Shark attack survivors’ group Beyond the Bite aiming to ease emotional and financial hardship


Shark attack survivor Dave Pearson stopped counting the cost of his medical bills once they reached $30,000.

The founder of Beyond the Bite, a charity for those touched by a shark attack, realised his rehabilitation had become one of his life’s essentials, “like paying for bread and milk”.

It is a financial reality that Mr Pearson said confronts hundreds of survivors who battle physical and psychological trauma, and which even stops some from seeking help.

But the group aims to ease some of the burden with the introduction of a free dedicated counselling service.

The initiative comes during a year when attacks in Australian waters look set to be higher than usual, and as demand for the charity grows internationally.

It also comes on the back of study by the University of Sydney, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in 2018, showing shark attack victims and first responders are three times more like to experience PTSD and show a higher level of suicidal ideation than other Australians.  

There have been five fatal shark attacks in Australia this year so far, which is higher than usual.(Contributed: Warren Keelan)

People ‘don’t want to hear about it’

For most survivors, the immediate aftermath of an attack is radically life-changing, according to Mr Pearson, who suffered injuries to his arm when he was attacked in 2011.

“Initially it is very, sort of, euphoric, having survived an event that could have taken your life,” he told ABC Radio Sydney’s Evenings program.

But the media spotlight and attention from friends quickly fades, leaving the victim feeling like “yesterday’s news”.

He also had to deal with insensitive comments from strangers on social media.

“It really was a mind-blowing experience to be treated like the enemy of the ocean,” he said.

Soon the medical bills were piling up and the prospect of lengthy, potentially lifelong, rehabilitation was daunting.

“Shark attacks are not cheap and any funds you have can quickly be deleted,” Mr Pearson said.

When his medical expenses began to climb, Mr Pearson and his partner had to decide how much they wanted to pay for his treatment.

“We came to the agreement that it was just like buying bread and milk — it was what I needed to be healthy — so we decided to stop counting the amount of money,” he said.

“I’ll drive an old, crappy car around as long as I’m happy and healthy.”

But not everyone feels the same way.

A closeup photo of a greyscale tattoo on the inside of a forearm. The tattoo depicts a shark underneath text saying "survivor".
Beyond the Bite is expanding its network overseas with high demand from countries like the United States.(ABC Mid North Coast: Sarah Maunder)

‘It’s a continuous battle’

It was an attitude psychotherapy graduate Jules Alexander wanted to change by approaching the group to offer his services pro bono.

He is one of two professionals to come on board this year.

The former commercial diver has had friends die or be seriously injured in shark attacks, and has come face to face with many himself.

“I know a lot about sharks and a lot about trauma so I’m happy to help in that sphere,” Mr Alexander said.

Mr Pearson said it has been a big help.

“It’s a connection you just don’t get with other people, even our partners,” Mr Pearson said.

Mr Alexander said while counsellors were often willing to make accommodations to help victims, finding the right support could be tricky.

“The perception of what is available and what is actually on the ground when you need it is not the same,” he said.

While it is a challenging process, he said, many people improved.

“I find that most people, over time, get better but it’s a continuous battle,” he said.

A surfer watches the sunrise from his board.
Mr Pearson says there has been a positive response to the counselling service.(ABC Open contributor CurrumbinAli)

Attacks higher than usual

It has been a tough year for survivors, with five people killed in Australian waters so far this year, and a 10-year-old boy from Tasmania among those injured.

Mr Pearson said news of every incident brought up trauma for the group’s 350 members.

“The stress level of all of our people goes through the roof … they start reliving their own experiences,” he said.

But the new service has been a silver lining.

He is now getting requests for help from overseas, including the United States.

“We’ve got members from all over the world now … this week alone we have four or five new members from the east coast of America alone,” he said.

The support service is something Mr Pearson is passionate about extending to shark attack survivors across the world.



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RBI announces steps to ease pressure on liquidity


MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank on Monday announced a host of steps, including term repo operations totalling Rs 1 lakh crore in mid-September to ease pressure on the liquidity and maintain congenial financial conditions with a view to ensuring sustainable recovery of economic growth.

“The RBI stands ready to conduct market operations as required through a variety of instruments so as to ensure orderly market functioning,” the central bank said in a statement adding that recently market sentiment has been impacted by concerns relating to the inflation outlook and the fiscal situation amidst global developments that have firmed up yields abroad.

As part of the measures to ‘foster orderly market conditions’, the RBI will conduct term repo operations for an aggregate amount of Rs 1,00,000 crore at floating rates (at the prevailing repo rate) in the middle of September to assuage pressures on the market on account of advance tax outflows.

