Valkyrie State School trucks in water, bans students from playing on hard, unsafe oval


A whole generation of primary school students has passed through the Valkyrie State School in rural Queensland without ever having been allowed to play on the school’s oval.

That’s because for the past six years at least, the school has had no access to a permanent drinking water supply, let alone enough extra water to help grass grow on the oval to make it safe.

The school’s 20 students come from the nearby farms and villages in the Isaac Region, about 150 kilometres south-west of Mackay.

P&C president Kristen Michelmore said the school had to truck in potable water for the children to drink.

“This is a situation that country kids have to face,” Ms Michelmore said.

But not having an oval to run around on, was another crucial aspect of childhood the Valkyrie students were missing out on.  

The ABC understands the school had to ban students from playing on the oval after a student broke an arm after falling on the dry surface in 2015, but issues around water supply have existed since the school opened in 1974.

“The grounds are pretty dry, it’s a bit of a dust bowl when you get on the mower,” Ms Michelmore said.

“It feels like you’re just mowing up the dirt rather than the grass.

Ms Michelmore’s husband, Ben, said the school was considering several options to rectify the issue, including connecting to a pipeline 20km away or a dam 700 metres away, as well as installing more tanks to catch rainwater.

He said bores located close to the school are unusable because of their high salt content.

Jessie Bethel, the president of the Nebo branch of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, said it was a great loss to the students that they did not have a safe grassed area to play on.

“All bush kids are used to wide open spaces. They’re used to having a very active lifestyle, an active space to play,” Ms Bethel said.

“For the children to not have a grassed oval to kick a ball or do extracurricular activities and sports and athletics training, it’s a real loss and it’s something the community really feels.

Ms Bethel said the ICPA, P&C and the school had been working with various levels of governments, and government departments to address the issue.

“It’s very lengthy, tricky and frustrating to get an agreement with multiple government departments, especially when it is done out of Brisbane,” she said.

LNP MP Dale Last’s seat of Burdekin takes in the Valkyrie area, and he said he had contacted the Department of Education and the Department of Resources about the school’s situation.

“That school has been surviving on rainwater and a tanker that gets transported in each week … you can’t sustain that,” he said.

“We need a more permanent solution.

“It’s a difficult issue to solve in the long term given scarcity of water in the area … and as underground water is not suitable, that makes it doubly hard.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff in Queensland state schools was the department’s highest priority.

“Valkyrie State School does not have access to mains water supply, however, the school uses rainwater tanks on site for all of its water needs,” the spokesperson said.

“Three additional new water tanks will be installed at the school during Term 3, 2021. All new tanks will have ultra violet light filtration systems.

“The department will continue to work with the school to find a suitable solution to the school’s water issues.”

The school’s P&C will spend this weekend fundraising for access to water at the annual Nebo Rodeo and street fair.

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SA introduces hard border with regional Victoria, two teenagers who hitchhiked to the state test negative for COVID-19


Two missing Victorian teenagers who hitchhiked over the border to SA have been arrested and charged after breaching COVID-19 restrictions, but have tested negative to the virus.  

South Australia will also introduce a hard border with regional Victoria, with the exception of communities within 70 kilometres of the state border.

SA’s chief health officer Nicola Spurrier said the move had nothing to do with the COVID scare involving the two teenagers.

Earlier, police revealed the two girls used several different vehicles to hitchhike into the state and travelled to see another girl in Goolwa — more than 200 kilometres from the Victorian border.

The trio then travelled together on a school bus with other students from Goolwa to Victor Harbor High School, south of Adelaide, this morning.

The bus was stopped and all 37 people inside had to stay on board as police gathered outside.

This afternoon, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said authorities were organising for the teenagers to return to Victoria.

“The girls were detained and the students on the bus were permitted to leave once their parents were available to collect them,” Commissioner Stevens said. 

“We are currently making arrangements to return them to Victoria, to their families, at their families’ expense — but those arrangements are not yet finalised.”

Although asked in a press conference on Friday afternoon, authorities would not confirm where the girls had travelled from in Victoria.

Professor Nicola Spurrier said both girls tested negative to COVID-19 today.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

)

Commissioner Stevens said the girls would face penalties, although authorities would follow a “youth process”.

“There will still be a judicial process, but obviously it’s a different process for young people,” he said.

“They have been arrested and charged, so it’s a different process to being fined.

“Youth court is one option, but there are other diversionary measures that may be put in place based on a proper assessment of the circumstances and the way they have behaved during the course of this process.”

