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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.

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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.

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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.

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Smokin’ hot festival breaks all records

HOT STUFF: An entrant in the Autotek Autokana category shows off his precision driving while smoking his tyres behind the pits at Mount Panorama yesterday during the Bathurst Autofest. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 030815cauto1RECORD entrant and crowd numbers, burnt rubber and heart-thumping action, yesterday had organisers boasting of the most successful Bathurst Autofest ever.
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The smell of burnt rubber hung thick in the air at Mount Panorama while car enthusiasts and families mingled among hot street cars and burn-out competitions at the annual event.

Burn-outs, go to whoa, super sprints, autokana and dyno challenges featured alongside show and shine events over the two days.

Now in its fourth year at Mount Panorama, Autofest Series operations manager Les Adams said it is the iconic race circuit that has led to the bumper entrants and crowd numbers.

“These guys and girls never get to use the venue like this at any other time,” he said.

“The highlight is that competitors have been able to use Pit Straight as the track.

“It’s been a big success. Numbers yesterday [Saturday] were huge – we had more than 10,000 people through the gate … it’s our best year ever at Bathurst.”

Among the record 512 entrants was Lithgow man Greg Nelson and his 2000 VT Holden.

Across the weekend he competed in the Kelso Tyres Burnout, BRockFM Heads Up Go to Whoa, Autotek Autokana and the more unusual TME Spear a Spud where competitors try to spear strategically placed potatoes as they race the circuit.

While the autokana may be a timed event to highlight a competitor’s driving ability and precision, many also take the chance to burn some rubber.

“It’s part of the fun, but the goal is to get as close as you can without hitting the barriers,” Mr Nelson said.

“It’s about keeping control of your car in a drifting action.”

Families are a big focus for Bathurst Autofest, according to Mr Adams, who said the alcohol-free aspect was essential in attracting those with children to attend.

“The future of the sport is the families and the kids,” he said.

“We’re not all a bunch of hoons, it’s the fastest growing motorsport in the country.”

Mr Adams said the Autofest Series is in its 22nd year nationally and they hope to continue their contract with Bathurst Regional Council into the future.

“We hope to be here for many years to come,” he said.

Visit www.westernadvocate南京夜网.au to check out more photos from the Bathurst Autofest.

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Canberra Raiders hold off Cronulla Sharks in spiteful round one battle

Jack Wighton was a relieved man after almost single handedly leading the Raiders to victory over Cronulla and then nearly blowing it when he was sinbinned for a flurry of punches on Sharks winger Sosaia Feki.
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Both players were sent to the sinbin for their 60th minute stoush as Canberra hung on the upset a disappointing Sharks outfit 24-20 at Remondis Stadium.

However, there is no doubt Wighton was the villian in the incident after being driven into the in-goal after fielding a kick and then reacting by punching Feki – an action that will be scrutinised by the match review committee on Monday along with a chicken wing tackle by Raiders lock Shaun Fensom on Andrew Fifitia.

Earlier, Wighton had been the outstanding player of the match and scored two first half tries as Canberra coach Ricky Stuart’s decision to move him to fullback appeared to be a masterstroke.

While much had been made over the summer about the Sharks new recruits but it was Canberra’s off-season signings who made the biggest impact in the first half, with former St Helens secondrower Sia Soliola, England hooker Josh Hodgson and Fiji winger Sisa Waqa all impressing in their official debuts for the Raiders.

In contrast, Michael Ennis knocked on one of the rare occasions the Sharks were near the Canberra line in the first half, Gerard Beale lost the ball in a trysaving tackle by Wighton and Waqa and Ben Barba failed to find touch from a penalty.

It was another Barba kick that led to Wighton’s 80 metre try after the ball went dead and the Raiders fullback raced to the 20-metre line for the tap re-start.

Catching the entire Cronulla side napping, Wighton raced through the defence and sprinted towards the goal posts to give skipper Jarrod Croker the easiest of conversion attempts.

The 27th minute try extended Canberra’s lead to 14-6 after halfback Mitch Cornish and Croker had combined to put Wighton over in the eighth minute and the newly appointed Canberra captain kicked a 20th minute penalty goal following a shoulder charge by Chris Heighington after Cornish had kicked the ball.

Heighington made amends when he put fellow secondrower Anthony Tupou over for Cronulla’s first try in the 24th minute but Wighton’s quick response appeared to take the wind out of the home team’s sails.

