Animal-loving couple in Launceston put wedding on hold for pet rat rescue project

Ella Wright and Caleb Godden of Launceston are due to be married in April, but their big day may be pushed back due to rats.

The couple share their living room with 38 rodents thanks to a rat rescue project they began.

“We saw that there were some [pet rats] needing homes and rescue and it just blew up,” Ms Wright said.

Hazel Godden with two of the rats rescued by her parents.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Starting a rat rescue

The decision to get two pet rats last year was one Ms Wright and Mr Godden took seriously.

“I did months of research before even looking at buying them, so I knew what to expect,” Ms Wright said.

But not long after acquiring Loki and Klaus, Ms Wright realised through her continued online research that relatively few other rat owners were as thorough as she had been.

“People get rats thinking they are small animals with small needs,” she said.

Close shot of a brown and white rat being patted by a female hand that has an engagement ring on it
Pet rats are more difficult and costly to care for than many people think, Ms Wright says.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


But rats, Ms Wright explains, have “complex needs” which, along with the cost of keeping them, result in many rat owners not caring for their animals adequately, and not wanting to keep them for long.

This situation, which Ms Wright said was exacerbated by pet owners returning to work and school after COVID restrictions ended, was one she felt she must address.

Rehoming rehabilitated rats

Most of the rats in the rescue project arrived after having been deemed “too old, ugly, unruly or disabled” to be kept by their previous owners, and rehabilitation was the primary purpose of the project.

Beyond addressing the rats’ physical needs, Ms Wright and Mr Godden also tend to their mental and emotional health.

Rats that go on to meet health and behavioural requirements set by Ms Wright then become candidates for rehoming.

Two baby rats, one without eyes open yet, being held by two hands
Baby rats for sale online are often bred at rodent mills, Ms Wright says.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Potential owners must complete a “lengthy questionnaire” and an interview with Ms Wright to establish their ability to provide a “healthy, happy” rat home.

“[Among other things], we try to ensure that people are not going to live-feed our rats [to reptiles],” she said.

“If that happened, I would be devastated.”

Ms Wright creates a detailed “surrender profile” for each adopted rat, which she gives to its new owners, along with the promise of around-the-clock availability for consultation.

“[Running the rescue project] is 24-7 … but I do plan on taking a little bit of time off … for my wedding,” Ms Wright said.

A white and pale tan rat with pink eyes sitting on a pink folder with plastic sleeves containing a typed document
Muffin the rescued rat investigates her surrender profile.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Rats are top priority

Even the wedding, Ms Wright admits, may take a backseat to the rats, just as many other things in her life with Mr Godden have.

Man wearing cap sitting on couch patting a pale grey pet rat on the head
Mr Godden says many people don’t give rats a chance.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Money that would otherwise be saved for the wedding was currently set aside for rat surgeries, including an operation to remove a tumour from a grey male rat named Pumbaa.

“We are saving up for that … so that he can live a longer life,” Ms Wright said.

Extra funds will also be required to double the size of the rat rescue project, which Ms Wright and Mr Godden plan to do down the track.

“Obviously, that will come when we can afford a bigger house to put them all in,” Ms Wright said.

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Missing Brett Whiteley painting Waves V found during Launceston art gallery audit

An ink drawing by a famed Australian artist has been re-discovered after almost 45 years, lost in a collection of over 1.5 million items in a northern Tasmanian museum.

Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) found the Brett Whiteley artwork that was acquired in the 1970s.

The drawing called Waves V was purchased by the gallery in 1976 and was recorded in the museum’s collections.

But the item was never seen again and has never been displayed, prompting the museum to contact Tasmania Police in 2018.

Previously, the Launceston City Council estimated the work was worth around $30,000, but are now looking to get the art re-valued.

The museum undertook a review of its archiving practices and a collection audit has been underway since 2019 leading to the artworks re-discovery.

Tracy Puklowski, general manager of creative arts and cultural services, said the artwork was found in one of the drawers at the museum earlier this week.

“The work wasn’t photographed so we didn’t know what we were looking for visually, which I think is a really interesting challenge when you’re dealing with a missing object,” she said.

