Nordmann’s greenshank lands in Cairns, birdwatchers flock to see threatened migratory bird


To the inexperienced eye, it would have meant nothing but to Adrian Walsh the sight of a Nordmann’s greenshank standing next to a common greenshank on the Cairns Esplanade was a “miracle”.

“Immediately the cogs in my brain started turning around and I was trying to think what the heck was this bird?” he said.

Mr Walsh was the first person to report the extremely rare bird on New Year’s Day, but the coming months could be the vagrant’s last in far north Queensland.

Affectionately referred to by bird watchers as Nordy, the lone bird is thought to have flown off course during its migration from Russia to South-East Asia.

Never before spotted on the east coast of Australia, the bird is so rare, recent estimates say between 1,000 and 2,000 are left in the wild.

“The consensus is that it’s a young bird and that sort of explains why it’s here,” Mr Walsh said.

“I’ve spoken to a few experts in Russia and in China about the bird and they’ve had a look at the photos well.”

Nordy has since become a star attraction, drawing bird enthusiasts to Cairns from across the country.

“As it became clear that it’s a bird that’s staying for a long time, people really felt it was worth the investment for flying up here,” said Golo Maurer, key biodiversity area program leader at Birdlife Australia.

“You can see they stayed around a bit longer, went up to the tablelands and got some birds there as well.”

Mr Maurer said the Cairns Esplanade was of global significance and a popular destination for migratory birds.

“It’s one of the most biodiverse places in the world and of course in Australia as well,” he said.

“The birds are used to having this beautiful feeding ground there that is easily accessible and that the tide pushes them right up.”

Mr Walsh said it was an opportune time to see the Nordmann’s greenshank because it was unknown if the bird would take flight and continue its migration or stay a year longer.

“It’s perfect at the moment in the late afternoon, you’ll get an incoming high tide,” he said.

 “And what it does, it pushes a lot of the waders into what we call a stage roost.

“So, they’ll stage here until the tide gets too high, and then they’ll fly off to their overnight roost.”

Mr Walsh explained that the adult Nordmann’s greenshank, in its breeding plumage, had heavy black spots on its chest, hence it was also referred to as the spotted greenshank.

Few spots appeared to have developed on Nordy since it was first spotted by Mr Walsh, while other migratory shorebirds on the esplanade were showing heavy breeding plumage.

To see the bird, look for features such as a slightly upturned, bi-coloured bill that’s yellow at the base. It also has yellow legs and light-grey plumage.

To the untrained eye, wading birds on the esplanade may look alike.

Mr Mauer said the key was in their natures.

“The beauty of migratory shorebirds, because they all look sort of similar… you gotta take your time and look at them and get a feel for them,” he said.

“Nordmann’s greenshank is a hectic feeder.”

Mr Walsh laughed as he described the gluttonous bird feeding on crabs almost every time he had observed it.

“Sometimes it will have great difficulty, it will bite off more than it can chew.

“I’ve seen it discard more than a couple of shells that it hasn’t quite gauged the right size and has not managed to swallow them.”

Nordy mingled well with the other shorebirds and was not shy of passers-by on the esplanade.

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Man to face Cairns court on multiple domestic violence and assault charges


A 27-year-old man is facing eight domestic violence charges after an incident south of Cairns in Far North Queensland early yesterday morning.

Police said they were called to a property in Wrights Creek around 4:00am on Tuesday after a man allegedly punched and tried to strangle a 20-year-old woman, who was known to him.

Acting Detective Inspector Kevin Goan said the woman ran through a nearby cane field after the man allegedly armed himself with a knife and drove around the property looking for her while she hid in the cane.

Police allege the man “actively sought out” the woman while armed with a knife.

Acting Detective Inspector Goan said she remained in the cane field for around an hour, until police arrived and the man was arrested.

He said the two had previously been in a relationship and had been at the address in Wrights Creek for a social occasion when the incident is alleged to have occurred.

He said police were particularly concerned by the alleged strangulation offences.

“She’s clearly very shaken by the ordeal, she was taken through to the Cairns Base Hospital.”

The man has been charged with four counts of contravention of a domestic violence order and one count each of common assault, strangulation, assault occasioning bodily harm and unlawful stalking.

He was denied bail, and he did not appear in court when his case was heard this morning.

