Trent Robinson says a “ready” Sonny Bill Williams will handle the hype in his NRL return against Canberra.

The rugby league world has “SBW” fever, but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says a “ready” Sonny Bill Williams will handle the hype in his NRL return against Canberra.

All roads lead to the nation’s capital on Saturday night when Williams lines up for the Roosters in a blockbuster grand final replay against the Raiders.

The dual international hasn’t played a competitive game since March with the Toronto Wolfpack, but Robinson is confident the star forward will perform strongly.

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“He is ready to go,” Robinson said.

“He studies hard, and he would do as much video as anyone that I’ve seen.

“He would write down as many notes as he would need, and that is how he gets his preparation as well.

“It is important for him to get back out there and get the match fitness.

“You can run around and sit on a bike for as much as you like, but getting that match fitness is important, and we will start that step on Saturday.

“But I also know this is an important occasion for people to watch.”

Robinson has faith that his ultra-professional Roosters can internalise the external SBW excitement to focus on the job at hand.

That is not to say that he is over talking about one of the best athletes that rugby league and rugby union has ever seen.

“I’m definitely not sick of it,” he said.

“I’m really excited to have Sonny back because I knew what bringing him back would do.

“I think it is great for the game and for fans to watch. I’ve had a lot of people mention the excitement.

“Externally that is the biggest talking point, but internally it is how do we want to play, and we want to get better every game, and we want to honour Josh Morris’ 300 games.

“That is the internal focus for us, but the external focus will be large, which is great.

“That external focus is really important this year to get eyeballs on our game, and we understand that.”

Robinson isn’t surprised that Canberra players like John Bateman have declared they will go after Williams.

He believes that just comes with the territory when you have built up an accomplished resume like SBW.

“He has got an aura about him,” he said.

“He has earnt that through achieving in many different places and challenging himself.

“He was an extreme athlete that ended up pushing his limits, not just physically but mentally, and people respect that.

“That is why I feel like we are really honoured to have him back in the NRL. It is a feather in the cap of the game to have him here and that people will be watching around the world.”

While Robinson is happy to acknowledge the Williams hype, he also understands the importance of his side building momentum.

The Roosters are locked on 22 points alongside the Raiders, making Saturday’s game vital in the scheme of the season.

Robinson’s side is also determined to honour Morris, who will play his 300th NRL game against Canberra.

“It is special for Josh,” he said.

“We are privileged to have him play his 300th game here and also to play with his brother.

“To play the way he has for 300 games, the style, and the domination in that centre role for such a long time and still be performing at that level.”

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More money save Namadgi’s future, but some parts to be closed for a while yet | The Canberra Times

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The ACT government is to spend $1.37 million to save the Namadgi National Park from long-term damage caused by the bushfires, which burnt through four-fifths of it over six days in January. The gateway to the park – the Visitors’ Centre – is to reopen to the public this coming weekend. But rangers reckon the worst-damaged core of the park could remain closed for more than a year. Some of the money will be used on facilities directly for visitors, like restoring tracks, signs, paths and campgrounds. The money is on top of the $600,000 already allocated to repair fencing and employ more park rangers. About 65 kilometres of boundary fencing was damaged. Other parts of the funding will go to ensuring essential parts of the park don’t disappear and cost Canberrans dearly in future. The alpine bogs and fens, for example, are crucial to the city’s water supply. The plants act as a giant sponge holding and clarifying water high in the mountains and then releasing it into the catchment area. The fires, and the floods which followed, have disrupted that system. There is more sediment, a higher concentration of metals, particularly iron and manganese. The water is warmer because the tree cover was burnt away, and that has increased the risk of algae. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said: “There is a real danger that some of the things that make Namadgi and Tidbinbilla such special places will be lost if we do not take action.” The task with the bogs is to make sure that the water doesn’t move too fast and form channels, according to Justin Foley who is in charge of ACT Parks and Conservation. “It’s really, really critical”, he said. There are some endangered species which depend on a healthy Namadgi National Park, he said, citing the broad-toothed rat and the spiny black fish. He thinks the work to make the park safe will take more than a year. “It’s a big project. We’ll make sure we keep the community up to date,” he said. “It’s about making sure it’s safe and people get the experience they are seeking.” The Recovery Plan spells out the risks which need to be addressed quickly. “Individual plants and animals that survived the fire itself will still be affected by loss of habitat and increased risk of predation,” it says. “The lack of vegetation cover has left native fauna exposed to predation by feral pests (such as foxes and cats) and in competition with feral herbivores (such as deer and pigs) for food.” The ACT government reckons more than 8000 “park assets” like trails, steps, erosion bars,signs, wayfinding markers, retaining walls and bridges were damaged in the fires. The plan warns that the threat to the Namadgi National Park is likely to recur after repair. “With an increase in the likelihood of fire, changes in seasonal pattern of fires, and extreme weather events, built assets and infrastructure across the fire-impacted area will continue to be at risk,” it says.