Professor Spurrier said the 15 and 16-year-old had tested negative to the virus, and posed no risk to the people they had come into contact with, including students from Victor Harbor High School.

“These are very young people, still children,” she said.

“I’m very pleased that we have found them, they’ve had their testing done and are negative — which means people they have come into contact with are at no risk whatsoever.”

Border restrictions brought in for regional Victorians

Commissioner Stevens said he would be signing a fresh border direction on Friday night that prohibited regional Victorians from entering SA.

The previous direction only included Greater Melbourne residents and those in the Bendigo area, but the new rules will include all other regional Victorian locations.

He said anyone from regional Victoria who came into SA after 7:00pm on May 26 must comply with level three restrictions.

They include getting tested on days one, five and 13, isolating until the first negative test result comes back, and being banned from any events with COVID management plans in place — such as sporting games at Adelaide Oval.

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SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens announces restrictions on people travelling from regional Victoria into South Australia.

Professor Spurrier said the new border rules were based on Victorian health authorities’ direction that all residents in the state abide by a stay-at-home order.

She also said sufficient wastewater testing had not been undertaken to check for COVID-19’s presence in regional communities yet, as Victorian authorities focus on more densely populated areas of the state.

A further 1,000 people who had been in Victoria completed the SA Health survey issued by authorities, equalling 21,000 in total.

More than 8,000 people were tested in South Australia in the past 24 hours.

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China Missing Trump Terribly As Biden Hits ‘Hard Power’


The Donald Trump-was-hard-on-China myth is having a rough few months as Asia’s biggest economy surges toward 8% growth in 2021.

Though the U.S. is recovering, too, China’s post-Covid-19—and post-Trump—bounce back is turning heads everywhere. But the head-turner that matters most is how Joe Biden, just four months into his presidency, has China’s Xi Jinping on the defensive in ways the Trump gang didn’t in four years.

No, China isn’t quaking over Biden’s arrival. But Xi is realizing fast that the days of exploiting complete chaos in Washington to achieve his broader goals are over.

The latest evidence of that comes from Kurt Campbell, Biden’s man in the Indo-Pacific for the National Security Council. Speaking at a Stanford University event, Campbell said the obvious: “The period that was broadly described as engagement has come to an end.” He said, too, that Beijing’s recent exploits indicate a pivot toward “harsh power, or hard power” and “signals that China is determined to play a more assertive role.”

But the second part of Campbell’s argument is enough to ruin the second half of Xi’s 2021. The Biden White House, he said, is devising a “new set of strategic parameters” and that “the dominant paradigm is going to be competition.”

The first part is Biden’s plan to use “all available tools” to push back on China’s unfair trade tactics. As his administration said in a March report: “Addressing the China challenge will require a comprehensive strategy and more systematic approach than the piecemeal approach of the recent past.”

In other words, less tweeting—Trump’s preferred approach—and fewer indiscriminate tariffs that hurt American interests more than China’s. The most demanding economic metric of Trump’s trade war own-goal: America’s deficit with Beijing was even bigger after he left office.

It’s hard to overstate the “opportunity cost” for America. While Trump was typing angrily into his smartphone, making coal great again, browbeating Detroit to bringing back gas guzzlers and defriending allies, Xi’s team poured trillions of dollars into where China plans to be in 2025. That would be at the forefront of everything from renewable energy to aerospace to self-driving vehicles to biotech to semiconductors to artificial intelligence.

The reason Xi misses Trump is that chaos in Washington created a gaping void into which China jumped. Not just in raising China’s own economic game, but seizing on Trump’s biggest missteps. Case in point: Trump walking away from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal meant to curb China.

After Xi stopped popping champagne corks, Beijing signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic PartnershipRCEP is a 15-nation grouping that puts China directly at the center of global supply chains—with the U.S. looking on from the sidelines.

Trump was so easy for Xi to play. Xi knew Trump was so desperate for a splashy art-of-the-deal trade pact that China could have its way with Hong Kong, troll Taiwan and do what it wanted with Muslim minorities in the north-western Xinjiang region. Beijing curried Trumpian favor by lavishing a slew of China patents to first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Right out of the gate, Team Biden hit China for “government-sanctioned forced labor programs,” a topic on which Xi had been enjoying America’s relative silence. It called Beijing out for “genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.”

Now, Biden is going where Trump never really did: demanding a global investigation into the origins of Covid-19. Sure, Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claim they were tough on China over the coronavirus. But bluster, tweets and spin aren’t policy. Leaving the World Health Organization, the institution best equipped to find answers, let China off the hook.