His lawyers made no application for bail, meaning he will remain in custody until the matter is heard again next month.

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‘Dream come true’: Jailed Cairns woman’s incredible new challenge



A YOUNG Cairns woman jailed over a serious crash, who bravely shared her story to warn other motorists, is living her “dream come true” after being accepted in to study paramedic science.

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Cairns State High School students call out racist slurs, fed up with ‘lack of support’ from school


Fed-up students tired of racist taunts at a far north Queensland school say they are willing to risk disciplinary action from administrators to stop the hateful slurs. 

Readers are advised this article contains explicit and offensive language.

Cairns State High School students Talea Villaflor and Lalawa Donigi Bedford, both 15 and in Year 10, gave impassioned speeches — against the use of racist terms like “n*****” and “coconut” — at a peaceful demonstration against racism at the school on Friday.

The school has since launched an investigation into three students involved in the protest and informed them late on Sunday evening to stay home.

They were not suspended and their parents were not given a timeline on when they could return, but were told the students could face disciplinary consequences.

Ms Villaflor has been told to stay home while she is investigated and fears being expelled for calling out hate speech inside school grounds. 

Ms Donigi Bedford is not part of the investigation, and attended this week.

The Education Department says the school encourages all students to express their concerns in a respectful way, and declined to comment on disciplinary action the students might face.

“I’m speechless. I stuck up for [spoke out about] something that I have been a victim of, which you [the school] said to do,” Ms Villaflor said.

“You said you want this school to be a safe workplace, then when I try to stick up for myself and other students that have witnessed and been victims of racism, then I get in trouble for that. 

“I’m a good student, I show respect to my teachers. I do all this and it’s like, what respect am I being shown back?”

Bigoted remarks including the “n-word” are frequently used in school by students with little to no consequence, Ms Donigi Bedford said. 

“They [students] think they’re funny by using the word and pretending to be black,” she said. 

“It has a really big impact on us because even though we’re not African-American, we’re still black. You’re still dehumanising us.

“Most of my friends [who] are white people come up to me and say, ‘Lala, you’re such a coconut’ or ‘You’re too good for black people’. 

Ms Villaflor recounted multiple examples she had experienced.

“I had a student in my class, we were playing a game and when the Indigenous kid scored he decided to call that kid the n-word,” she said. 

“We confronted him about it and he said, ‘It wasn’t directed like that. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. It’s out of context.’ 

The issue was raised with a staff member but never resolved, Ms Villaflor said. 

“He related the situation to a gay problem: ‘If this person were to say this stuff then we’d hold them accountable,'” she said. 

“You can’t be relating them. They aren’t the same. It’s like, ‘What?'” 

Students had unsuccessfully tried to stamp out the vile behaviour through the school system, Ms Donigi Bedford said.

“We protested because we’re really just sick of the lack of support from the school, deputies and [the] Department [of Education],” she said. 

“They put out all this stuff saying, ‘Speak up about bullying’ and then when we finally did it, and in the past multiple times, nothing happened.

Last week the Department of Education confirmed the Ethical Standards unit was investigating a relief teacher’s alleged use of “a racially offensive term while explaining American culture in the 1950s”.

“Students brought the incident to the attention of the school leadership team,” the spokesperson said. 

“A peaceful protest occurred at the school [on] March 19 while students were gathered together to mark the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

“Cairns State High School encourages all students to express their concerns and opinions, in a respectful and constructive manner. [The] student voice is highly valued in the school community.”

A request for further comment regarding disciplinary action students may face was declined. 

In a statement, Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said administrators were working with the broader community to address racism at the school.

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Cairns State High School students told to stay home after peaceful protest against racism


Students involved in a peaceful protest against racism at a far north Queensland school have been told to stay home while the matter is investigated.

The uproar started on Thursday at Cairns State High School, after a relief teacher allegedly used a derogatory term in class.

The alleged slur sparked the act of civil disobedience with dozens of teenagers marching out of classrooms on Friday afternoon carrying placards and urging teachers to take a stronger stance against bigotry inside the schoolyard.

Protestor Varni Nona said a separate incident involving a staff member last week had prompted her to speak out.

“All the racial experiences students have faced, they continue to get swept under the rug,” she said.

“Even though people are speaking out, it still isn’t being heard.

