Month: May 2019

Child’s play perfection in city’s green heart

ADVENTURE: Richley Reserve’s $1.5 million playground will open to excited youngsters this weekend. Picture: Newcastle City CouncilA priority of mine for almost a decade as a councillor and lord mayor of Newcastle has been to protect, preserve and improve Blackbutt Reserve, the uniquely Novocastrian ‘green heart’ of our city.
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I want future generations to be able to enjoy the wonderful open space, natural beauty and ever-improving amenity of Blackbutt Reserve for decades to come.

To me, our parks and playgrounds are one of the vital building blocks for creating strong, vibrant and connected local communities.

That’s why I’mproudto say that at 10am on Saturday, we will open a spectacular $1.5 million adventure playground that’s set to excite many young Novocastrians – and make Blackbutt’sRichleyReserve on the northern side of the city’s bushland jewel a major regional attraction.

As the first of its kind in Newcastle, the sprawling playground will encourage toddlers to young teens to make hundreds of decisions before taking on challenges – physically, emotionally and socially – in a flurry of fun under the gum trees.

As well as equipping them to confront risks in preparation for successful, independent lives, the playground will instil within them an appreciation for the natural environment and at the same time offer their parents and carers a new place to forge new friendships.

A focus on nature-based play has seen environmental education incorporated into the playground’s design and a broad range of play experiences included, together with shade, seating, barbecues and green space for picnics.

While kids looking for a challenge will literally climb into the tree canopy via a rope tunnel, and play with sand, rocks and sticks on the ground, necessary safety audits have been conducted to prevent unreasonable risk.

RichleyReserve’s adventure-style playground also provides much better access and inclusivity for kids with mobility challenges.

A specially-designed carousel in the middle will put wheelchair-bound children at the centre of the fun, after they’ve arrived via new access paths.

This playground is part of Blackbutt’s wider $10 million upgrade and will be followed with new amenities and a kiosk to complement the existing facilities on theCarnleyAvenue side of the reserve.

It’s also part of the City of Newcastle’s long-term strategic plan to create vibrant and activated publicspaces, andprotect and enhance our natural environment.

Adventure playgrounds stimulate young imaginations to ensure that “play time” is not overly prescribed.

They emphasise the use of natural materials in flexible formats that compliments Blackbutt Reserve’s unique bushland environment.

Landscape architect David Moir, who believes Newcastle City Council is “courageous” for buildingRichley Reserve’sbespoke facility, said it was designed with the surrounding bush front of mind.

Indeed, the timber equipment, smooth river stones and a sandpit with water fountain provide a natural adventure in keeping with the unique bushland reserve.

And clear sight lines right across the 60 metre-long playground will add to enjoyment for children and their parents alike.

Blackbutt Reserve encompasses more than 182 hectares of bushland.

Each year it draws more than 100,000 visitors to its nature trails, wildlife exhibits and recreational facilities, a number that’s only set to increase with the addition of the adventure playground.

All up, Newcastle City Council provides and maintains 116 playgrounds across our local government area to prepare kids for the challenges ahead and foster a diverse, inclusive community.

Each year up to five are renewedunder our annual works program, with at least $150,000 invested into each and every renewal project.

Stevenson Park, Mayfield West,CressingtonWay Reserve, Wallsend, and Fletcher Street Reserve, Adamstown,will all be renewed this year.

This comes after playgrounds were completely overhauled atGrahame Park, Carrington, Bull andTourleStreet Reserve, Mayfield West, Smith Park, Hamilton North, and Wallsend Park in the last financial year.

TheRichleyReserve playground will be officially opened at 10am on Saturday, September 1, amid a carnival atmosphere featuring inflatables, face painting, reptile displays and food stalls.