After being denied in the 36th minute when he was bumped into touch by Jordan Rapana, Sharks winger Sosaia Feki finished off a backline movement to score just four minutes into the second half after Wighton had fumbled a kick near his own line

But a handling error by Fifitia from the kick off gave Canberra the opportunity to strike back and they did when Rapana planted the ball in the corner in the 48th minute.

The momentum appeared to have turned when Barba put centre Ricky Luetelle over in the 54th minute and fullback Michael Gordon kicked a penalty goal four minutes later to level the scores at 18-all.

Wighton’s moment of madness enabled Gordon to land another penalty goal to put the Sharks ahead for the first time in the match but their lead was shortlived after Waqa scored from dummy half in the 65th minute following a knock on by Wade Graham from an Austin klick.

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ACT Brumbies ready for fired-up Queensland Reds intent on revenge

Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua takes on the line in the 47-3 win against the Queensland Reds in round one. The Brumbies face the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night.The ACT Brumbies are expecting a spiteful welcome to Brisbane, coach Stephen Larkham warning his side that the Queensland Reds will be intent on making amends for their round-one capitulation in Canberra.
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But Larkham isn’t prepared to engage in a war of words in the build-up to the bitter rivalry contest after the Reds took offence to his assessment after a 47-3 win in the first game of the season.

Larkham said the Reds were “not up to Super Rugby standard” as the Brumbies ran in six tries to kick-start their campaign.

Reds coach Richard Graham hit back and branded it as a “ridiculous comment”, with the reminder of the season opener certain to be used as motivation in the Queensland changerooms.

The Reds will be keen to forget about the woeful 44-point defeat, described as shambolic, in which former skipper James Horwill was given two yellow cards.

But Larkham is refusing to fall into the trap of expecting the same again, adamant that the Reds will be determined to reverse their round-one fortunes.

“It was taken out of context, but I’m sure they would agree that their performance wasn’t their usual Super Rugby performance [in round one], which is what I was alluding to,” Larkham said.

“If they need that for motivation, then go for it. We’ll find our own motivation this week.

“They’ve certainly turned it around. They’re definitely a different side, they’ve got more match fitness and they’re certainly not going to be a team beaten by 40 points again, they’ll be up for it.”

The Reds are on the bottom of the Australian conference with one win from their first four games after going down to the NSW Waratahs 23-5 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The Brumbies are unbeaten against Australian opponents this year, beating the Reds, the Melbourne Rebels and the Western Force, with a two-point loss to the Waikato Chiefs the only blemish on their record.

The next fortnight looms as a crucial period with matches against the Reds and the Waratahs giving them a chance to stake their claim for the Australian conference title.

Test flanker Scott Fardy has been cleared of a serious pectoral injury after having pain in his shoulder and arm in the 27-15 win against the Force last Friday night.

“I got a bump on my pec and just hit the nerve, but hopefully it just continues to improve,” Fardy said.

“These next two weeks are going to be incredibly tough for us. It’s going to be a big challenge for us and totally different than what happened in Canberra.”

The Brumbies are also set to be bolstered by David Pocock’s return to full training.

Pocock has played just six games since the start of the 2013 season following two knee reconstructions, and his comeback hit another hurdle when he injured his ankle against the Reds in round one.

The Brumbies will wait until later in the week before deciding if he will play against the Reds, or if they will give him an extra week to recover from the ankle syndesmosis injury.

The Brumbies have scored 13 tries in their four games this year, securing bonus points in three of their matches.

But more importantly they’ve conceded just four tries in the opening rounds and their defence has been the most impressive sign of their play.

“You get more comfortable when you defend together as a team,” Fardy said.

“The boys work hard and as long as our work rate is good, we cover each other which is important. We make mistakes in defence, but other guys make up for it.”

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Jarrad Waite reported, as North plan to help him avoid further suspensions

Shepparton: North Melbourne say they are prepared to work with key recruit Jarrad Waite as he seeks to avoid undisciplined acts like the one that sidelined him at a crucial time while at Carlton.
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Waite was reported for striking in Sunday’s NAB Challenge match for a crude spoiling attempt that sent Hawks defender Ben Stratton to the ground in the first half.

Stratton was able to get to his feet without assistance and played on, so it is unlikely the report will turn into anything more than a fine – if that – under the new match review panel system.

That was certainly the way Brad Scott saw it, too, although the Roos coach did say the club had spoken to Waite about his history at Carlton of missing key games through suspension.

