Central Coast beaches closed due to dangerous surf


Several beaches along the NSW coast have been closed today due to dangerous surf conditions.

Strong currents, large swell and flash rips have prompted more than 10 beaches on the Central Coast to be shut today.

Soldiers Beach, North Entrance Beach, The Entrance Beach, Toowoon Bay, Shelly Beach, Wamberal Beach, Terrigal Beach, North Avoca Beach, Copacabana Beach, Macmasters Beach and Killcare Beach have all been closed to the public.

The closures come after the Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning earlier today for hazardous surf conditions along the Hunter Coast, Sydney Coast, Illawarra Coast, Batemans Coast and Eden Coast.

Surfers, swimmers and rock fishers have been warned to avoid the rough waters today and follow the advice of lifeguards.

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Central Victoria’s last gravedigger Alan Graham is hanging up his pick and shovel


In 42 years as a gravedigger, Alan Graham has never known the weather to delay a funeral. When he gets the call, no matter how bad it is outside, he takes his pick and shovel and goes to work.

“You could have a hurricane blowing and they’d still try to do the funeral,” he said.

“We had bushfires lapping around Daylesford eight years ago and they had to let me through roadblocks to get in so I could dig the hole.” 

The 65-year-old is retiring next month after digging more than 4,000 graves in Daylesford, Trentham, and Glenlyon in Victoria’s old goldfields region.

Anyone buried in those cemeteries in the past four decades almost certainly rests in earth gently turned by Mr Graham.   

He found his calling by chance in 1979, at 24. He was going for a job at an abattoir but met a gravedigger who couldn’t face another icy central Victorian winter. His pitch to Mr Graham was effective:

“I thought, that’s probably the way to go,” Mr Graham says now. 

“I didn’t really want to work at the abattoirs.”

Cold winters and all, it was a choice that kept Mr Graham fit and healthy as he stuck with a pick and shovel, despite the industry trend to machine-dug graves.

A hole for one is about five hours’ digging, he says, although he confesses that, about 10 years ago, he found a second-hand jackhammer on eBay he occasionally puts to use.

When Mr Graham retires, most new graves in his old workplaces will be dug with machinery and are unlikely to have the same neat, careful touch — square corners, clean edges, perfect proportions.

Correct grave dimensions, even for the machines, are essential too, Mr Graham says : “Room for the coffin, with handles, to go down and they can get the tapes out”.

After digging so many graves, Mr Graham has a fair idea what to expect from funerals.

“Firemen are always a big deal, especially if something happened in the big fires or if it’s an unexpected death,” he said.

“When a local truck driver dies, they’ll bring him out on the back of a prime mover.

Mr Graham has had 30 years of support from his wife, Anne, his secretary and bookings manager.

“I’m very proud of him,” she said.

“It’s a noble job and the very last thing anyone can do for anybody and he does it with pride. 

“It’ll be strange not being tied to the phone, because we’re sort of on call 24/7. If a funeral comes in, it must be dug.

“It’s not like you can say, ‘We’ll do that tomorrow morning or the day after’.

As for his own funeral, Mr Graham has a family plot picked out at Glenlyon.

Sadly, but by choice, he has had to dig there to lay his daughter, Amba, to rest.

“My daughter was killed in a car accident about 18 months ago,”  he said. 

“We had her cremated and she’s in the plot out there. She’s got her plaque there.

“We tended to figure, you buy a plot and then if you all get cremated then really there is no limit to all of the people who can go in that plot.”

After witnessing so much graveside heartache, Mr Graham has clear and open views on life and death.

“I’ve never been religious,” he said. “But I can understand people who think along those lines.

“The way I look at it, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do while you’re here.”

Daylesford Cemetery secretary Jack Adriaans has worked with Mr Graham for 40 years.

“He is a craftsman. His graves are always spot on,” he said.

“Funeral directors and their assistants always comment on his graves — always straight, clean and not too wide.

