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Officers showed great bravery in line of fire

FLASHBACK: Former Premier Kristina Keneally (centre) met Senior Constables Caroline Tomek and Troy Simmons in the days after the 2009 bushfire. Photo: PHILL MURRAY 121009pfire8TWO Bathurst police officers who saved the lives of Bernie Schulte and his son Cameron after a bushfire ripped through their Vittoria property have been presented with bravery awards by Governor David Hurley.
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Senior Constable Troy Simmons and former Senior Constable Caroline Tomek were presented with high commendations during a ceremony at Government House in Sydney last Friday for showing great courage and composure in very hazardous conditions in 2009.

Mr Schulte, a retired police officer, sustained burns to over 80 per cent of his body after the fire front he was fighting turned on him, while his son sustained burns to almost 40 per cent of his body.

Senior constables Simmons and Tomek were led to the Schultes by Mr Schulte’s friend Steve Hill, and when they arrived things were grim.

They found Mr Schulte lying face down in a water trough suffering horrific injuries while Cameron, who also had serious burns to his body, was beside him trying to splash water on his dad to stop his skin from melting.

Even six years on, Ms Tomek, who has since left the police force, finds it very difficult to talk about that day. She said even attending the award ceremony was hard.

“It’s very hard for me to do this. The only reason why I went down there is for my dad,” Ms Tomek said. “I lost my dad, Lou, [to cancer] about a year ago, and he would have wanted me to do this, but it is very difficult for me to face.”

Recalling that terrible day, Ms Tomek said instinct just set in, and despite the gravity of what she and Senior Constable Simmons were faced with, they kept their wits about them.

“We just knew we had to get them out of there. The fire was coming at us so fast, there wasn’t any time,” she said.

The officers informed police radio of the situation and advised that they required a helicopter due to the nature of the victims’ injuries.

Ms Tomek kept up first aid while Senior Constable Simmons used his mobile phone GPS to assist the helicopter locate the scene.

A water bombing helicopter began to drop water on the fire, however the fire front began to flare up and police radio advised that the helicopter was unable to land due to smoke.

With Steve Hill’s refrigerated van nearby, Ms Tomek, Senior Constable Simmons and Mr Hill evacuated the Schultes to the van.

Mr Schulte’s injuries were so bad that his skin literally fell off his body as they moved him.

The helicopter landed in an adjoining paddock and the doctor was able to alight. However, the fire was now encroaching again and there was not time to load the patients, so Senior Constable Simmons made the decision to drive the vehicle from the location with the doctor and patients on board.

The helicopter was hovering while Ms Tomek drove the police vehicle, sounding the horn to get fire vehicles to move to enable the helicopter to land.

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

Facts to be sought on mergers

LAUNCESTON’S neighbouring councils each had very different ideas on amalgamations yesterday after Mayor Albert van Zetten said he planned to write to adjoining mayors about the issue if a motion was passed at tomorrow’s council meeting.
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Albert van Zetten

‘‘It’s just to get the information, get the facts, and then if the information shows that there will be no benefit to amalgamations we’ve got nothing to worry about,’’ Alderman van Zetten said on Saturday.

Mayors, aldermen and councillors from across Northern Tasmania met with Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein last month to discuss the government’s plans for voluntary amalgamations and resource sharing.

Break O’Day Mayor Michael Tucker said that he could see real benefits to amalgamations and that high-density areas could be some of the first to amalgamate.

‘‘I think that voluntary amalgamations are a good thing as long are there are benefits back to the ratepayers,’’ Cr Tucker said. ‘‘I fully support resource sharing, and we are doing that at Break O’Day already.’’

Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis said he would like to see some facts and figures that would give councils, and the community, an evidence-based idea of what amalgamations would look like.

‘‘I intend to bring a similar motion to council and do the same thing,’’ Cr Jarvis said.

‘‘I think it’s a good opportunity for councils for get some hard data to see what does work and what doesn’t work.’’

Northern Midlands Mayor David Downie said that in relation to local councils, bigger was not always better.

‘‘I think it’s important that we do talk with the view of trying to move local government into a more efficient area, rather than non-efficient,’’ Cr Downie said.

‘‘It’s probably more worthwhile to have discussions about how we can move the local government sector forward in efficiencies through resource sharing … a lot of councils are run very efficiently when you compare to other levels of government.’’

Meander Valley Mayor Craig Perkins said his council had looked at what Mr Gutwein had offered and was particularly interested in shared services rather than amalgamations.

‘‘We’re already a low-cost council in terms of our delivery … it would be see how they could reduce the cost to Meander Valley ratepayers,’’ Cr Perkins said.

West Tamar Mayor Christina Holmdahl said she was very supportive of these discussions taking place between councils.

‘‘The important thing is that we will maintain a level of service to our ratepayers without any massive increase to their rates,’’ she said.

George Town Mayor Bridget Archer could not be contacted for comment.

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

Debate gives printed word strong future

The printed book is not doomed.
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That was the verdict of the inaugural Thirroul Readers and Writers Festival debate, which pitted a mix of educators and authors against one another.

The spirited debate capped off a successful weekend for the budding event, which attracted hundreds of amateur writers, avid readers and book lovers to Thirroul Community Centre’s doors.

The festival, conducted over three sessions on Saturday and Sunday, featured several talks with Illawarra authors, playwrights, journalists and academics, as well as a literary quiz and Q&A panel discussing citizen journalism.

Among the highlights was journalist Caroline Baum’s incisive interview with Illawarra author Shady Cosgrove about her recent book What the Ground Can’t Hold and Kiama author Noel Beddoe’s opening address.

“Noel Beddoe was a strong hit at the festival, he gave a charming opening address,” festival organiser, author and philosopher Dr Denise Russell said.

“It was a really inspiring talk and great for people who are starting to think about writing a novel, I think it gave them a lot of advice.” Dr Russell said she was delighted by the positive response the event received, including the number of offers from people to pitch-in next year. All profits from the weekend will go to the Indigenous Literary Foundation.

File picture

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Festival focuses on live music revival

Music: Greens candidate Mitchell Bresser and Damion Stirling from Sol studios at the Live on the Green event in McCabe Park, Wollongong.Picture: ADAM McLEANThe Illawarra Greens deviated from standard election time traditions of kissing babies and pressing flesh – they created a one-day music and arts festival to win over votes.
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Organised by Wollongong Greens candidate Mitchell Bresser, Live on the Green attracted hundreds to MacCabe park with local live music, art showcases and gourmet food.

The Saturday afternoon festival advocated for more arts and music opportunities in the Illawarra with a particular focus on reviving live music.

“We need more funding and support to create opportunities for the community to experience and participate in live music and art,” said Mr Bresser.

“I want to see more community art projects in areas like Port Kembla and Warrawong, which have been deprived of such opportunities.”

In line with his election platform, Mr Bresser urged the state government to free up funding for the arts and to streamline grant application processes.

“We are calling for a simplification of grant applications and greater coordination with state and local government, venues, musicians and police,” he said.

“The Wollongong Live Music Task Force, and submissions made to it, suggested some excellent ways to improve the local music industry. The state government can help implement some of these proposals,” Mr Bresser said.

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