The RBI said that in order to reduce the cost of funds, banks that had availed of funds under long-term repo operations (LTROs) may exercise an option of reversing these transactions before maturity.

“Thus, the banks may reduce their interest liability by returning funds taken at the repo rate prevailing at that time (5.15 per cent) and availing funds at the current repo rate of 4 per cent. Details are being notified separately,” it said.

The last date for paying the second instalment of advance tax is September 15.

Further, the RBI will conduct additional special open market operation involving the simultaneous purchase and sale of government securities for an aggregate amount of Rs 20,000 crore in two tranches of Rs 10,000 crore each. The auctions would be conducted on September 10, 2020, and September 17, 2020.

The RBI remains committed to conducting further such operations as warranted by market conditions, the central bank said.

As part of the measures, the RBI has also decided to allow banks to hold fresh acquisitions of statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) securities acquired from September 1, 2020, under Held-To-Maturity (HTM) up to an overall limit of 22 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) up to March 31, 2021 which shall be reviewed thereafter, it said.

Currently, banks are required to maintain 18 per cent of their reserves in SLR securities. The extant limit for investments that can be held in HTM category is 25 per cent of total investment.

Banks are allowed to exceed this limit provided the excess is invested in SLR securities within an overall limit of 19.5 per cent of NDTL. SLR securities held in HTM category by major banks amount to around 17.3 per cent of NDTL at present.

The RBI further said it remains committed to using all instruments at its command to revive the economy by maintaining congenial financial conditions, mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and restore the economy to a path of sustainable growth while preserving macroeconomic and financial stability.





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Queensland rejects pleas to ease interstate border restrictions for interstate boarding students


The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association says it is devastated the Queensland Government will not ease restrictions for interstate boarding school students.

The Association met the Chief Health Officer, Jeanette Young, yesterday to ask for students outside the ‘border bubble’ to be allowed to go home for the upcoming school holidays, without having to quarantine on their return to Queensland.

Several boarding schools on the Darling Downs have been calling for the restrictions to be eased for students from towns including Moree, which are just outside the border bubble zone.

The Association’s Queensland President, Tammie Irons, said Dr Young refused their request due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission in New South Wales.

“The New South Wales Government have not imposed any travel restrictions across their state, despite the increasing numbers of cases within that Sydney area and beyond,” Ms Irons said.

“I guess they’re looking at it as in those people in New South Wales could travel potentially into northern New South Wales, western New South Wales and cause a new case.”

Mental anxiety

Ms Irons she understood the restrictions were in place to protect Queenslanders, but that it would cause anxiety for families that have not been together for months.

Ms Irons said students wanting to go home would have to undergo mandatory two weeks hotel quarantine with a parent when returning to Queensland.

“My understanding is that the cost would indeed be met by the individual family which is of course a concern for us,” she said.

“The costs … we’ve heard around the price of $3,000 for this quarantining, now we have to include a parent in that as well because a minor can’t quarantine on their own for two weeks.”

Dr Young said she had granted exemptions to allow students outside of the border zone to quarantine at school when they return to Queensland.

“Because the boarding schools have excellent COVID-safe plans, that we’ve worked through, I’ve given them the exemption that they can do that quarantine in the boarding school,” she said.

“They must have their own bedroom, a single-use bathroom and they get their meals in their room.

Boarding student bedrooms at Nudgee College, Brisbane.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

But Ms Irons said it would not work for all schools.

“You’ve got some schools on the Gold Coast, for example, that have upwards of 60 students that are actually impacted by these decisions,” she said.

“There’s no way those schools can actually quarantine that number of students.”

The ICPA has also raised the issue with the Federal Government.



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COVID-19 restrictions ease on Friday


Premier Steven Marshall has apologised for the “inconvenience” of restrictions to cross border communities who will be allowed to re-enter South Australia as of midnight Thursday.

Those residents in Victoria can enter the state within a 40km radius for shopping, petrol supplies, education, employment and caregiving.

Mr Marshall said there were no current virus cases along the South Australian and Victorian border — which included areas such as Mildura, western Woomera and the Glenelg Shire.

The possibility of easing restrictions was announced earlier this week but was dependent on new infections.

“We’ve always said we want to remove that restriction the second we could,” Mr Marshall said on Thursday.

“It has been an enormous imposition on those border communities. We apologies for the inconvenience and frustration.”

The tougher border restrictions were in place for one week — which started on August 21 — and only allowed students in Years 11 and 12, farmers with properties spanning the border and fewer essential workers into the state.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the state was waiting for the 14-day incubation cycle since the last positive test in those close Victorian towns.