“He’s a man of few words but always follows orders to the letter. He deserves a good retirement.

“There’s not many who can sink a grave as neatly, quickly and cleanly as Alan because everything is done by a great big machine now.”

Mr Adriaans said the gravedigger always went out of his way to make sure there were no issues for families of the deceased.

“Most families wouldn’t even be aware of it but it was just done to make sure things were as good as possible.”

Even if Mr Graham was unwell and “feeling lousy” he’d still turn up to dig the hole, Mr Adriaans said.  

After so much time in graveyards, Mr Graham is ambivalent about any talk of ghosts.

“I reckon what people see when they see ‘ghosts’ is things that are happening in the corner of your eye,” he said.

“Your peripheral vision just isn’t good enough. When you turn around and look, there’s nothing there.”

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Settling Central Asia’s Borders Is No Easy Task – The Diplomat


Shortly after declaring that the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border issues were resolved “100 percent,” the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security Kamchybek Tashiev changed his tune, underscoring the deep difficulties in settling Central Asia’s remaining unsettled borders.

As Bruce Pannier covered for RFE/RL, while in southern Kyrgyzstan in late March, Tashiev visited the Kyrgyz village of Birlik, which borders the Uzbek exclave of Sokh. Speaking in the Uzgen district of Osh Province after the visit, he said, “Concerning this area, there was no final decision. To be candid, we did not reach an agreement on this section, including adjacent territory.”

As Pannier explained, Birlik had been the site of clashes in 2020 “that destroyed several homes and vehicles and left more than 200 people injured.”

Although earlier Tashiev proclaimed a bevvy of land-swaps with Uzbekistan to finally settle the delimitation of the border, in the province he admitted that “Of course, if the people are against [the land-swap agreements], it is possible that some will not be implemented.”

Tajikistan pre-emptively, isn’t interested in land-swaps either. In announcing the good news on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border business, Tashiev also mentioned that the Kyrgyz side had proposed a possible land-swap to settle the tension over the Vorukh exclave (Tajik territory surrounded by Kyrgyzstan).

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Visiting the area this week, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon assured residents of Vorukh that no land-swaps were being considered. 

“There have not been any talks about the possible exchange of Vorukh for another territory in the last 19 years, and there is no possibility for it,” he said, citing recent news reports as the reason for his statement. “Border demarcation is a long process and there is no place for emotions in the matter,” he said.

According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service report, Rahmon said agreements had been reached on almost half of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border over 100 rounds of negotiations since 2002. He claimed that the Tajik side had finished the work on its end outlined in a 2016 joint road map but that the Kyrgyz had failed to keep to the plan for “unknown reasons.”

It certainly seems that the Tajik government isn’t yet as keen as the Uzbek government on dealing with the border matter. And none of this approaches the difficulties that come after high-level agreements.

As I wrote last month:

As Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan move from agreeing on paper to where their border lies, or delimitation, they will have to take up the nastier matter of demarcation — or physically marking the border. That process may trigger tensions at the local level, especially when swapped territory comes into play.

The demarcation process is liable to be ugly. People on both sides of these possibly shifting borders have strong feelings about it. The governments involved also all struggle with the democratic bridge between the individual and the state while also, especially in Kyrgyzstan, being keenly aware that people’s sentiments cannot be entirely ignored. This in turn allows for the bilateral political matter of border demarcation to be weaponized for domestic purposes as needed.

For President Sadyr Japarov’s government a win is critical to stabilizing the country’s political situation. There is an small window of time for Japarov to prove there’s substance to back up his promises, that he can bring about both political and economic stability before he could go the way of nearly every other Kyrgyz president. For Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, settling the border helps feed his preferred reformist image, underpinned by his government’s emphasis and pursuit of greater regional cooperation. In Tajikistan, Rahmon has perhaps less incentive to see the border matter settled. The tenuous status quo hasn’t harmed his regime the way persistent border dramas have helped undercut Kyrgyz governments.