Biden is now standing with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government stood almost alone in its demand for pandemic answers from Beijing. And paid an economic price as China suspended “indefinitely” high-level dialogue with the biggest customer for Australian goods.

And it won’t be pretty. Xi loathed Trump’s taxes on as much as $500 billion on mainland goods, efforts to suffocate Huawei Technologies and bans on other tech giants and unhinged Twitter rants. But these were manageable challenges for Xi’s financial managers.

Biden calling China on the issues it doesn’t want to address in the court of global opinion—from state subsidies for companies, retrograde labor practices, censorship, its handling of Covid-19—is Beijing’s nightmare. So is the way Biden is working to build economic muscle at home.

Trump’s strategy for the economic marathon versus China was essentially throwing marbles into the road and tripping its competitor along the way. Biden’s is to limber up and actually compete, upgrade infrastructure and invest big in research and development.

Biden’s determination to reclaim America’s economic mojo already has Xi looking over his shoulder. And it’s about time.

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Mother’s Day is a hard day for so many women, but it’s time we threw out the old definition


The journalist leaned towards me over the cafe table, compassion in her eyes, a dagger on her tongue.

“You don’t have children,” she smiled, tilting her head sympathetically, “so when you hear someone like Cate Blanchett say that you really can’t understand what love is until you have a child of your own, how does that make you feel?”

All the long walk to this interview about the new ABC TV Breakfast program I had been asked to anchor, I had fretted about being asked this question.

I knew it was coming. It seemed you simply can’t sit down with a childless woman over 40 and not ask her why she had none. What had gone wrong? Did she not want them? Had she been trying? Did she regret not having a family?

And then — the one blow all those little slashes had been leading to: could you even feel like a real woman without a child of your own?

I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect it in the form of Queen Cate.

What if I had gone through cancer and chemo? What if I’d miscarried – once or over and over? What if I didn’t want children? What if I was fostering, happy in the understanding that the child would return to functioning parents? What if it was all none of her damn business?

There were of course a dozen answers I could have given this soft-eyed sadist but none I could offer honestly or with conviction.

I was in what felt like year 75 of a never-ending war against infertility, and I was losing. Her needling went to the heart of the longing I nursed. I couldn’t answer her for fear of the pain that would pour out.

The assumption in her question was breathtaking. I should have been furious. Instead, I stumbled some sort of answer and dragged myself home — hollowed-out, chastened. Childless.

Closing the door behind me at home, my step-son Tim asked me how the interview went and I told him about the deathless question.

He blinked at me: “Why didn’t you just say you had us?”

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, and while it’s always important to recall that this day has become just another calculated retail opportunity, that doesn’t soften its capacity to sting.

It is a hard day for so many women. Women without children who wanted or lost children; women without their mothers; women who care for children but aren’t admitted into the pantheon of motherhood, which is now realised in the impossibly perfect Instagram ideal of beautiful cherubs heaped around happy mums.

The construction of that perfect female ideal had even got to me. Tim was right. I had been lucky enough to have the three wonderful children of my husband in my life for years before our son came along, and yet somehow those precious relationships were never enough to silence the questions I had been fending off from others for all that time: why don’t you have children of your own. As if they were the only kind who mattered.

The right to claim these young people as my own children never really felt like one I had the privilege to make. Until Tim’s beautiful question allowed me to see that I could.

I know women who mother with their every phone call, card, or message to the child of someone they love, with their every visit, every special trip to the cinema, every shoulder they offer to someone to cry on, every wise bit of hard-learned advice they share.

There are a thousand ways to mother, a thousand kinds of mother and they don’t all look like the ones in your Facebook feed.

So — to all the women who provide love and care and support for children: the aunts and the best friends, the neighbours and the kindergarten teachers, the co-workers and the carers, those with, without or around children, tomorrow is a day for you too.

You are all the mothers of the kids of the world. Happy Mother’s Day.

Speaking of those glossy images of perfect motherlove, this weekend we take you into the wild world of the influencers – in all its paid-for glory; we spend some time reflecting on 100 days of Joe Biden (it sure is a lot quieter around here these days) and don’t ditch that vinyl collection! You know there is gold in there …

Have a safe and happy weekend and while I figure out a way to use this column sometime soon as a vehicle to discuss the quite extraordinary television experience that is Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen — DC Comics meets searing race politics — allow me to hook you in you with the music.