“You can see on the bottom right corner that’s his seal or one of the seals that he used.

“The staff were very sure that they knew what they had found, but without that independent verification you just have to keep that little bit of caution.”

The ink drawing has now been verified.

QVMAG’s first audit provides digital catalogue

The audit is aimed at creating a database of the QVMAG’s 1.5 million objects, in what is the first full audit of the collection since the museum’s inception in 1891.

Until the start of the audit, only around 18 per cent of the museum’s objects were registered in the database.

QVMAG staff members believed the artwork may have been incorrectly catalogued due to an outdated method of record-keeping used during the 1970s.

QVMAG creative arts and cultural services general manager Tracy Puklowski and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten were thrilled to confirm the Whiteley had been located.(

ABC News: Manika Champ


Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said the audit could take years to complete.

“It’s something that was wrongly categorised, it probably didn’t have the name on it properly, so I can understand how we didn’t find it in the first place.

“As the museum has continued to grow and develop over the many years, 130 years, things have been done probably quickly at times.”

The museum has now committed to digitally document every item, from the smallest native fleas to the largest railway carriage.

Each artwork or object is briefly removed from its storage area, the details are entered into the database, a basic ID photograph is taken and a barcode is allocated before the piece is returned to its storage location.

After the items are entered into the database they can be uploaded to an online catalogue so audiences around the world can engage and research the collection.

Christine Hansen, the museum’s manager of knowledge and content, said the audit had provided a wonderful opportunity for QVMAG.

“Ultimately, a museum holds a record of the past and present for the future and we must preserve this as best we can,” Ms Hansen said.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to have QVMAG’s collection meticulously assessed and documented for present and future communities to treasure and learn from.”

Brett Whiteley
The late artist Brett Whiteley’s works sell for millions.(

Supplied: Transmission Films


Whiteley is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, winning the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes several times.

He worked across several mediums, including painting, sculpture and the graphic arts, but he is best known for his paintings of nudes, interiors and harbour scenes.

Last year, a painting by Whiteley broke an Australian art auction record, selling for $6.136 million.

The large painting, called Henri’s Armchair, only took five minutes to find a new owner.

Painting in French ultramarine and dark blood red, showing interior of room looking out to Sydney harbour, from artist's view
Henri’s Armchair (1974) by Brett Whiteley sold for $6.136 million dollars last year.(

Supplied: Menzies


Ms Puklowski said Waves V is an example of Whiteley’s later work and is “very calligraphic in style”.

“It’s not necessarily representative of other styles he worked on over the years but it does represent a very interesting part of his career,” she said.

In 1992, Whiteley died of a methadone overdose on the New South Wales south coast.

His home and studio located in Sydney’s Surry Hills have been turned into a museum that is managed by the Art Gallery of NSW.

Whiteley’s Waves V will be on display at Queen Victoria Art Gallery at Royal Park at the end of March.

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Jetstar launches 4 hour fare frenzy with flights from $25

Clear your schedule and get your luggage ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adelaide to Avalon $25

Avalon to Adelaide $25

Adelaide to Sunshine Coast $75

Sunshine Coast to Adelaide $75

Adelaide to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Adelaide $45

Avalon to Sydney $35

Sydney to Avalon $35

Uluru to Brisbane $85

Brisbane to Uluru $85

Uluru to Melbourne $85

Melbourne to Uluru $85

Uluru to Sydney $89

Sydney to Uluru $89

Brisbane to Cairns $79

Cairns to Brisbane $79

Brisbane to Newcastle $55

Newcastle to Brisbane $55

Brisbane to Proserpine $55

Proserpine to Brisbane $55

Brisbane to Townsville $89

And Townsville and Brisbane $89

Ballina Byron to Melbourne $79

Melbourne to Ballina Byron $79

Ballina Byron to Sydney $45

Sydney to Ballina Byron $45

Cairns to Perth $139

Perth to Cairns $139

Hobart to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Hobart $45

Hamilton Island to Melbourne $129

Melbourne to Hamilton Island $129

Launceston to Melbourne $45

Melbourne to Launceston $45

Melbourne to Newcastle $49

Newcastle to Melbourne $49

Melbourne to Gold Coast $59

Gold Coast to Melbourne $59

Melbourne to Sydney $55

Sydney to Melbourne $55

Melbourne to Townsville $99

Townsville to Melbourne $99

Newcastle to Gold Coast $49

Gold Coast to Newcastle $49

Gold Coast to Sydney $45

Sydney to Gold Coast $45

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New allegations of historic sexual abuse at Launceston General Hospital