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Canberra man arrested with cannabis plants, firearms, as piglets returned to Yarralumla Play Station

A 39-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the theft of animals from the Yarralumla Play Station last week.

Known for its miniature train and mini golf, the Yarralumla Play Station is a popular daytime attraction in Canberra’s south.

On Wednesday, after being tipped off by a member of the public, ACT Policing and the RSPCA visited a home in the Canberra suburb of Deakin, where they discovered four piglets, allegedly stolen from the children’s farm at the Play Station.

RSPCA officers assessed the piglets and removed them from the house. An adolescent pig located in the back yard of the home was also removed.

Police also alleged they uncovered a locked room inside a shipping container which held a loaded bolt action rifle, with several other guns and ammunition inside a nearby gun safe.

They allegedly found several cannabis plants while searching the property.

Yarralumla Play Station owners said their “faith in humanity is slightly restored” with the return of the piglets.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

Alleged theft also wanted in NT and Thailand

It was later revealed in court the man accused of taking the piglets is wanted in the Northern Territory and Thailand for other crimes.

The colourful past led by Owen Van Duren, 39, was detailed in court documents when he sought bail in the ACT Magistrates Court today.

Magistrate Margaret Hunter queried the allegations when the charges were laid, asking: “Is this the poacher and the game keeper?”

Court documents showed Mr Van Duren once stole a power boat to escape authorities in Thailand and sailed it back to Australia.

Police said he is also wanted for alleged car theft in Darwin.

Mr Van Duren has only been charged with stealing the piglets – charges have not been laid for the alleged drug and weapon discoveries.

He was granted bail to return to court later this month.

Pig owners pleased at prompt return

The four piglets have been returned to the Yarralumla Play Station, much to the delight of their owners.

“We have some great news! The piglets have been found and returned,” Play Station management said on Facebook, thanking “the good Samaritan who reported it to the police”.

ACT Policing confirmed that the “other animals stolen from the Yarralumla Play Station have yet to be found”, including a three fully grown turkeys, two frizzle chickens and one Polish chicken.

“If you happen to see (or hear!) a little black and a little white frizzle chicken, or a Polish rooster with an attitude, and three large turkeys then please let the police know,” the Play Station asked on their Facebook page.

A turkey in a farm yard.
One of three turkeys stolen from Yarralumla Play Station last week.(ACT Policing)

Police are continuing their investigations into the poultry thefts, as well as the ownership of the discovered weapons cache.

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Canberra Hospital expansion to be powered entirely by renewables | The Canberra Times

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The Canberra Hospital expansion will be powered entirely on renewable energy in an Australian first, the ACT government has announced. Construction on the expansion of the Woden site will begin next year, to include an emergency, surgical and critical care facility and is expected to be completed by 2024. The ACT government had initially pledged the project, expected to cost about $500 million, would be open by 2022 but it has been hit with several delays. On Wednesday, Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury said the building would be powered by electric heat pumps through renewable sources, in a step toward an emissions-free health sector. Mr Rattenbury said it was the first fully-electric public hospital in Australia, with the emissions saved equivalent to taking 760 cars off the roads each year, or 1886 tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. “At a time of climate emergency, every decision made by governments must consider climate impacts. Across all sectors and across government, we must act now to put our climate first,” he said. “Buildings like these will last for decades to come, and would otherwise be gas-powered – at significant health and financial cost to our community. “Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, and the ACT government has committed to transitioning away from climate-warming energy sources and instead, is fully embracing the renewable energy revolution.” The government announced contractor Multiplex had been chosen to build the expansion, in a rebranding of the long-promised development.

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Asthma patient told to leave Canberra Hospital during bushfires because of poor air quality

Inside the Canberra Hospital’s intensive care unit, asthma patient Ryan Harris could smell and see bushfire smoke as he struggled to breathe.

The father of two spent weeks in hospital during the summer bushfire season before going home on the advice of his specialist, because air quality inside the wards was so poor.

“Having the smoke coming out of the air vents and seeing the fire outside, it was a bit nerve-racking,” Mr Harris said.

He said now when his two young children see smoke or fire, they think he is going back to hospital.