“One thing we noticed with Jarrad is that he jumps really well at the footy, and sometimes if he misjudges that jump, he gets himself into a terrible position so he either crashes into someone or it’s a clumsy spoil,” Scott said after the game.

“But I think as long as the intent is good, a bit like [Jack Ziebell] a few years ago, we will coach the intent — and if they make a mistake then we will try and work with them around getting it right.”

Scott was pleased with his team’s 13-point come-from-behind win against reigning premiers Hawthorn at Shepparton’s Deakin Reserve, 2.9.13 (85) to 1.9.9 (72), but wasn’t getting carried away with the result in a match in which the Roos also fared better on the injury front, albeit there was only minor concerns for the Hawks.

Midfielder Isaac Smith suffered a corked calf that might keep him out of a few training sessions but won’t have any impact on his home-and-away season, and stand-in Hawks coach Cameron Bruce confirmed that captain Luke Hodge could have returned to the ground if needed after he received a knee to the lower back late in the third quarter.

Scott said the Roos had found a couple of players who could be set for bigger contributions this season in the club’s quest to go from preliminary finalists to premiers.

He highlighted the performances of tough midfielder Leigh Adams (14 disposals, three tackles), whose impact has been affected by shoulder injuries, and VFL fringe player Mason Wood (10 disposals and one goal).

“Mason Wood is a player who we have really high expectations for,” Scott said.

“He’s still got some work to do on his game overall, but he’s got some really nice attributes. He’s a great competitor, works really hard and adds a completely different dimension to our team,” he said.

“And I thought Leigh Adams coming back from a few injuries was really good, particularly early, and I thought our back half performed infinitely better than it did last week.”

The Roos have a week off before their next game, as do the Hawks, who were buoyed by the output of recruits James Frawley (10 disposals) and Jono O’Rourke (11 disposals and two goals) and are looking forward to the return of ACL knee injury victim Brendan Whitecross in the match against St Kilda.

“I think he [Frawley] is only going to continue to get better, he’s going to get more comfortable. He had a much more experienced back line to deal with, which will definitely help him,” Bruce said after the game.

“He didn’t have the nerves that he had in the first game so I’m really confident that he will be able to contribute going forward,” he said.

“Jono [O’Rourke] looked fatigued late in the game, but I’m really happy with the way he is going.

“I think he offers both inside and outside the contest opportunities for us and he’ll be an important player going forward.”

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Victoria’s Planning Minister Richard Wynne is focused on the job ahead

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne. Photo: Penny Stephens Benalla Art Gallery.
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The propensity of life to produce the unexpected struck Richard Wynne forcefully in the first days of December. Sworn in as Victoria’s new Planning Minister, only days later he was having heart surgery.

The veteran politician – minister in the Bracks and Brumby governments, a former lord mayor – was readying for another four years running Victoria. The planning portfolio – among the toughest and most contentious – was unexpectedly his after Brian Tee, the shadow minister in opposition, lost his seat.

Ask him about those few months, he immediately goes to the political: the election result, and his own victory in his seat of Richmond, where he saw off the inner-city surge of the Greens.

But it is, of course, his personal story that also makes this period notable. “I don’t really want to be defined by this, actually,” he explains. “There is a level of discomfort with me talking to you about it.”

Wynne pauses, and considers, and decides to speak about that episode, which came from nowhere, beginning as he walked out of his office and down the street to buy lunch.

“This was completely unexpected,” he says. “I’ve maintained quite a high level of fitness and look after myself. But this came on me, really without any warning and without any of what you would normally associate  with a heart attack – the so-called elephant on the chest stuff and all of that. I had none of that.”

Instead it was the pain radiating down his arm. Fortunately, the 59-year-old father of two was seeing his doctor that day. “And, of course, then it cascaded from there.”

He ended up in the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and is forever grateful for the care provided.  When he returned to work and his first meeting of the Labor caucus, he told his colleagues: “If we do nothing else as a Labor Party, we absolutely have to be advocates for the public health system, because it’s world class.”

He has been in the minister’s office in Spring Street since the last week of February. He looks in robust health.

His wish not to be defined by his health scare is likely to be granted, for he will be judged on what he achieves in a portfolio that has made reputations, and broken them. His predecessors have often been cast as heroes or villains. The direction he sets will have a profound impact on the lives of every Victorian.