Nuatali Nelmes is the lord mayor of the City of Newcastle

Aisle be with you: Newcastle’s wedding pet chaperone l Photos

Aisle be with you: Newcastle’s wedding pet chaperone l Photos Doggone cute: Nadine Kellett assisted at the wedding of Emma Doyle, here with her dalmations Teddy and Poppy. Picture: Woodlands Creative Photography and Film
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Howling good fun: Bride and groom Cat and Mitch with their pooch Marli and their family. Picture: Beau Mack

Puppy love: Wedding pet chaperone Nadine Kellett with her pets Rose, left, and Elvis, right. Picture: Marina Neil

Furry good behaviour: Elvis, in a wedding tux on the left, and Rose, in a tutu, with Nadine Kellett. Picture: Marina Neil

Going to the chapel: Pooch Teddy. Picture: ElishaWoodlands creative photography and film

TweetFacebook Newcastle wedding pet chaperone Nadine KellettYOU’RE getting married and you want your pet to be a part of your big day. Who you gonna call? A wedding pet chaperone, that’s who.

Nadine Kellett says demand for her animal wedding chaperone skills has “ramped up” since she launched her Newcastle pet minding business Little Red Animal Care.

“I know how important pets are to their family and I wanted people to be able to have their best friend by their side at their wedding and be stress free,” she says.

Ms Kellettmeets her wedding clients ahead of their big day to discuss their pet and their requests.

“It could be walking the pet down the aisle, meeting guests on arrival or watching on the sidelines,” she says. “Then in the photos, I help the photographer get the animal to the camera and hopefully smiling, and once all that is over I may take them home and tuck them in and give them dinner orpeople might want me to look after them for the night or their honeymoon.”

Behave yourself: Nadine Kellett with her pooches Rose, left, and Elvis, right. Picture: Marina Neil

Ms Kellett’s love for pooches dates back to childhood –her grandmother raised corgis and participated in dog shows. Ms Kellett won the child dog handler award at local shows and the chance to go to the Royal Easter Show.

In more than half of the weddings she attends to chaperone pets, the clients walk down the aisle with their animals, usually dogs.

“In one, there were two big Dalmations that the bride walked with her,” she said.

Animals, she concedes, “are not always angels”, and there have been times when she’s had to gently usher them to the sidelines.

A mother of two children and two fur babies, Elvis and Rose, Ms Kellett seesnothing unusual in people wanting their pets at weddings.

“You invite mum, dad and grandma and grandpa and children so why not invite your best furry friends in the whole wide world –they are your first children, the ones you have before children,” she says.

In most weddings at which she chaperones, pets havea minimum decoration of a flower, but many don atuxedo or tutu. Ms Kellett also offers a pet wedding costume service for clients.

Joy division: “I just love seeing the joy and appreciation on the owner’s face after they’ve been able to have their precious fur babies with them on the day,” says Nadine Kellett of her job as a wedding pet chaperone. Picture: Marina Neil

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NSW killer gets another life sentence

John Walsh is taken from NSW Supreme Court earlier this month. Photo: AAPA NSW triple-murderer already in jail until he dies has received another life sentence for “the cold-blooded calculated” murder of a fellow prisoner with a sandwich-press.
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John Walsh, 79, pleaded guilty to murdering Frank Townsend in their Long Bay prison cell in the aged care unit for elderly and frail offenders in early January 2017.

In the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Lucy McCallum – who previously sentenced him for murdering his wife and two grandchildren in 2008 – imposed another life sentence.

She noted his lack of remorse and the danger he still poses to others, despite being an old man.

“He is incapable of remorse,” she said.

“He describes acts of murder as if he were explaining how to change a tyre.”

In his police interview after he killed Townsend, Walsh described stepping forward with both hands, carrying the sandwich press in a pillow case, and “choom, onto his face”.

“I don’t work in anger, I work in tactical … cold rage,” he said.

In June 2008, Walsh stabbed his wife and bludgeoned her and his seven-year-old grandson with a hammer.

He drowned his five-year-old granddaughter in a bath at the Cowra home and also drowned the family dog.

Walsh’s daughter came to collect the children and fought off his axe attack but suffered serious head injuries.

When asked what he was thinking when he hit Townsend, Walsh replied: “I don’t think I was thinking anything.”

“All I remember is bang, bang, bang … I shut it out probably,” he told police.

“The only thing I can’t shut out is, my own family … I don’t know why that’s happened because there was no anger, no drugs, no booze, just that depressing silence and I went and killed my wife.

“Maybe some people shouldn’t be born.”