“(Chief Health Officer) Professor Spurrier has been able to give us that advice today which means we are moving forward with the changes,” Mr Stevens said.

“We understand the significant imposition this restriction put on those people who live in Victorian but rely heavily on SA communities and it wasn’t taken lightly as a decision.”

media_cameraPolice Commissioner Grant Stevens says those living in cross border communities can re enter SA within a 40km radius as of midnight Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi Jellicoe

Also coming into effect as of midnight on Thursday is the relaxation on the number of people attending private dwellings, which will increase to 50 people from 10 visitors, with a total of 20 people.

“This is based on the reducing level of risk from Victoria and the way they’re managing the active cases, which is still of concern, but we’re in a more comfortable position in terms of how we manage our own community,” the Commissioner said.

The eased restrictions will also see travellers coming from jurisdictions open to SA to transit through Sydney or Canberra airports.

Restrictions are still in place for those who travel from NSW or ACT who must self-isolate for 14-days upon arrival.

Cross border community members can now South Australia from Victoria within a 40km radius. Picture: Tait Schmaal.
media_cameraCross border community members can now South Australia from Victoria within a 40km radius. Picture: Tait Schmaal.

COVID marshals

Commissioner Stevens said SA Police had seen an increase in the number of people completing their COVID-marshal training but was still encouraging more to do so.

“Proprietors of venues (need) to make sure they have enough staff available to undertake those COVID-19 duties and to ensure the marshals are doing their job effectively.

“This is a longer term plan to ensure businesses can stay open as long as possible and mitigate the need for us to put harsher restrictions to minimise movement within the community”

He said there had so far been no fines issued to businesses that did not have a marshal present.

“We are continuing to work with businesses and this has been our approach with every direction we’ve put in place: to work closely with the community to achieve compliance.

“The introduction of COVID-marshals is not a short term measure. This is something we envisage will be in place for some time while we try to achieve what is going to be known as the new COVID normal.

“If we get a flat our rejection from any business that refuses to do it, there will be consequences for that.”

Under state directions, the introduction of COVID marshalls at licensed venues, cafes, shopping centres and gyms came into effect on August 21.

Originally published as Border rules to change at midnight



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O’Toole vows to ease regional alienation, build diversity within Conservative Party


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today he will work to address regional divisions in Canada and build a more inclusive political party that better reflects the country’s population.

During his first news conference since winning the leadership on Monday, O’Toole said Canadians haven’t always seen themselves reflected in the party.

“I’m going to change that,” he said.

O’Toole won the leadership on the third ballot early Monday morning after a long night of delays caused by technical glitches in the ballot processing system. Final results, which were expected before 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, weren’t announced until after 1 a.m. Monday.

On his first day on the job, O’Toole dealt with transition issues and spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Western alienation, emergency pandemic funding and the government’s decision to prorogue Parliament until Sept. 23.

O’Toole would not say today how his party intends to proceed on the confidence vote on the throne speech — which could trigger an election — but said it’s critical for the government to address western alienation in its plan going forward.

“If they continue to leave out the ability for our resource sector to get Canadian resources to market, we’re going to see more Western alienation, we’re going to see less jobs and opportunity for Canadians in Ontario, in Atlantic Canada,” he said.

“So we need to make sure that Canada’s strength in natural resources is part of that economic plan. We can do that while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we have to be proud of what we produce here in Canada.”

O’Toole said he wants to collaborate with the provinces instead of taking an “Ottawa knows best” approach.

In his acceptance speech early Monday, O’Toole said he would work to heal any internal rifts in the party and broaden the party’s base of support.

“I believe that whether you are Black, white, brown or from any race or creed, whether you are LGBT or straight, whether you are an Indigenous Canadian or have joined the Canadian family three weeks ago or three generations ago, whether you’re doing well or barely getting by … you are an important part of Canada and you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada,” he said.

O’Toole repeated a similar line today.

During the fall election campaign, his predecessor Andrew Scheer was dogged with questions about his social conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. O’Toole said today he has a “clear track record” when it comes to human rights.

“I won the leadership of the Conservative party as a pro-choice Conservative MP, one that won with a strong mandate,” he said. “That’s how I’m going to lead as the leader of the Opposition and that’s how I will be as prime minister. I’m in politics to defend the rights of Canadians to secure a brighter future.”

O’Toole also noted he also was one of only 18 Conservative MPs to vote in favour of a bill advancing transgender rights.

Acknowledging he has work to do in getting Canadians to know him, O’Toole emphasized his middle class roots.