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Severe weather expected to hit southern and central Queensland coast from Easter Sunday, BOM says


Queenslanders might be forced to keep Easter celebrations indoors this year, with severe weather predicted to reach the coast from Sunday.

So far, the weather remains fine across the state, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said a change was not far off.

Cloudy conditions with isolated showers are expected for the first half of the Easter weekend.

From Sunday through to Tuesday, the BOM is warning there is a risk of heavy rain, damaging winds and hazardous surf for the Capricornia, Wide Bay and South East Coast.

Wind warnings are already in place for waters north of the Sunshine Coast.

Meteorologist Shane Kennedy said Sunday’s weather would first break on the Capricornia and Wide Bay coasts.

He said there could be falls of up to 150 millimetres between Agnes Water to the New South Wales border.

“You could see daily rainfall totals between 50 to 150mm,” Mr Kennedy said.

“There will be that risk of heavy rainfall [and] potentially, we could see some damaging wind gusts and damaging surf.

“We’re fairly likely to be issuing a severe weather warning for much of south-eastern coastal region.”

A flood watch is current for catchments between St Lawrence and Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, after what the bureau called a “wet March”.

The BOM said a deepening low-pressure trough and a developing low was behind it all.

Cloudy conditions down the east coast are forecast for later on Friday, with the chance of thunderstorms developing in north Queensland.

Meteorologist James Thompson said the east coast had seen “quite a few” showers already on Friday, and Saturday would be similar.

He said the rainfall could stretch further than the Wide Bay region.

“The Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast [and] Brisbane regions are all in for a chance to see some heavy rainfall,” he said.

“[It] could extend over the ranges into the Darling Downs…and we’re likely to see some showers and storms through central districts.”

The BOM is also predicting hazardous beach conditions.

“For the coastal waters between Fraser Island and over the [NSW] border, we could see some hazardous surf conditions on Monday or Tuesday; maybe even some strong wind warnings,” Mr Thompson said.

The bureau has mapped the weekend’s system to move south, away from Queensland over Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr Thompson said despite the rain moving away next week, floodwaters could remain, given the “wet March we’ve had, as well as incoming rain”.

He said already a number of Queensland rivers still had “a bit of water moving through them”.

“We saw quite a few flood warnings since March and we could see more flood warnings if we do get this heavy rainfall [on] Monday or Tuesday,” Mr Thompson said.

“Any further rainfall that we do get will just mean those rivers respond really quickly.”

The BOM currently has a flood watch in place for coastal catchments between St Lawrence and the Queensland-New South Wales border, extending inland to the Darling Downs.

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Central Australia sees first signs of recovery as tourists flock to the Red Centre




The area is becoming such a popular destination there’s concern there may not be enough staff to cater for the influx of travellers. Isabel Moussalli reports.

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Boat explosion victims’ long wait highlights NSW Central Coast paramedic shortage concerns, union says


Victims of a horror boat explosion north of Sydney reportedly waited 25 minutes for paramedics who should have been on the scene within seven minutes, a union representing paramedics says.

Emergency services were called to a marina on the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon after reports of a boat explosion.

The explosion, which left four people seriously injured, highlights concerns about paramedic shortages on the New South Wales Central Coast, according to the Australian Paramedics Association NSW (APA NSW).

It said multiple ambulances from Sydney’s Northern Beaches responded, including from St Ives and Hornsby, but the closest crew based at Hawkesbury River station, just under 6 kilometres from the location in Brooklyn, was unable to attend because it was delayed at Gosford Hospital.

Instead, the APA said it was informed by several crews it took 25 minutes for paramedics to get to the scene of the explosion.

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Bystanders are being praised by paramedics for helping victims and stopping the fire’s spread.(Supplied: Greg Manning)

Ongoing issues in area

Paramedics from the small Hawkesbury River station at Mooney Mooney are tasked to cover significant road accidents on the M1 motorway and boat-only access jobs on the river, as well as look after the neighbouring communities of Mount White, Calga and Brooklyn.

