and ensure we are building the capacity of our local services for long-term and sustainable change.

I know many in our community are feeling despondent about the situation, especially after being labelled a “hotspot” in the newspaper this week. You only need to follow some of the conversations on social media to know how people are being affected

It is true that, that like many regions across Australia, we have lost too many people to suicide and too many people’s lives have been devastated by those losses.

Harnessing our collective knowledge and passion are the things that will ultimately make the difference.

I will often say that the time for change is not tomorrow, but today. In the Hunter, we started yesterday.

Jaelea Skehan is the Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health.For support 24/7 call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org备案老域名.For more information and practical tips on how to talk about suicide visit conversationsmatter老域名出售备案老域名

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