“I’m not famous, I’m not well known. I get things done. I don’t drop the ball and I’ve always fought for Canadians,” he said.

“I have no famous name. I just fight for Canadians. And after the pandemic, with record deficits, with the challenges we face in the world, we need a fighter. I think we’re tired of a directionalist, divisive and ethically challenged liberal government.”

‘Bold efforts’ required

Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said O’Toole will need “bold efforts” to bring the Conservatives back to government.

He said that while Stephen Harper’s strategy of assembling the minimum number of voters necessary to win worked to ensure a unified and well-funded party, it proved insufficient in the 2019 election.

“This is beyond appealing to specific groups of voters and policy areas — it’s a mindset that sees growth and inclusion as a good, not just grudgingly necessary, thing,” he said in an email response to questions from CBC News.

“In particular, the party must cultivate a more positive and collective vision, rather than the resentful individualism of its 2019 election slogan: ‘It’s time for you to get ahead.'”

David Stewart, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said one big challenge for O’Toole will be to appeal to voters who might have suspicions about the social conservative views of many within the party.

“The party can’t win an election without overwhelming support from social conservatives, but it can’t win if it is unable to reach out more broadly,” he said in an email.

While leadership contender Peter MacKay had a narrow lead on the first ballot, O’Toole ended up taking 57 per cent of the votes, scooping up support from those who had supported social conservatives Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan. 

Liberal MP calls for Sloan’s expulsion

Ontario Liberal MP Pam Damoff issued a news release calling on O’Toole to condemn “racism, misogyny and bigotry” within his caucus by removing Sloan from his team and refusing to sign his nomination papers for the next election.

She cited past statements from Sloan criticizing Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam that many people considered racist and pointed out that he supported conversion therapy.

“I am proud to be part of a caucus that believes in protecting LGBTQ2 rights and women’s rights and sees Canada’s diversity, including within our public service, as our greatest strength,” she said in the release.

“If Mr. O’Toole wants to prove that he only pandered to far-right groups in order to win the leadership, and not as part of his vision for the next campaign, he has a lot of work ahead of him. However, the first item on his list needs to be removing Derek Sloan from his team.”

O’Toole said he and Sloan have some “very stark differences” in positions, though there are some areas of overlap, such shared concerns about China. O’Toole said he didn’t agree with the way Sloan characterized some of his concerns.

“But certainly within a pandemic, within the race we were in, a lot of things were said. We’re united now, we’re going to talk together as a caucus soon,” he said.



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Concerns about wildfire threat in Penticton, B.C., ease, but officials say danger still present


Officials in Penticton, B.C., say the threat from a 20-square-kilometre fire burning since Tuesday has diminished after winds did not spread the fire as feared.

But an evacuation order for more than 300 homes and an alert for another 3,700 remain in place. Officials say the Christie Mountain fire is still dangerous, and the orders will not be lifted until it’s considered completely safe.

“We haven’t lifted the order because we haven’t felt 100 per cent comfortable yet, and when we do we will,” Dan Taudin-Chabot of the B.C. Wildfire Service told a news conference from Penticton on Saturday.

Along with other officials, he said that firefighters took advantage of the favourable weather to further protect vulnerable homes with sprinkler systems. They also dropped fire retardant along the perimeter of the blaze and water on the fire itself.

Officials like Taudin-Chabot say the fire is still estimated to be 20 square kilometres, much the same size as when it became a problem on Tuesday, shortly after it ignited. Officials still do not know the cause of the fire. They were trying to better measure it on Saturday.

‘Uncertainty is really hard’

Michele Deoll has been out of her home since Tuesday. That’s when the fast-moving fire put her home — in one of Penticton’s suburbs perched on the hills above Skaha Lake — at risk.

On Saturday, she went to the roadblock leading to her home to see how the neighbourhood was faring, as helicopters circled overhead, dropping water on the fire in the hills above.

Michele Deoll points to the location of her home, along Skaha Lake, near Penticton. Deoll, her husband and two children were evacuated on Tuesday and have been living with her brother. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Deoll, her husband and two children have been living with her brother at his house in nearby Naramata. She said her anxiety level has gone down, based on the news from fire officials, but life is still tough.

“It’s the displacement of our lives and potential loss of the home — and mostly right now we don’t know anything, haven’t been up there, we can see the smoke, we don’t know what it’s doing,” she said.

“The uncertainty is really hard.”

Taudin-Chabot said he understands that, but officials aren’t prepared to take any chances with letting people go home too soon.

“We don’t want to be premature on this, it’s really important that we nail it,” he said, “I know it’s tough on the citizens, and we feel that and we feel that pressure, but we don’t want to make an incorrect decision.”