Wynne’s background provides some clues to the approach he will take. A son of inner Melbourne, he worked as a social worker in the public housing estates of Flemington and Kensington. He was an advisor to former state Labor planning minister Andrew McCutcheon in the early 1990s and on the staff of former Labor deputy prime minister Brian Howe, working on the Better Cities program. His six years on the city council included a year as lord mayor in 1991, working closely with the city planning guru Rob Adams.

As Wynne puts it, he has been in training for this job. “Planning is ultimately about people,” he says. “It’s about where we live, it’s about where our education is, where our jobs are, how we recreate. What sort of a space are we creating for people. And fairness. They are the touchstones for me.”

He will be judged against the performance of his predecessor, Matthew Guy. Now opposition leader, Guy created a legacy in the relatively short period of one four-year term. His performance divided opinion, from his embrace of city high-rises to the blueprint for Melbourne’s development, Plan Melbourne.

The new planning minister is refuses to trash his predecessor – as expected  as that would have been.

Plan Melbourne has its share of critics. “I’m going to do something that’s quite radical,” says Wynne. “I’m not going to tear it up.” Expect, instead, changes such as the removal of the East West Link.

On the sprouting of skyscrapers, Wynne stresses he is not against height. “Height in appropriate settings is a good thing. But we all live on the ground. We all get about the place on the ground. So what’s happening on the ground? Is it an activated space? Is it a space that is pleasant? Is it a space where we are interacting?”

He walks around the city, knows it at the all-important street level.

In the past month, Labor has farewelled Evan Walker, the visionary behind the development of Southbank, who died at 79 after a long illness. Wynne is taking his inspiration from this minister’s legacy  and echoes what he told Parliament in a condolence speech:  “If I can be half the planning minister that Evan Walker was, I will have done my civic duty.”  GRAND DESIGNS: Wynne’s favourite architecture

* Benalla Art Gallery

Designed by Philip Sargeant and Colin Munro and opened in 1975, the gallery celebrates its 40th anniversary next month. The same architects designed McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park at Langwarrin.

“It’s the most beautifully sited regional art gallery. My wife was a director for six years. We spent many happy years there. It’s spectacular.”

* Republic Tower, corner La Trobe and Queen streets

Designed by Nonda Katsalidis, this 34-storey tower caused a stir when plans for it were unveiled in the 1990s.

“Quite a few of us were looking aghast at it [because of the height]. But you look at it now and you think, ‘What’s the problem?’ It’s a beautiful building. It’s a tall building but a good building.”

* Brambuk Cultural Centre, Halls Gap

Richmond architect Gregory Burgess designed Brambuk, meaning “white cockatoo”, in the Grampians National Park.

“It’s a spectacular design and tells the story of Aboriginal culture in the Halls Gap region.”

* East Melbourne

The streets around East Melbourne as they come off the Fitzroy Gardens are some of the city’s best preserved and most beautiful.

“Walk around East Melbourne, it’s spectacular. Some of our beautiful built heritage is extraordinary still.”

* Flagstaff Gardens bowls club

Designed by Melbourne City Council’s design team, this sustainable building was built in 2010 after the old bowls clubhouse burnt down.

“It’s a contemporary design that fits beautifully into the very historic gardens. It was a nondescript council building and bowls club before, and it’s now a fantastic community space.”

* Canning Street public housing, North Melbourne

Built under the Better Cities program in the 1990s, these public housing apartments replaced some rather grim concrete four-storey walk-up flats.

“It demonstrated you could rebuild these estates and provide public housing tenants with really quality, affordable places to live.”

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Islamic State Recruit is Melbourne drop-out called Jake

The Islamic State recruit the British media decried as a “white jihadi” in December,  proclaiming he was a “major coup for the terrorist group”, is a skinny, baby-faced boy from Craigieburn in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, and his non-Muslim family is worried sick about him.
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Fairfax Media can reveal that the young westerner pictured last December sitting between bearded men and holding an assault rifle in front of a black flag is actually an 18-year-old Australian called Jake. We will not reveal his full name at the request of a family member.

The revelations come as Australian customs officials confirmed that two teenage brothers, believed to have been attempting to travel to conflict zones in the Middle East, were stopped at Sydney Airport.

The youths, aged 16 and 17, were detained by Customs on Friday, after they aroused the suspicions of two Customs and Border Protection officers, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said.

The teenagers were referred to the Customs Counter Terrorism Unit, which determined the pair were intending to travel without the knowledge of their parents. The brothers were allowed to leave the airport with their parents and were issued court attendance notices.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the interception showed the government’s tough new foreign fighters laws were working.