“It’s a trauma for them,” he said.

Air conditioning won’t be replaced for next bushfire season

Air quality inside the hospital was about half as polluted as outdoors on the days measured — though still unhealthy.(Supplied: James Dyer)

Government documents have shown almost every part of the hospital recorded “unhealthy” levels of smoke during the worst of the bushfire haze.

And on the January 2, a worker inside an ACT Health facility was sent home after having an asthma attack on site.

Canberra Health Services maintains that the smoke inside the hospital, while uncomfortable, did not pose a health risk to staff or patients.

No patients were discharged by staff from the hospital due to air quality.

But while filters have been replaced since the bushfire season, ACT Health has indicated it has no plans to replace the hospital’s air conditioning system, which failed to filter out the smoke.

It has previously told the ABC it has a stock of portable air purifiers to deploy if necessary.

As this summer approaches, Mr Harris is worried others could find themselves in the same situation he did.

A young man looks forlornly out of his living room window.
Mr Harris said a better air quality monitoring and reporting system needs to be in place for future bushfires.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

He said being safer in his own home than his local hospital was disappointing, but it was not the only problem.

While his family have educated themselves on the risks and monitor emergency warnings, he said there needed to be better air quality monitoring to give people the best chance.

“We’re pretty savvy and up to date with all the apps and the air quality monitoring throughout the area, but unfortunately there’s not enough,” he said.

Inquiry recommends improved air monitoring system

Orange haze obscures Parliament House.
Just after New Year, the worst of the heavy haze descended on the national capital.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

The New South Wales bushfire inquiry recommended an air quality community education campaign be launched as soon as possible, along with better air quality monitoring and alerts.

Asthma Australia is pushing for something similar to the successful SunSmart campaign, called AirSmart.

It surveyed more than 12,000 Australians over the course of the Black Summer bushfire season and found current public health advice for avoiding risks of bushfire smoke “did not appear to help people with asthma minimise the impacts of unhealthy air”.

“We’re calling on governments this asthma week to support an AirSmart campaign to help people better understand the dangers of unhealthy air,” Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman said.

Mr Harris said during the smoke haze, friends reached out to him on social media seeking advice when they felt affected by the smoke.

Apart from suggesting they go to their GP, he felt there was little he could do.

“There is definitely a need for an awareness campaign, especially for those that aren’t as savvy on the internet or on the apps,” he said.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said part of the problem was the language used to communicate air quality.

“One of the things that has been part of a national conversation is how we measure air quality in a way that people will understand, and then communicate to people how they should respond to that,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the Government was considering a simpler system with indicator levels, rather than the current one that gave a parts per million number to indicate pollution levels.

“That number doesn’t actually mean much because it is a cumulative impact over the last 24 hours,” she said.

“So how do we say to people ‘this is level one, level two, level three smoke, and this is how you should respond’.”

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Canberra childcare worker charged with assault for shaking child against fence

A Canberra childcare worker has been charged with assault after allegedly shaking a five-year-old boy who had been throwing plastic blocks over a fence.

Kyong Shik Choi, 46, made a brief appearance in the ACT Magistrates Court this morning, where the court heard he had been stood down from his job since the incident last week.

Documents tendered to the court revealed Mr Choi was in the playground on Wednesday, helping supervise children from the toddler and preschool sections of the childcare centre with several other staff members shortly before the incident.

Police said Mr Choi saw the child standing behind a wooden fort, throwing the blocks over the fence.

In a statement of facts police alleged Mr Choi went up to the boy, grabbing him and pushed him down.

“The defendant gripped the child’s collar and shook him back and forth about six times, causing the child’s back to make continuous contact with the fence,” the statement of facts alleged.

“The child used a mat to hit the defendant on the side of his face.”

Police said another staff member saw what was happening and called out, later reporting the incident to her supervisor.

It is alleged Mr Choi told his boss he believed his behaviour was inappropriate, but he had been defending himself after the boy spat at him and kicked him.

During his brief appearance in court today Mr Choi was officially charged with assault.

He has been released on bail and is due to return to the ACT Magistrates Court later this month.

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Koomarri’s Bruce House in Canberra is a home made to fit people with a disability — not the other way around

Robyn and Bruce Davis’s mother once sat on the steps of Old Parliament House pleading with the then-disability minister to bring her son home to Canberra.

Because of his profound disability, Bruce had been sent hours away to a facility in New South Wales — there were no local disability services to accommodate him.

“It’s just too much to bear, having to even think about what Brucey endured in those days,” Robyn said.