Smoke from the Christie Mountain wildfire can be seen in the hills above Skaha Lake on Saturday near Penticton. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

Winds were expected to shift once again on Saturday, and there is the potential the fire could grow despite efforts to contain it. Taudin-Chabot said it could move into new areas where there is newer fuel, like plants and trees, to burn.

Blaze is difficult to fight

The fire is burning on rocky, sloped terrain, making it hard for ground crews and heavy equipment to tackle. So far, it has destroyed one home.

At the height of the fire, the B.C. Wildfire Service said 200 firefighters and 16 helicopters were battling the Christie Mountain blaze.

At the press conference on Saturday, officials said about 110 firefighters — representing the majority of local firefighters who came from municipalities around the province to help — had started heading home because their assistance was no longer needed. They could be called back, however, if the fire situation worsens, officials said.

“We feel very confident that the fire is no longer threatening structures adjacent to the fire in the city of Penticton,” Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said.

More than 4,100 people had pre-registered as evacuees, the city said.

Late Friday, the B.C. Wildfire Service put in place an area restriction around where the fire is burning to keep people from going into the area and disrupting fire suppression work.

Mayor John Vassilaki praised citizens on Saturday for allowing fire crews to freely operate, as well as for not stopping their vehicles to look at the fire.





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Raiders ease past Gold Coast in NRL


A two-try display by Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has helped the Raiders secure a 36-16 NRL win over an undermanned Gold Coast on Saturday.

Wighton dominated the opening half as the Raiders, who ran up a season-high 36 points last weekend against the Broncos, were once again too good for Queensland opposition as they racked up six tries to three.

Winger Nick Cotric, who scored a double against the Broncos, picked up tries in either half as well as he moved to 10 four-pointers in 2020.

The Raiders enjoyed 61 per cent territory in the opening half to race to a 22-4 halftime lead, the eighth-straight match Canberra have scored 20 or more points against the Titans.

Justin Holbrook’s team, already missing captain Kevin Proctor due to suspension and Jai Arrow (shoulder) and Dale Copley (pec) to injury, suffered another blow before kick off with Ash Taylor ruled out due to a quad injury.

Taylor’s scratching brought Tanah Boyd back into the team and the youngster had an immediate impact with his grubber setting up Phillip Sami for the opening try of the game.

But the Titans’ lead didn’t last long as the Raiders ran in four unanswered tries, including Wighton’s double, to open up an 18-point lead at the break.

Stand-in captain Jamal Fogarty tried to spark a comeback when he surged clear after taking a quick tap on the 20m line 10 minutes into the second half.

The halfback looked destined to go the length of the field at CBUS Super Stadium but was brought down by an ankle tap from Canberra prop Josh Papalii.

The Raiders’ big man’s 60-metre chase was the highlight of the match, capped by Fogarty knocking on as he hit the turf.

Papalii was later put on report for a high tackle on Jaimin Jolliffe while Titans’ forward Moeaki Fotuaika was also placed on report for a crusher tackle.

The Titans did open the scoring in the second half when Fogarty set up dynamic fullback AJ Brimson but were immediately pegged back to an 18-point deficit when Hudson Young crashed over for the visitors.

Keegan Hipgrave crossed over for a late consolation for the Titans, who ended the game without hooker Nathan Peats who limped out of the game in the second half with a calf injury.

Gold Coast travel to Sydney next week to face St George Illawarra while Canberra’s next match is against lowly Canterbury in the nation’s capital.





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ACT clubs hold out hope coronavirus restrictions will ease next week amid reports of roaring trade in Queanbeyan


The organisation representing ACT clubs has called on the Government to allow gaming to restart, amid reports Canberrans are travelling into Queanbeyan to use the pokies.

While New South Wales opted to ease restrictions on gaming, the ACT has held firm in not permitting the activity, despite allowing venues to cater to up to 100 people at a time.

The ACT has decided to hold restrictions at stage 2.2, with gaming and casinos not able to reopen until stage three.

In the months since coronavirus forced shutdowns across the country, some clubs have suffered, with the Kaleen Eastlake Club announcing last week it would permanently close.

And as businesses across the border benefit from the lighter restrictions, ACT Clubs says gaming venues need a reprieve, to keep people in jobs and ensure trade stays in the territory.

Canberrans turning to NSW for ‘relaxed’ service: publican

The Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan has seen an uptick in customers from the ACT.(ABC News: Sonya Gee)

Since restrictions on venues eased in NSW following the state-wide lockdown, trade on the average gaming machine saw an 89 per cent increase in turnover.