Trent Reznor, the founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, is now a celebrated and much-awarded composer for film and TV scores and he has created his own alternate musical universe for the series. Here’s the dark doorway into this place – don’t look back.

Virginia Trioli is presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.

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Nurses do the hard yards for diabetes research



Two Whitsundays nurses are going to great lengths to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, embarking on a week-long outback trek to raise research funds.

Proserpine Hospital nurses Troy Wake and Siobhan Barlow have challenged themselves to trek the Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail in August, as part of a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraising campaign.

From August 23 to 29, they will trek 14-16km per day to show their support for the many Australians living with Type 1 Diabetes.

They are on a mission to raise awareness of the life-threatening condition, and clear up some of the myths surrounding it, such as that it is caused by eating too much sugar and being overweight.

Type 1 Diabetes affects 120,000 Australians, and 2742 people are diagnosed in Australia each year.

It can strike anyone, at any age and is a lifelong illness.

“We both support people in our local community that live with the daily relentless burden of Type 1 Diabetes,” Ms Barlow said.

“We would like to fundraise as much as we can to find a cure and to fund new technologies to enable people to manage this condition more easily.”

Ms Barlow and Ms Wake are well on the way to reaching their $7000 fundraising goal via an online donation page.

To ensure they get there, they will be hosting a drinks and nibbles event featuring some fantastic auction items at Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill on Friday, June 11.

See more details here.



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FA Cup: Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel says it’s ‘so nice and so hard’ to face Pep Guardiola


Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel say it is “so nice and so hard” to face the “strong belief” of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

Watch Football Focus on Saturday, 17 April at 12:00 BST on BBC Two and iPlayer with live coverage of the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Manchester City at 17:00 BST on BBC One, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app.

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Biden and Dems criticised ‘Trump’s hard rhetoric’ but now face an ‘immigration crisis’



Joe Biden and the Democrats always criticised Donald Trump’s “hard rhetoric” on immigration – and opposed his border wall – but now President Biden is dealing with an “immigration crisis,” says Sky News host Chris Kenny.

President Biden is facing an unfolding crisis amid a surge in migrants flocking to the US-Mexico border.

Mr Kenny spoke to Gray TV White House Correspondent Jon Decker about the issue.

Mr Kenny said, “you can’t afford to be soft on borders”.

“Joe Biden will create a lot of pain for a lot of people, as well as a lot of political problems for himself if he doesn’t fix it”.

Mr Decker said he didn’t think there was a chance Joe Biden would look to Donald Trump’s policy idea and complete the building of the border wall.

“His party won’t let him do that,” Mr Decker said.

“That was actually a big issue in the presidential campaign”.

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Residents of Melbourne’s hard tower lockdowns mobilise against off-radar COVID misinformation


Every day, Abdiwasa Ismael and a small group of other North Melbourne public housing residents set up and run a grassroots stall designed to counter COVID-19 misinformation.

In the lobbies of a number of housing towers, the stalls offer local residents easy access to masks, sanitiser, and the latest updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In July last year, these same towers, located in Flemington and North Melbourne, went into hard lockdown amid the early stages of the state’s second wave.

Many residents expressed concern about the tight restrictions, heavy police presence, lack of access to in-language information, and shortage of essential supplies.

The speed and severity of that lockdown was strongly criticised in a report by Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass, but not all residents agreed an apology from the Victorian Government was necessary. 

Now, ahead of next week’s second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations — Phase 1b for the broader public — which kicks off on Monday, Mr Ismael told the ABC there’s been a spike in residents eager to learn more about just what that means for them.

“A lot of elderly people have confirmed they want to get vaccinated,” Mr Ismael said.

Em Taylor, a community engagement manager at cohealth — the community health service that trained Mr Ismael — told the ABC the sudden and hard lockdowns of those towers served as a “catalyst” for recognising the missing pieces in engaging the broader community about the coronavirus.

Mx Taylor said the situation last year prompted Cohealth, who manage the program, to recruit a small group of residents to be “health concierge”.

They band together to craft accessible messages about the coronavirus, intended to cater for people who might not have a mobile or speak English as a first language.

“It’s really good,” Mr Ismael said, “because we are of the same community, we can understand each other — same backgrounds, similar cultures.”

A Department of Health spokesperson told the ABC that on top of the government’s $31 million COVID-19 vaccine public information campaign, $1.3 million had been allocated to multicultural organisations to help reach Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.

Last August, the Victorian Government announced the creation of a CALD Communities Taskforce, a $14.3 million initiative aimed at providing culturally-specific support and communication.