“After the protest started to calm down, little boys and girls were coming up to us and crying because they knew they weren’t alone in this. We heard them and their experiences were valid.

Following the protest, executive principal Chris Zilm wrote in a letter to families, the teacher had been reported to the Department of Education.

“For context, students alleged that a racially-offensive term was used to exemplify American culture in the 1950s,” Mr Zilm said.

“The highly-offensive term was not aimed at any of the students.

“Cairns State High School will continue to promote safe and respectful interactions for everyone in the school community and I encourage respectful debate and communication at all times … having debate is important. It is a step towards healing and making our place an even better environment for all.”

But despite the “peaceful” nature of the protest, Varni, along with two other students were told not to attend school on Monday.

The year 12 student and aspiring lawyer said students of colour are regularly subjected to racist taunts and actions at school.

“There’s something every week,” she said.

“I hear from other girls about things that have happened [too].”

A mediation meeting scheduled for Monday between three students, including Varni, and the school, was cancelled late on Sunday evening.

It is understood the students must now provide statements while the matter is investigated.

Varni’s mother, Darinka Nona, said the children did not deserve to be punished.

“I do worry that the kids won’t be able to speak freely and I worry that they won’t be able to speak without consequence,” Ms Nona said.

“I think the school needs to recognise there is a problem. These kids aren’t making stories up.

Ms Nona said educators should already understand what is appropriate inside the school grounds.

“When you’re a teacher in a multicultural school, your ignorance is no longer an excuse,” she said.

“If you’ve been told that what you’ve said is inappropriate, then that’s on you. You need to work on the way you speak to people and you’re a teacher.

“You have a role to educate kids and if you’re teaching like that, then there’s something definitely wrong.”

The Department of Education declined to discuss the student investigation but, in a statement,  confirmed a teacher’s conduct was being reviewed.

“The Department was made aware of an incident that happened on March 18 when it’s reported a relief teacher used a racially-offensive term while explaining American culture in the 1950s,” a spokesperson said.

“Students brought the incident to the attention of the school leadership team.

“The incident is now being investigated by the Ethical Standards unit in the Department and will be dealt with in accordance with departmental guidelines.

“A peaceful protest occurred at the school on March 19 while students were gathered together to mark the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

“Cairns State High School encourages all students to express their concerns and opinions, in a respectful and constructive manner. Student voice is highly valued in the school community.”

The ABC contacted Mr Zilm who declined to comment.

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New sports academy in Cairns is turning athletes pro in first year


Mya Cozzoul’s dream of becoming a professional football player has taken a big step forward in recent months.

“I’d love to be listed with Gold Coast Suns or hopefully get drafted, it’s so much closer to home,” Mya said.

“I’ve only come into the sport recently, but I’ve thrived, this program gives young people like me an opportunity to excel.”

Mya is a student, and one of 45 aspiring athletes taking part in TAFE Queensland’s new Academy of Sport in Cairns.

At the academy, a tailored sporting program is created for each participant, who also take up a TAFE course of their choosing.

At 17 years of age, Mya plays for the Cairns City Lions women’s team and the club’s junior team, while studying allied health at TAFE.

“AFL is a high intensity, fast-thinking sport with a lot of adrenalin, and I can be aggressive,” she said

“Once I heard about the program, I was super excited and my future was a lot more achievable”.

Former AFLW Gold Coast Suns player, Dr Tiarna Ernst, also grew up in Far North Queensland.(

Supplied: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

)

For Mya, it’s the big break she’s been waiting for, bridging the gap between local footy and major league.

“For someone who’s from a regional place who hasn’t seen much of the professional side of the sport, it’s great,” she said.

“They’ve just introduced an Indigenous round for women, which they didn’t have in previous years.

“So, I think it’s definitely progressing in Cairns and on an Australian level.”

The Gold Coast Suns joined the AFLW in 2020.
The Gold Coast Suns joined the AFLW in 2020.(

Supplied: AFLW

)

Creating pathways to the elite level

Cairns Academy of Sport is partnered with AFL Cairns, Northern Pride, Cairns Netball and FNQ Swimming.

Of the 45 athletes, two young women made it to the Gold Coast Suns Academy,  one young man qualified for Olympic trials and another was selected to play for the Northern Pride.