But Queanbeyan saw a 453 per cent jump.

One reason could be its proximity to the ACT, where the restrictions are tighter.

Anthony McDonald runs the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan and said he had seen a lot more Canberrans at his venue in recent weeks.

He said it could be due to the access to pokies, as well as the lighter restrictions on how long a person could stay.

“We’re seeing strong food and beverage numbers, and people are definitely coming across from the ACT,” Mr McDonald said.

“I know in the ACT they have time restrictions and you have to leave after your sitting, but I don’t think any of the operations in Queanbeyan are putting time restrictions on it.

The ACT Government said gaming venues were restricted due to the higher risk of infection posed by some activities over others.

“One of the things that the Chief Health Officer has been really clear about is that we need to assess cumulative risk when we’re determining the easing of restrictions,” Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

“It is about managing the cumulative risk to our community of people coming together, intermingling in situations particularly where there may be alcohol involved, where they may lose some of their inhibitions or may stay in a venue for a length of time.”

But Mr McDonald said the same social distancing rules applied to every area of his venue, whether it was for gaming, drinking or dining.

“We’re working on the one in four capacity, so subject to social distancing, we can turn our machines on,” he said.

“It means some places have put only every second machine on.

“But most importantly, it means for the pubs and clubs, we have access to the gaming machines as well”

He said while the pokies were not a huge part of their business, they had seen an uptick in revenue nonetheless.

“I thought that was the commitment from the Chief Minister, and you have to consider that Queanbeyan is basically an outer suburb of Canberra.”

‘We just want our chance’

Gwyn stands in front of Kaleen club looking serious.
Clubs ACT CEO Gwyn Rees had called for lifted restrictions on gaming.(ABC News)

ACT Clubs chief executive Gwyn Rees said they were suffering for lack of trade.

“The clubs over there [Queanbeyan] are telling us there’s about 40 per cent visitation from the ACT and they’re seeing machine numbers that they haven’t seen since the 90s,” he said.

“Lots of people are going over to enjoy the services that are over in Queanbeyan and again we just want our chance to reopen our clubs and offer those same services.

“Any Canberran can go over and look at a car park in Queanbeyan and see the ACT plates. That itself tells the story.”

He said it was not just about trade, but also employment, and the loss of the Kaleen club was a blow to the industry.

He said gaming was now open in every state and territory except Victoria.

“We just want our chance. We want to get our people back to work,” he said.

“We’ve been off for four months now, so that’s got to have an impact on the ACT budget of some $10 million in terms of gaming taxes, in addition to an impact on the community contributions which we think are around $3 million to $4 million at this stage.”

Clubs wait to see if restrictions eased this week

Two blurred faced people play the pokies at a pub
ACT Clubs claims venues are struggling due to restrictions on gaming.(Supplied.)

While the ACT Government is considering whether to go ahead and ease restrictions on businesses this coming week, in line with its original plan, it is not clear what that could mean for gaming.

Ms Stephen-Smith said it was unlikely they would allow larger gatherings at venues.

“What we are very unlikely to see from next weekend is a bigger number of people being able to gather,” she said.

“So, our stage three did previously have 250 people gathering plus the reopening of a number of activities, including gaming venues.

A deserted country street.
NSW and the ACT have different restrictions around gaming due to coronavirus.(Supplied)

Mr Rees said he was perplexed by the argument that gaming was more of a safety risk with relation to coronavirus than other activities.

“We’ve asked for that advice and it hasn’t been provided,” he said.

“It seems a closed shop. We can’t have a conversation. We’ve asked for the advice.

“We don’t understand the decision — but if this is about jobs, we need to get clubs open.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said she was aware that some Canberrans might choose to leave the territory to access certain things they could not get closer to home. 

“We know that people are potentially going to travel interstate for particular activities and that is their choice,” she said.

“It’s pretty hard to assess what the cumulative impact of that is going to be and we’re continuing to keep an eye on the wellbeing of our clubs here in the ACT and there have been a number of measures taken to support community clubs in the ACT.”



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ACT clubs hold out hope coronavirus restrictions ease next week amid reports of roaring trade at Queanbeyan’s pokies


The organisation representing ACT clubs has called on the Government to allow gaming to restart, amid reports Canberrans are travelling into Queanbeyan to use the pokies.

While NSW opted to ease restrictions on gaming, the ACT has held firm in not permitting the activity, despite allowing venues to cater to up to 100 people at a time.

In the months since coronavirus forced shutdowns across the country, some clubs have suffered, with the Kaleen Eastlake Club announcing last week it would permanently close.