While government materials are tailored for multilingual purposes, there are concerns from community members around the accuracy and consistency of the messaging.

“And for them, to get the information they need, they’re asked to do things like scan a barcode [or download an app] and they can’t do that if they’ve got no phones or the phone doesn’t have a camera.

“So it’s really hard.” 

Reliable sources of information are critical, and experts have long noted the abundance of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines spreading on non-English channels is putting Australian communities at risk. 

Alaa Elzokm, an imam at the Elsedeaq Heidelberg Mosque in Melbourne, is one of the community leaders who has been working to make sure people are getting the right information about coronavirus.

Since the pandemic started, Mr Elzokm told the ABC he’s seen a lot of misinformation spreading on social media and being shared, circulated and spoken about within Muslim communities. 

Mr Elzokm said that while questions about vaccine safety remain the most common concern throughout the community, “conspiracy theories” generally suggesting that the vaccines will inflict some type of harm on humanity — like genetic mutations or causing infertility — is another critical issue. 

Along with other organisations, such as Muslim Health Professionals , Mr Elzokm has been working to make sure his mosque’s members receive the right information directly from health experts.

One of the ways they do this is by running online Q&A sessions with Muslim doctors, where participants can ask about anything they want to know in relation to COVID-19 or its vaccines.

Earlier this year the Australian Fatwa Council released a fatwa — or Islamic verdict — confirming that Muslim doctors and experts have “scientifically confirmed that vaccines do not contain any prohibited substances or ingredients”. In other words, it’s halal — or permissible to be taken by Muslims.

The fatwa council said they have been “actively” researching and discussing the vaccine with Muslim doctors and medical experts who specialise in vaccines and viruses.

“We discussed the issue of the vaccine in the Australian Fatwa Council, six or seven weeks before the government decided which vaccine even to bring here.” 

Mr Elzokm said that they also use prayer gatherings on Friday — Islam’s holy day — to clarify the truth and facts about what had been medically accepted and understood to date. 

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Re-elected WA Premier Mark McGowan says result reflects ‘hard work, never giving in’


Mark McGowan has secured a second four-year term as premier. In his victory speech, he thanked voters for the “humbling” win. 

“I promise to work for everyone across Western Australia over these coming four years,” he said. 

“You’ve put your trust in my government and I promise we won’t let Western Australia down.”

Labor supporters celebrate at the Gary Holland Community Centre in Rockingham.

AAP

He said the result, coming after the year of the pandemic, shows that resilience will be rewarded.

“Today is an endorsement of perseverance, hard work, optimism and never giving in.”

Mr McGowan said he would waste no time in getting back to work.

“Tomorrow, we get right back to work, continuing to build a Western Australia that is safe, fair and strong.”

Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup officially conceded the election after losing his seat. 

“Obviously what has happened with respect to Dawsville is devastating and across the state,” he said.

“It is a loss that will be difficult to bear. 

“It is a loss that all of us feel. But in so doing we must remember that 2021 is not an end but a beginning.

Mr Kirkup not only joined the likes of John Howard in the ranks of Liberal leaders to lose their seats at an election, but will likely see the opposition leadership transfer to the Nationals in WA.

Ironically, the 34-year-old’s journey with the Liberal party started in the Midland Town Hall in 2004 when he saw Mr Howard and handed him a business card, which read: ‘Zak Kirkup, future prime minister’.

“When I took up the leadership some 15 or 16 weeks ago, I did so knowing the risks,” he told party faithful on Saturday night.

“I did so understanding what it may cost.

“We are now at a crossroads where we must rebuild.”

With 25 per cent of the vote counted in his seat of Dawesville, first-term MP Mr Kirkup had attracted only 35 per cent of the two-party preferred vote to Labor’s Lisa Munday on 65 per cent.

“He has been a fantastic power of strength and his resilience through this whole campaign has been really amazing,” fellow Liberal David Honey told ABC radio.

Zak Kirkup is the first major party leader to lose his seat at an election in about 88 years.

Zak Kirkup is the first major party leader to lose his seat at an election in about 88 years.

AAP

Mr Kirkup told supporters he would not longer seek office for the Liberal party, as it was important to make way for a new generation.

“We must do all we can. The next four years will be the most difficult for the Liberal Party that we have ever experienced,” he said.

“But we must not shy away from the task ahead of us because the people of Western Australia depend on it.”

Liberal figures have called for reform as the party faces a wipeout, possibly holding as few as two seats – down from 13.