“It’s been quite revolutionary as far as changing pathways for young athletes finishing high school,” TAFE Queensland Project Manager Jesse O’Hara said.

“Students have the opportunity to train in a full-time environment while undertaking a vocational qualification.

“One of our young Northern Pride athletes wasn’t on the Northern Pride system at all.

“There’s no way of knowing that kid would have got an opportunity playing for the Northern Pride had this academy never been started.”

Mr O’Hara said that he has already entered into agreements with new sporting partners for next year’s program.

Townsville is the next location the program is planned to be rolled out.

“They’re focussed on the development of me as a person, not just as a footy player,” Mya said.

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ACCC rules out Rex claim Qantas’ domestic expansion is anti competitive


The nation’s competition watchdog has dismissed claims Qantas is attempting to push other airlines out of the domestic market with predatory behaviour.

In an aviation report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Wednesday, the regulator said claims made by Regional Express that Qantas is attempting to price out the smaller airline were unfounded.

Rex has publicly bashed Qantas over its recent expansion into regional domestic routes while international travel remains grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Qantas has announced more than 26 new domestic routes, with eight being routes where Rex operates as the main carrier.

Rex says the behaviour is predatory and has threatened to pull out of five routes once the federal government’s regional aviation support ends.

However, Qantas only operates on one of the routes Rex has threatened to ditch.

The ACCC said there were positive signs the industry was recovering and competition within the domestic market seemed to be increasing.

“Rex’s recent expansion into the domestic network, and its announced plans to enter additional routes in competition with Qantas, does not suggest that the entry of Qantas on particular routes is impeding Rex from competing across the broader network,” the ACCC said in a statement

“To the contrary, competition appears to be increasing not decreasing.”

Rex deputy chair John Sharp last week dubbed the Morrison government’s half-price ticket scheme “QantasKeeper”, claiming the $1.2bn aviation package set to boost domestic travel would mostly benefit the flying kangaroo.

“It’s really a Qantas package,” Mr Sharp said.

“They’ll get 70 per cent of all the money and we’ll get the scraps.”

Qantas anticipates to receive 550,000 of the discounted tickets, with elevated travel numbers set to help 7500 employees who were stood down because of the pandemic.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has also hit back at Rex’s claims last Friday, saying the regional carrier had received ample support.

“You can’t feel sorry for Rex because Rex has gotten all this money from the government previously,” Mr Joyce said.

“They got as a percentage of revenue seven times the aid that Qantas got last year, which is the equivalent of Qantas getting $7bn.”

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Tourism Australia chief in Cairns to meet with tourism operators as end of JobKeeper looms


Hundreds of tourism operators will meet with officials from Tourism Australia in Cairns today for urgent talks ahead of the end of the JobKeeper program.

The managing director of the country’s peak tourism body, Phillipa Harrison, has flown into the city for this afternoon’s gathering of about 300 business owners and workers from across Far North Queensland.

The talks come ahead of the end of the JobKeeper subsidy on March 28.

The 4870 postcode, which encompasses Cairns, has one of the highest numbers of residents on the wage subsidy in Queensland.

Up to 20,000 people are estimated to be receiving the payment.

Tourism operator Roderic Rees, whose Cairns Adventure Group runs white water rafting companies Foaming Fury and Raging Thunder, will be among those at the meeting.

He said he had already been forced to shed half of his staff after he lost the JobKeeper supplement due to changed criteria that made his workers ineligible.

“Everyone talks about the cliff face coming at the end of JobKeeper and I’m over that cliff face now and it’s terrifying,” Mr Rees said.

“Without JobKeeper there, we can’t ride the peaks and troughs and we can’t give our employees any confidence that they are going to have some sort of sustainable income.”

The federal government will halve the price of nearly 800,000 airline tickets as part of a $1.2 billion package aimed at getting more Australians to spend big on domestic holidays and to prop up the aviation sector.

Between April and July, a 50 per cent discount on tickets will be offered for flights to and from 13 regions that normally rely heavily on international visitors, including Cairns.

Tourism Australia will also use today’s meeting to announce a $12 million initiative to create new images of 1,800 tourism experiences from 57 regions across Australia.

The images will be provided to tourism operators for free to use on their social media platforms, brochures and websites.