Meanwhile, Fairfax’s investigation can reveal Jake was a high-flying student, a maths whiz, who attended Craigieburn Secondary College’s CEAP Excel accelerated learning program.

However, he dropped out of high school in mid-2014, after converting to Islam, and bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul, on the way to Iraq and Syria to fight for the so-called caliphate.

In December, Jake’s photograph hit Twitter, where a user, Abu Dawud, identified the young man as “Jonathan Edwards”.

The tweet said he had “applied for Ucas [Britain’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service] to [sic] late and wasn’t accepted in any university, so he joined the Islamic state”.

After Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers picked up the story and ran it, Abu Dawud laughed about having “trolled” and “humiliated” the British media, saying the story was fake, leading to speculation that the picture was doctored.

But Fairfax Media has had the photograph positively identified by friends and also by members of two suburban north Melbourne mosques as that of a quiet, young Muslim convert who worshipped with them for about a year before disappearing.

“He used to come here when we had a big lecture,” said Abu Zaid, a committee member of the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo, near Meadow Heights.

Mr Zaid said Jake didn’t have a car, so he used to ask the other brothers for lifts to and from the centre, which features a prayer hall for more than 1000 people, lecture rooms, a cafe and a gym.

“He was a very quiet guy; he stuck to himself,” Mr Zaid said. “We weren’t close to him. I didn’t see any of the people [getting] close to him.”

Worshippers at the Australian Islamic Social Association in Meadow Heights also remember the young Jake going there to pray.

It is understood that Jake, who now goes by the Islamic names Abdur Raheem or Abu Abdullah, was 16 when he began feeling unhappy and started searching for spiritual answers.

A school friend introduced him to Islam and he recited the verses required to convert.

At the Meadow Heights mosque, people who remembered Jake said his family was negative towards his new religion.

A former school friend, who asked to remain anonymous, but said he had known Jake since they were children, said Jake had “made his own choice and he believes it is the right choice”.

“He was not pushed into IS [Islamic State] and was not pushed into Islam,” the friend said.

“People can make their own decisions and this was one of his … he felt that it was right for him … He had done sufficient research to believe it was the right step in life.

“He was obviously a believer in Islam and wanted to fulfil what he believed was his duties to the religion.”

Other friends described Jake as extremely shy and quiet, but said  he was “really bright”.

School friend Kutlu Karapinar said he was “quite politically aware for his age”.

Another, Josh Green-Mercier, said he was interested in different cultures, but “he never seemed very happy”. “I’m not sure why. He usually just listened to us and sometimes talked but rarely. He would just talk about math, etc.”

A Fairfax Media investigation has revealed that, during his final year of high school in 2014, Jake began communicating via online forums and emails with a supposed American journalist from the BBC. He began telling his family he was going to Istanbul to work with the journalist, even though he had previously expressed little interest in the profession and had no qualifications. It now appears the “journalist” was an Islamic State recruiter.

By that stage he had moved to a school in Essendon and was finding the travel difficult from Craigieburn. According to one friend, Jake believed he would fail high school, so he dropped out.

A source close to the family says that in August that year, Jake closed down most of his online and social media accounts and disappeared. A subsequent search revealed he bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul.

Two months after his disappearance, Jake contacted his family to let them know that he was in Iraq training for a “martyrdom mission” with a suicide vest. Later that month, however, he called again to say he was “too scared to do it and he prefers being a soldier”. He proposed to travel to Syria.

Fairfax Media has confirmed with sources in Turkey that about that time, Jake, using his full Islamic name and his family’s surname, was documented crossing into Syria via the Jaraybus or Tal Aybad crossing. The sources also identified him by photographs.

Neither the Attorney-General’s department nor the Australian Federal Police would comment on the case, but the government says at least 140 Australians have travelled overseas to fight in Iraq and Syria, of whom at least 20 are known to have died.

Jake left little online activity behind, but one is on video-sharing site Livestream, where he followed one user only: the national Muslim organisation Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’a Association of Australia (ASWJ).

ASWJ is based in Auburn, Sydney, and is associated with the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Melbourne. It streams lectures via the social media site.

Jake’s profile picture includes a quote from Islamic philosopher Ibn Taymiyyah: “What can my enemies do to me? My paradise is in my heart, it is with me wherever I go. To imprison me is to provide me with seclusion. To send me into exile is to send me away in the Path of Allah. And to kill me is to make me a martyr”.

With Lisa Visentin


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