Key moments of Alex McEwan murder trial

Eunji Ban was walking to her cleaning job in Brisbane when Alex McEwan attacked and murdered her.THE TRIAL THAT LED TO ALEX REUBEN McEWAN BEING CONVICTED OF MURDER
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THE CASE:

– McEwan was 19 when he was charged with murdering Korean woman Eunji Ban near Brisbane’s CBD around 4am on November 24, 2013.

– The apprentice spray-painter confessed to killing the 22-year-old by punching, kicking and strangling her.

– He pleaded guilty to her manslaughter but not guilty to murder. The Crown rejected his plea to the lesser charge.

– McEwan’s lawyer argued diminished responsibility by claiming his schizophrenia meant he could not control his actions.

– McEwan had been drinking with his friends at his unit the night before the incident. He woke up the next day, walked the streets around Ms Ban’s Roma Street Parklands unit and attacked her as she was walking to her cleaning job.

– He dragged Ms Ban’s body up stairs to Wickham Park and left it by a tree, which he adorned with clumps of her hair.

– Ms Ban suffered head injuries so severe she drowned in her own blood.

PROSECUTION EVIDENCE:

– McEwan told police he had gone out looking for someone to kill and also told a friend he “just felt like” killing.

– Three psychiatrists testified McEwan was not affected by schizophrenia at the time of the killing. McEwan was diagnosed with the illness after his arrest.

– He tried to cover up the killing by moving her body and lying next to it when drivers passed to give the impression the pair was drunk.

– Dr Angela Voita, clinical director of The Park Centre for Mental Health, said McEwan’s violence was fuelled by alcohol. He allegedly told her he had exaggerated his symptoms and wanted his family to believe he killed Ms Ban due to mental illness rather than “evil”.

THE DEFENCE:

– McEwan testified he was possessed by a demon named Jazzy when he killed Ms Ban. He described the demon as having “horse-like legs, hooves and a hairy human torso … normal hands with claws and a goat’s head with horns and sharp teeth”.

– McEwan said he tried to stop attacking Ms Ban but was unable to.

– McEwan’s friends testified he did not appear blind drunk the night before but said he had consumed at least half a bottle of rum. They testified his violence was out of his character.

– One psychiatrist told the court McEwan’s violence could only be explained by a psychotic episode.

– Members of McEwan’s family said he became increasingly withdrawn. His mother said he told her there was a sphere rolling around his head.

Humans are better than animals … right?

We humans like to think that we are intellectually and morally superior to “animals.” But are we?
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Let’s look at intelligence first. I just read about avian arsonists.

These birds, including falcons and kites, like to take advantage of fires. They pick up a burning twig, fly it an area that is not on fireand drop it.

They then wait, with no competition from other predators, until that new area catches fire and prey animals run out. Voila – instant dinner, partly cooked.

You have to give these birds credit for intelligence.

Crows and similar birds show intelligence in other ways too. For instance, some crows intentionally drop hard nuts at intersections. Cars run over the nuts, and the crows swoop in to eat the tasty insides when no cars are coming. Some gulls use a similar strategy to break open shellfish.

You may have heard of the late, great Koko the captive gorilla, who learned more than1000 hand signs. Koko is most famous for signing “bad, sad” when told that her pet kitten had been hit by a car and killed. Not bad for an ape.

Other primates use tools similar to those we use. For example, some dolphins use sea sponges to protect their beak while foraging at the bottom of the sea. Some types of primates shove twigs into mounds to capture termites to eat.

We may be smarter than these critters in many ways, but they are still plenty smart.

What of moral superiority? The avian arsonists deserve no morality award for setting fires.

If we want morality, we need to look to herbivores. Think of alpacas that defend sheep and hens from dogs, foxes and other predators. These woolly creatures are heroic.

Elephants also seem quite nice. For one thing, they mourn their dead. Deer lead a moral life, except for mating tussles among the bucks.

The main herbivore villain I can think of is a Judas goat. That is a goat trained to lead sheep or cattle to the killing point in a slaughterhouse. The goat is not killed. What a Judas!

I am not sure that we are morally superior to herbivores. I wonder what animals think about this question.

I have a feeling that prey animals would take a dim view of the morality ofomnivores like us.But, fortunately for us, most animals don’t speak.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences,University of New England.