Managing director Phillipa Harrison said the initiative would help operators continue to advertise at a time when their marketing budgets had significantly shrunk.

“While domestic travel has helped keep many businesses afloat throughout the crisis, our industry will not fully recover until international travellers return,” Ms Harrison said.

“With Australia likely to be slower than others to reopen to international visitors, it is vital our operators are in the best possible position to capture what will be a hyper-competitive global market.”

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Jetstar launches 4 hour fare frenzy with flights from $25


Clear your schedule and get your luggage ready.

It’s been a big week for cheap flight announcements.

Qantas launched $99 one-way flights to South Australia, Virgin slashed flights to Byron Bay for $55, and, of course, the biggest news came just yesterday when the Federal government revealed it would subsidise 800,000 half-price flights to 13 popular holiday spots across the country.

Now, Jetstar is having a 4-hour ‘Friday Fare Frenzy’.

From 4 – 8pm tonight (AEDT) Jetstar fares will be available for as low as $25 one-way.

“We expect today’s sale fares to sell out quickly,” a Jetstar spokesman has told Escape.

“The Federal Government’s announcement of half-price fares has already helped boost interest in travel and confidence that domestic borders will remain open,” they added.

Here’s the full list of sale fares (all prices are one-way):

Adelaide to Avalon $25

Avalon to Adelaide $25

Adelaide to Sunshine Coast $75

Sunshine Coast to Adelaide $75

Adelaide to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Adelaide $45

Avalon to Sydney $35

Sydney to Avalon $35

Uluru to Brisbane $85

Brisbane to Uluru $85

Uluru to Melbourne $85

Melbourne to Uluru $85

Uluru to Sydney $89

Sydney to Uluru $89

Brisbane to Cairns $79

Cairns to Brisbane $79

Brisbane to Newcastle $55

Newcastle to Brisbane $55

Brisbane to Proserpine $55

Proserpine to Brisbane $55

Brisbane to Townsville $89

And Townsville and Brisbane $89

Ballina Byron to Melbourne $79

Melbourne to Ballina Byron $79

Ballina Byron to Sydney $45

Sydney to Ballina Byron $45

Cairns to Perth $139

Perth to Cairns $139

Hobart to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Hobart $45

Hamilton Island to Melbourne $129

Melbourne to Hamilton Island $129

Launceston to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Launceston $45

Melbourne to Newcastle $49

Newcastle to Melbourne $49

Melbourne to Gold Coast $59

Gold Coast to Melbourne $59

Melbourne to Sydney $55

Sydney to Melbourne $55

Melbourne to Townsville $99

Townsville to Melbourne $99

Newcastle to Gold Coast $49

Gold Coast to Newcastle $49

Gold Coast to Sydney $45

Sydney to Gold Coast $45

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Cairns Hospital declares ‘code yellow’ emergency after influx of COVID-19 patients from PNG


One of the biggest hospitals in Far North Queensland has declared a “code yellow” emergency, following an influx of COVID-19 patients from Papua New Guinea.

The Cairns Hospital is currently treating six patients from PNG — all fly-in fly-out mine workers from Cairns.

Last night’s code yellow declaration indicates an internal emergency, with the facility nearing capacity.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service executive director Dr Don Mackie said the six COVID-19 patients, combined with a record 263 patients presenting to the emergency department over the weekend for various issues, had placed “extraordinary pressure” on health staff.

“They [coronavirus patients] all require highly specialised nursing and specialised areas, ” Dr Mackie said.

“Six or seven beds doesn’t sound like a lot but they are in specific areas, they are in highly specialised negative pressure rooms that reduce the risk of cross-infection on from those patients and it impinges on the other functions of the hospital.

“We have to move people around to other wards.

“They’ve all come from hotel quarantine so the system is working as it should do, but all of those factors combine to put extra pressure on the hospital.”

Dr Mackie said everyone that tests positive for COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine is required to be taken to hospital, even if they are feeling well.

He said some non-urgent elective surgery procedures had been postponed as a result of increased demand on services.

Ok Tedi Mining announced it was stopping flights into Cairns after several of its workers tested positive for COVID-19 in a Cairns hotel during quarantine.

The Pacific Hotel in Cairns is the chief quarantine point for overseas travellers returning to Cairns.

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