Never wanting Bruce or anyone else to suffer in care again, Robyn has spent her life advocating for people with disability.

And she has been instrumental in establishing a new group home in Canberra for clients with high needs.

Named Bruce House, in honour of her brother, the home’s new residents had previously been in cramped old houses that did not suit them. The new home has been custom-built for its clients.

Robyn’s brother Bruce was meant to move in, but he died just before it was ready.

Instead Bruce House now has a new connection for Robyn: it is the home of die-hard Brumbies fan Tau Tanielu, who Robyn has become the legal guardian for.

“Knowing you can come here at any time, these residents are so beautifully cared for,” Robyn said.

Residents finally in a home that fits

Tau Tanielu, Mikey Di Toro, Jai-Anne Corey, Willow Scarlett and Katie Bennett, are thrilled with Bruce House.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Tau and some of his housemates moved into Koomari’s Bruce House from an ageing facility that did not accommodate them.

It had a standard bathtub that did not fit their bodies, cramped corridors and small rooms that made manoeuvring mobility chairs nearly impossible.

In contrast, Bruce House has wide doors and hallways suited for mobility chairs, and a $33,000 bathtub with a hoist, donated by a local business.

“As you can imagine, five people with high support needs; it has been a lengthy, difficult at times project, but with a really great outcome,” Koomarri chief executive Nadine Stephen said.

And it has meant the home’s new residents — Tau, Mikey Di Toro, Katie Bennett, Jai-Anne Corey and Willow Scarlett — have a place they can actually live in together.

“They all come with their own characteristics and it’s lovely to watch them together.”

A special bath in a bathroom.
The new hydrotherapy bath at Bruce House allows the residents to bathe in comfort.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Gavin Bennett, whose daughter Katie has moved into Bruce House, said it was “one of the best things that’s ever happened”.

“Being a parent of a child with a disability, you need them to be somewhere that they get the full care they need and where we can see her,” Gavin said.

Through big smiles and his eye movements, Tau also expressed his adoration for his carers and new home.

A young woman sitting in a wheelchair smiles at the camera.
Bruce House has enabled Katie Bennett to move through her own home with more ease.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

‘Knowing he had his own home and people who loved him’

Robyn said her parents would be “very proud” if they were alive today, as it was their fight for disability care inclusion and dignity in the ACT that helped pave the way for Bruce House.

“Wilma Davis, Mum, lobbied for years and years and years,” Robyn said.

“She sat on the steps of Parliament House just pleading with the Minister for Disability at the time to bring her son and other ACT residents’ children back to Canberra.

“What they lived through in New South Wales was just heart-breaking.”

Robyn said her mother’s campaign eventually succeeded and Bruce returned to Canberra, where he spent his last 20 years close to family.

“He was happy, clean, well-looked after. His wants were always met. You could go and visit him at any time,” Robyn said.

“It was comforting for him, knowing that he had his own home and people who loved him.”

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RBA leaves cash rate at 0.25% | The Canberra Times

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Australia’s official cash rate remains at 0.25 per cent after the Reserve Bank board decided to maintain current settings amid the coronavirus recession. Reserve Bank officials have kept the official cash rate at the record low of 0.25 per cent as the economy remains flattened by the coronavirus recession. The board at its regular meeting opted to maintain the cash rate target and the yield on three year government bonds of 25 basis points, as economists expected. The board has decided to boost the bank’s term funding facility, which will allow banks and other institutions more funding. They will be able to draw an equivalent of two per cent of their outstanding credit, at a fixed rate of 25 basis points for three years, until the end of June. RBA Governor Philip Lowe said the term funding decision would help keep interest rates low for borrowers and help financial institutions provide credit. He said financial institutions had drawn $52 billion from the term funding facility. The board decision will increase the total amount available to about $200 billion. Mr Lowe said economic recovery was underway in Australia although the path was likely to be bumpy. “Indeed, fiscal and monetary support will be required for some time given the outlook for the economy and the prospect of high unemployment,” he said. The RBA has not changed the cash rate since March, when it announced quantitative easing measures as the pandemic took hold in Australia. AAP

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‘The best spring we’ve seen’: Canberra farmers, winemakers and nurseries ready for a change | The Canberra Times