But Mr Kastelan said the reality was very different.

“Most of the time they are tasked back up to the Central Coast area to make up for what is an ongoing concern with paramedic numbers and crew numbers due to workload, ageing populations, and delays getting crews back out on the road at some of the hospitals,” he said.

A row of six ambulances stationed under shelter
The majority of Central Coast ambulances tied up in bed-block at Wyong Hospital in December 2020.(

Supplied: APA

)

The association has long argued demand on local paramedics continued to increase, but the minimum number of officers for the Central Coast sector had not changed since 2010.

He said ambulance resources from Hawkesbury River, Hornsby, Sydney metro, as well as Newcastle and the Inner Hunter were routinely deployed to the Central Coast “to make up for what really appears to be inadequate resourcing”.

Extra officers making little difference, union says

The New South Wales Ambulance Service has played down the call for more local officers.

A spokesman said 42 additional paramedics had been deployed to the Central Coast over the past two years.

He said as part of the Statewide Workforce Enhancement Program an extra 12 officers were at Doyalson, 12 at Hamlyn Terrace, 12 at Ettalong, and five at Point Clare.

Man crosses his arms and looks at camera with ambulance in background
APA NSW president Chris Kastelan says crews are being tasked to support the Central Coast.(

Facebook: APA NSW

)

Mr Kastelan said the extra officers had made little difference because they had “been swallowed into existing gaps and holes in rosters, and also they’re the same paramedics stuck in bed block“.

“It really is a systemic approach needed to ensure members of the community get the care they pay for and legitimately expect,” he said.

The Central Coast Local Health District’s outgoing chief executive Dr Andrew Montague acknowledged emergency department delays at Gosford and Wyong Hospitals was “a long-term issue on the Central Coast”.

Dr Montague said strategies were in place and improvements had been made with the opening of a 10-bed short-stay unit at Gosford Hospital.

But he conceded bed block would always be a problem.

“And [it’s] going to be a constant challenge for people to try to solve.”

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Jimboomba Central wins best urban design double


A shopping centre in the heart of Jimboomba, which utilises clever and practical design, has scooped a double at the Logan Urban Design Awards (LUDA).

A record number of entries were received for the awards, which recognise the best in urban design that help create innovative and inclusive social environments.

Jimboomba Central, designed by Interlandi Mantesso Architects, was named the 2020 LUDA Overall Winner after also collecting the Architecture Award.

The Cusack Lane structure was described by judges as a ‘clever design’ that was likely to be a reference project for similar future retail projects across the City.

The project was commended for its spatial sophistication, choice of materials and generous landscaping.

In winning the Architecture Award, Jimboomba Central was praised for its appealing street scapes and internal court space which together created a ‘dynamic centre’.

The 2020 LUDA awards, delayed from last year because of pandemic restrictions, were presented at a ceremony at Kiwanda Café in Eagleby on Wednesday night.

Other winners were:

  • Master Planning Award: Everleigh
  • Landscape Architecture and Urban Infrastructure Award: Brookhaven – Discovery Park
  • Businesses and Events Award: Beenleigh Town Square Night Markets (Goodwill Projects)  

The judging panel included Richard Coulson (Cox Architecture), Nicholas Marshall (The Urban Developer) and Nathalie Ward (Lat27). 

Planning Chair, Deputy Mayor Jon Raven, said the high standard of entries was inspiring.

“This year’s winners have set a new benchmark for excellent urban design as we continue to see unprecedented growth in the commercial sector across the city,” Cr Raven said.

“It is great to see Jimboomba Central named as Overall Winner and shows why Council has allocated $5million in funding to continue to develop the Jimboomba City Centre into a popular and vibrant destination. 

“The quality of entries across all categories demonstrates that City not only embraces practical development, we also embrace projects that are visually appealing and suited to our landscapes and environment.”