And as businesses across the border benefit from the lighter restrictions, ACT Clubs says gaming venues need a reprieve, to keep people in jobs and ensure trade stays in the territory.

Canberrans turning to NSW for ‘relaxed’ service: publican

Since restrictions on venues eased in NSW following the state-wide lockdown, trade on the average gaming machine saw an 89 per cent increase in turnover.

But Queanbeyan saw a 453 per cent jump.

One reason could be its proximity to the ACT, where the restrictions are tighter.

Anthony McDonald runs the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan and said he had seen a lot more Canberrans at his venue in recent weeks.

He said it could be due to the access to pokies, as well as the lighter restrictions on how long a person could stay.

“We’re seeing strong food and beverage numbers, and people are definitely coming across from the ACT,” Mr McDonald said.

“I know in the ACT they have time restrictions and you have to leave after your sitting, but I don’t think any of the operations in Queanbeyan are putting time restrictions on it.

The Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan has seen an uptick in customers from the ACT.(ABC News: Sonya Gee)

The ACT Government has said that gaming venues are restricted due to the higher risk of infection posed by some activities over others.

“One of the things that the Chief Health Officer has been really clear about is that we need to assess cumulative risk when we’re determining the easing of restrictions,” Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.

“It is about managing the cumulative risk to our community of people coming together, intermingling in situations particularly where there may be alcohol involved, where they may lose some of their inhibitions or may stay in a venue for a length of time.”

But Mr McDonald said the same social distancing rules applied to every area of his venue, whether it was for gaming, drinking or dining.

“We’re working on the one in four capacity, so subject to social distancing, we can turn our machines on,” he said.

“It means some places have put only every second machine on.

“But most importantly, it means for the pubs and clubs, we have access to the gaming machines as well”

He said while the pokies were not a huge part of their business, they had seen an uptick in revenue nonetheless.

“I thought that was the commitment from the Chief Minister, and you have to consider that Queanbeyan is basically an outer suburb of Canberra.

‘We just want our chance’

Gwyn stands in front of Kaleen club looking serious.
Clubs ACT CEO Gwyn Rees had called for lifted restrictions on gaming.(ABC News)

ACT Clubs chief executive Gwyn Rees said they were suffering for lack of trade.

“The clubs over there [Queanbeyan] are telling us there’s about 40 per cent visitation from the ACT and they’re seeing machine numbers that they haven’t seen since the 90s.

“Lots of people are going over to enjoy the services that are over in Queanbeyan and again we just want our chance to reopen our clubs and offer those same services.

“Any Canberran can go over and look at a car park in Queanbeyan and see the ACT plates. That itself tells the story.”

He said it was not just about trade, but also employment, and the loss of the Kaleen club was a blow to the industry.

He said gaming was now open in every state and territory except Victoria.

“We just want our chance. We want to get our people back to work,” he said.

“We’ve been off for four months now, so that’s got to have an impact on the ACT budget of some 10 million in terms of gaming taxes, in addition to an impact on the community contributions which we think are around three or 4 million at this stage.”

Clubs wait to see if restrictions eased this week

Two blurred faced people play the pokies at a pub
ACT Clubs claims venues are struggling due to restrictions on gaming.(Supplied.)

While the ACT Government is considering whether to go ahead and ease restrictions on businesses this coming week, in line with its original plan, it’s not clear what that could mean for gaming.

Ms Stephen-Smith said it was unlikely they would allow larger gatherings at venues.

“What we are very unlikely to see from next weekend is a bigger number of people being able to gather,” she said.

“So, our stage three did previously have 250 people gathering plus the reopening of a number of activities, including gaming venues.

Mr Rees said he was perplexed by the argument that gaming was more of a safety risk with relation to coronavirus than other activities.

“We’ve asked for that advice and it hasn’t been provided,” he said.

A deserted country street.
NSW and the ACT have different restrictions around gaming due to coronavirus.(Supplied)

“It seems a closed shop. We can’t have a conversation. We’ve asked for the advice.

“We don’t understand the decision — but if this is about jobs, we need to get clubs open.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said she was aware that some Canberrans might choose to leave the territory to access certain things they could not get closer to home. 

“We know that people are potentially going to travel interstate for particular activities and that is their choice,” she said.

“It’s pretty hard to assess what the cumulative impact of that is going to be and we’re continuing to keep an eye on the wellbeing of our clubs here in the ACT and there have been a number of measures taken to support community clubs in the ACT.”



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Plan to ease ACT coronavirus restrictions to stage three in doubt after Victorian cases spread to Canberra


Plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in Canberra have been thrown into doubt after new cases of COVID-19 were detected in the city.