It also looks likely that the Nationals will become the official WA opposition, likely holding five seats.

Mr Honey would not say who would lead the Liberal party.

Former leader Mike Nahan said it would be a period of “cleansing” for the Liberals.

“It will be up to us to get our act into gear,” he said.

“Unfortunately we (have) very few seats to work with.”

A call by the Liberals to open WA borders while the state continued to deal with COVID-19 had done “immense” political damage, Dr Nahan added.

Retiring Liberal MP Dean Nalder said there were real concerns about the influence of conservative powerbrokers over the party.

“There seems to be this sense of anger (among voters),” he told Perth radio 6PR.

“Some people feel that we lost sight of our values as a Liberal party and we need to regain that.”

Former Liberal MP Murray Cowper said the party would require a root-and-branch overhaul in the wake of the result.

“We have a house on fire – do we let it burn to the ground and rebuild from the ground up?,” he told Seven News.

Dr Nahan said the party had failed to pull together as a team, potentially leaving it with nothing more than a “tennis team” in parliament.

Former premier Colin Barnett rejected suggestions the party had been doing well enough to win government before the pandemic struck.

“I doubt that was the case,” he told ABC radio.

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Tennis heads roll in hard ball game


IT HAS been a tough 12 months on and off the court for Mornington Tennis Club.

The board of the 100-year-old club was taken to the County Court of Victoria by its coaching services provider Elite Tennis Academy mid-last year amid a simmering feud and, even though the case was settled in the club’s favour, tensions continued to run high.

The successful outcome meant the club could begin the process of seeking expressions of interest from potential coaching providers from 1 January – with the old Elite contract set to expire in April – but it also limited the amount of information the committee could reveal to members during the frustrating period of COVID-19 inaction.

Mornington Tennis Club, at Civic Recreation Reserve in Dunns Road, is reportedly the largest clay court centre in Australia with 12 clay courts and presents itself as the “home of tennis on the Mornington Peninsula”.

Elite Tennis Academy, which manages the centre on behalf of the club, has for six years run coaching programs, internal competitions and tournaments, as well as managing court use by members and casuals.

While tennis matches and memberships were suspended because of lockdown and not much was happening on court, there was plenty of off-court action.

Former club secretary Virginia McLeod said on 30 November she was startled to receive a four-page document from new committee member Lynne Finch requesting a special general meeting to “remove the current committee and elect her own”.

Alarm bells rang as the date of the proposed meeting – 28 December – was just days before the club would be free to call for expressions of interest from coaching providers.

Ms McLeod said: “The 10 [letter] signatories proposed a new committee interestingly signed up and nominated just hours before cut-off time. None of these members had shown any previous interest in the club or assisted the committee when [we] asked for volunteers.”

The existing committee saw red, telling Ms Finch that the “attempt to overthrow this committee is to facilitate the continuation of a contract with [Elite Tennis Academy], just days before [the club] would have been able to begin a competitive open market tender process in the interests of the club and tennis playing community”.

“We have always acted with integrity and have volunteered thousands of hours at a time when we have been grossly limited in our ability to do anything under a legacy contract, the world has endured COVID-19, and while being sued by our coaching ‘partner’, not to mention dealing with the consequences of the actions of conflicted members.

“We are absolutely confident and proud of our efforts to fight for the best interests of the club, and we were very successful in doing so.”

The committee claimed the request for a spill was invalid as signatories to the letter had “conflicts of interest in regard to ETA”.

It said: “We also note that a number of new members, including those listed in your letter, both joined the club and nominated for the committee just hours before the cut-off, despite having no meaningful contact with the club previously – a trend that was disturbing at best.”

The committee asked Tennis Victoria, Tennis Australia, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire to “investigate whether the actions outlined in [the] letter meet community and integrity expectations and that due process has been followed”.

“It is our view that the integrity of both the facility lease arrangement and the club has been compromised,” it said.

Then, the six-member committee, worn down by “continued attacks”, COVID-19 and the stress of the long-running litigation, resigned “in disgust” on 10 December, just days before a special general meeting that would determine the future of the club.

Former president Thomas Kenny said the committee decided to quit because “we were never going to be sacked”.

“We could see the writing on the wall,” he said. “The meeting date was contrived to get rid of us.”

All club assets were frozen, and the keys given back to the shire for later collection by a new committee.

Thanks for stopping by and checking this article on “News & What’s On in The Frankston & Mornington Peninsula Region named “Tennis heads roll in hard ball game”. This news article was presented by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our Australian events & what’s on local stories services.

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