The Logan Urban Design Awards are supported by gold sponsor, EPOCA Constructions and silver sponsor, Colin Biggers & Paisley Lawyers.

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Heavy Rainfall Floods Streets in Central Alabama Amid Severe Weather


A thunderstorm brought flash flooding to central Alabama on Thursday, March 25, as severe weather devastated regions of the state. Footage shared by Christina Warren shows muddy floodwaters flowing down a road in Russet Woods, a neighborhood in the suburbs of Birmingham, according to a tweet. Tornadoes were also reported in the state. At least five people were killed after a tornado-producing storm devastated homes in Calhoun County, officials told local media. Credit: Christina Warren via Storyful

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Central Queensland fruit farmers have full dams for first time in four years


While heavy rain has been devastating for residents in parts of South East Queensland, producers on the now-lush central Queensland coast are singing in the rain, with almost a metre of rain falling in parts of the Livingstone Shire in less than a week. 

After years of widespread, crippling drought across Queensland’s Capricornia region, the constant soaking rainfall around Byfield has replenished dams and bores with a promise of more rain this week.

For fruit producers, the wet offers a promise of security for years to come.

Bungundarra-based producer Ian Groves runs a family farm in the hinterland, 20 minutes from the town of Yeppoon.

With the mango crop packed and shipped, the Groves family was staring down the barrel of making difficult decisions for next year’s season, including sacrificing some crops in favour of others.

Looking at empty dams and with hundreds of trees to water, Mr Groves said things were “looking pretty dire” as a wet La Niña failed to eventuate on time, as forecast.

“[Dams] were very close to empty. One was at 10 per cent, the other two were at 20 per cent only and they haven’t been full since Cyclone Debbie — pretty much exactly four years ago.”

Mr Groves measured between 520 and 550 millimetres of water in his rain gauges over the past week.

The now-lush fruit farm will have secure water from the property’s three dams for the next two years at least, even without substantial future rain.

“We were thinking about all options of what we might do, to get the crops through to next summer,” he said.

“We have a bore in an isolated paddock that we were thinking of using a very long pipeline to bring water back, which would’ve cost quite a lot of money.

Several kilometres away, the Cowie family has received over half a metre of rain on its lychee and mango farm.

The family has seen its share of hardships, including Cyclone Marcia in 2015 and the Livingstone bushfires in 2019, when more than 1,000 mature fruit trees were lost.

“The contrast from the bushfires in November 2019 is just absolutely striking,” Mr Cowie said.

“We’ve gone from a black landscape to a beautiful, green, lush paddock.”

The Cowie family is celebrating full bores, a replenished underground spring, and overflowing dams as it replants the lost crop.

They have been marcotting, or propagating, onto the lost trees, unwilling to give up on a decades-long legacy.

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Advancing Therapies for Central Nervous System Disorders


Date/Time:

Location: Virtual

Sponsored by:

NIMH Division of Extramural Affairs

On April 15, 2021, Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., will be the guest speaker for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director’s Innovation Speaker Series. Dr. Davidson is the Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Arthur V. Meigs, Chair in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and director of the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at CHOP. She will provide an overview of recent research approaches for inherited disorders that impact central nervous system (CNS) function during her talk.

Dr. Davidson’s neurobiology laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular bases of neurodegenerative disorders, including lysosomal storage disorders and dominantly inherited diseases such as Huntington’s disease and the spinocerebellar ataxia. Her laboratory employs a range of methods— from single-cell technologies to animal studies—to assess novel therapeutic approaches and the molecular bases for neurodegeneration.

One emphasis of the data presented will be recent developments in Dr. Davidson’s laboratory and others to target biologicals, such as gene therapy vectors, to particular brain regions and to regulate the expression of gene therapies once delivered to the brain.

Background

NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thought. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their primary area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.

Registration

Registration for this free online event is required.

More Information:

NIMH will provide sign language interpreters. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations should contact the Federal Relay at 1-800-877-8339. Submit general questions to the NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series mailbox.

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