The ACT was also scheduled to move to stage three restrictions from midday Friday, as health officials drew more confidence thanks to the border closure with Victoria.

However, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said today the move to stage three was unlikely to go ahead as he announced three new infections in Canberra.

“Given the news today, that we have new cases in the ACT, the community should expect that the implementation of stage three is likely to be postponed, until we have a better understanding of the Victorian outbreak and the impact on the ACT.”

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman will decide on Thursday whether to proceed with the easing or retain social-distancing rules.

When the change to stage three happens, gyms will be allowed to operate 24-hours unstaffed, larger crowds will be allowed at Canberra Stadium, and poker machines will be switched back on.

But the major change for Canberra’s smaller venues comes from an easing of physical distancing measures.

Under current restrictions, all cafes, bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants must adhere to a rule of one person per four square metres.

The roadmap reveals what will be allowed under all stages of lifted restrictions.
Restrictions were scheduled to ease on Friday, July 10.(Supplied: ACT Government)

Under stage three, all venues will be allowed at least 25 patrons, no matter their size.

Larger venues will still be able to take more than 25 patrons, while keeping the four-square-metre rule in place.

Earlier, Mr Barr said restaurants, cafes and bars would still need to take other safety measures, like recording the details of anyone who dines in.

“But that handful of people will make many of these businesses more economically viable.”

Some say changes are ‘inconsistent’

Some within the industry may have hoped for a broader move to a “two-square-metre” rule, flagged by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, following the most recent meeting of National Cabinet.

Such a move would have allowed for doubling of patrons within applicable venues.

But Mr Barr said that was at least a month away.

Anthony Brierley from the Australian Hotels Association’s ACT Branch said the “minor change” to allowing 25 patrons “won’t make any difference to the precarious financial position of hundreds of small businesswomen and men in Canberra’s hospitality industry”.

“It offers no hope to stood-down hospitality employees desperate to get their jobs back,” he said

“Forty people are allowed to sweat and breathe all over each other in a game of community rugby, but our industry can’t have 40 people in a small restaurant.

“Having already been through so much, the Victorian situation has spooked our industry. Our industry would accept any underpinning health rationale for today’s change — but the glaring inconsistencies cause us to doubt it even exists.”

Bigger crowds, larger gatherings, more gym time and food courts

When stage three commences, food courts will be allowed to re-open, having been closed since the start of the lockdown to all but take-away service.

Gyms will also go back to 24-hour, unstaffed operations — but the number of members in the gym will be capped at 25 while no staff are on site.

The measure is targeted at gyms with “swipe-key” access systems, in the hope those can be used to limit the number of people accessing the facility.

Crowd sizes at football matches will be increased, after last weekend’s pilot at the Canberra Raiders and Brumbies matches.

Canberra Stadium will be allowed to take 25 per cent of its seated capacity, which equates to roughly 6,000 fans.

Ordinary outdoor gathering limits will also go up, from the current 100 to 250.

A Raiders fan wears a mask and a green, viking-themed bobble hat
More spectators will be able to attend matches at the Canberra Stadium from this weekend.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

Pubs and clubs will be allowed to switch their poker machines back on, having been forced to leave them off since the venues first closed to dine-in patrons.

The ACT Government had been criticised by ClubsACT and the Canberra Liberals for not allowing the machines to return earlier, in line with moves in New South Wales.

Mr Barr said the Government was sticking to the plan it outlined from the start.

“We are honouring exactly what we said we would do in this regard, that should the health circumstances allow it, then we would [allow gaming] in a safe and measured way,” he said.

Canberra Casino will also be allowed to re-open, as will strip clubs and brothels with particular safety measures in place.

What comes next?

A pub with doors closed and windows boarded.
Canberra pub and nightspot Mooseheads has been closed for business during the coronavirus pandemic.(Twitter: @DavidSharaz)

The new outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria has affected the thinking of health and government officials on the easing of restrictions.

Mr Barr said that adjustments were made to this easing in light of the Victorian situation, and will affect the thinking going forward.

“So we have to manage our economic recovery in a way that minimizes risk, and we do our best to ease restrictions in a way that does minimise risk but does allow extra economic activity.”

Nightclubs remain closed under stage three restrictions, but Mr Barr said would be allowed to re-purpose themselves as sit-down bars, serving drinks to customers.

“It won’t be reopening of nightclubs as people would have known them prior to COVID, that’s still a way off,” he said.

“But if they do want to transition into providing a service the same as a bar, then they are able to apply and do so.”

Those venues, along with larger conferences and festivals, are on the agenda to be considered next.



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