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Farmers and wine-makers are hoping their properties will spring to life this week to help ease the pain of drought-stricken years, smoke-destroyed vineyards and coronavirus restrictions. The transition from winter to spring will be different this year. Events coming to grips with COVID-19 changes, with some already forced to cancel, while nurseries are trying to keep up with a surge in lockdown gardeners. There’s also reason for hope on farms in the surrounding regions, with Gold Creek Station’s Craig Starr saying the recent rain has been a perfect boost for the lambing season. “I’ve got a good friend at Yass, his family’s been on that farm out there since the 1800s,” Mr Starr said. “He reckons the last six months of last year were the worst we’ve seen, and the first six months of this year are probably the best we’ve seen. “You just couldn’t predict what 2020 was going to be like.” Merino sheep are the most common breed in the region and because merinos don’t produce much milk, green pastures are imperative to a good start in life for their lambs. “Most people in the district will start lambing now, the first week of spring, and this is when you want the grass to grow,” he said. “Lush green grass is what gets those lambs going.” The only problem was foxes. Mr Starr said they were monitoring his sheep. “We’re right on the urban edge now, and the foxes are coming out of the suburbs,” he said. “Especially last year when it was a bad year, the foxes didn’t have anything to eat as well, and if there’s a newborn lamb that looks really good.” Canberrans may have to wait a few weeks for the weather to fully bloom. The Bureau of Meteorology has warned chilly temperatures are on their way later in the week after a string of days in the high teens, with a wetter-than-average spring expected. September was generally the wettest month for the ACT. Though that mightn’t be a good sign for al fresco dining, farmers were reaping the rewards from moist ground. Wineries and breweries were gearing up for high demand as warmer weather beckoned customers to flock outdoors. Mount Majura Vineyard sales manager Fergus McGhie was looking forward to a stellar grape harvest after strong rainfall this year. “The vines are in great shape and we’re looking forward to the start of a good season,” he said. With coronavirus restrictions in place, the vineyard is running a booking system on tastings to keep a cap on numbers. With room for 20 customers inside, McGhie has already been under the pump at the cellar door, and is looking forward to spring temperatures allowing him to open up bookings for customers on the veranda. “The warmer weather is going to see people getting out and about and we definitely feel as though people are holidaying here,” he said. “I think a lot of people have been cooped up, all through winter and feeling fairly negative about things and so it’s really lovely to see some warm weather and people coming out.” Mount Majura is keeping a lid on large events for the spring season, though it is allowing people to do self guided “walk through the vines” tours with maps instead. “You don’t often get led into vineyards, because they’re restricted areas and they’re quarantined,” McGhie said. “So you can come out here and have a lovely walk through the vineyard which is a great thing to do, particularly in spring because you can see the vines are starting to shoot at different times. “You can physically see where the tempranillo is planted compared to the graziano, because the graziano looks dormant and the tempranillo is raging.” Capital Brewing is expecting high volumes of bookings for the Taproom, where the majority of seating is outdoors in the courtyard and beer garden. “Warmer weather always invites people to drink a little bit more, but drink responsibly,” said Drew Preston. Nurseries have already experienced heightened demand, with some suppliers running out of stock before the planting season after months of coronavirus restrictions led to a surge in green thumbs. Theo Cassidy of Willow Park Nursery predicts this spring, always a bustling time for nurseries, will be so busy they may run out of seedlings before the season ends. He said seedlings for tomatoes, persimmons and pomegranates were particularly in demand, as were fruit trees. And if you’re looking for the ideal springtime flower to plant this weekend? “Petunias,” Cassidy said. Over at Cool Country Natives, manager Sally Blakeley-Fook is also busy preparing for a demanding spring season. The nursery, which specialises in local plant varieties, is gearing up for National Wattle Day on Tuesday, always a big springtime seller. Ms Blakeley-Fook said natives like grevilleas, westingrias and callistemons were also starting to come into flower. “Now it’s starting to warm up and there’s moisture in the ground, it’s just full steam ahead,” she said. In garden beds all over the city one million tulips and annuals planted by the Floriade horticultural team, with the help of more than 90 community groups, have begun to break the surface. Floriade is synonymous with spring and in a normal year the tulip festival would attract more than 500,000 visitors. But this year the festival has transformed into something more personal. Floriade head gardener Andrew Forster said this is the first time Canberrans have been able to see the plants transform in the lead-up to the event. “Experience a touch of Floriade: Reimagined at over 130 locations along the tulip trail when you’re on your way home, grabbing a coffee or reconnecting with friends and family,” he said. “We’ve even planted some pansies for Kambah’s famous sculptural sheep to graze on.” A map of the Tulip Trail shows plantings spread from Tharwa to Gungahlin and some of the flowers are already growing strongly. The festival will run between September 12 and October 11 and include a variety of virtual events.

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