Five minutes of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against Ben Felton when he was only 13 has had a profound impact on the now 44-year-old’s entire life.

The alleged incident at the Launceston General Hospital, paired with what Mr Felton described as the protection of the nurse he accused of abusing him, has destroyed his trust in others, deeply affected his mental health and left him unable to bathe his own children or leave them unattended.

“It hurt, it shattered a lot of things,” Mr Felton said.

In 1989, teenage Mr Felton was admitted to the LGH paediatric ward with pneumonia.

Mr Felton alleges that when he asked for a glass of water one evening, the male nurse took him into a hospital kitchenette and “in his sick mind, decided to indulge himself”.

“I feel guilty, it made me feel dirty, and I don’t know how to comprehend it,” Mr Felton said.

Ben has sought the paperwork in his case, but records relating to allegations of child abuse are consistent only from 2002 onwards.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Records show the incident was reported by Mr Felton’s parents to hospital management and the nurse was moved to another role within the Tasmanian Health Service.

Mr Felton has repeatedly sought an apology and an explanation for what he alleges happened to him as a child.

He battled for years for the paperwork on his case, but Tasmania Police records relating to allegations of child abuse are consistent only from 2002 onwards.

Asked about the allegations, a State Government spokesman said: “The Tasmanian Government has stood down 13 state service employees in response to allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in recent months”.

“It is fundamental that investigations are not prejudiced, as well as the need to acknowledge that legal considerations demand that no further comment can be made on these matters.

‘This is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree’

Freelance journalist Camille Bianchi has shone a light on Mr Felton’s allegations in her latest episode of investigative podcast The Nurse.

Season one of her series focused on allegations against another male nurse at Launceston’s tertiary hospital — James Geoffrey Griffin.

Launceston General Hospital.
The Tasmanian Government is dealing with the fallout over allegations of sexual misconduct in the public service.(ABC News: Michael Brooks)

Mr Griffin, a paediatric nurse, took his own life in 2019 after being charged with multiple child sex offences.

“There are deeply troubling patterns of behaviour by hospital colleagues and management in [Mr Felton’s] story that I saw last year in investigating Griffin’s abuses on ward 4K,” Bianchi said.

“I felt a sense of urgency in publishing this ahead of the commission of inquiry, because it is increasingly clear this is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree.”

Ben Felton displays his arm tattoo.
Ben said he’d had a “very interesting life” and the “five minutes in that hospital kitchen” has had the biggest effect on his life.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

The commission of inquiry — Tasmania’s version of a royal commission — will examine how state government agencies have responded to historical allegations of child sexual abuse.

The Health Department’s handling of the allegations against Griffin have been singled out for particular attention.

“There will be emails and calls from distressed families who are now wondering if their child was targeted while they were in hospital, and I’ll have to say, ‘I don’t know’.”

A State Government spokesman said: “From a public interest perspective, the Tasmanian community can be assured that anyone in the care of a government agency are safe as the individuals have been stood down and appropriate assessment and further action taken.

“This matter was referred to Tasmania Police for investigation at the time of the allegation. No charges were laid.”

Mr Felton said the scars were long lasting.

“I have self-harmed, self-medicated, I have tried to run away,” he said.

“I’ve had a very interesting life, and that little five minutes in that hospital kitchen has had the biggest effect on my entire life.”

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Dwayne, Dermott, two Chiko Rolls and a cold Launceston afternoon: What could go wrong?

It can get pretty cold in Tasmania in the peak of winter, especially up in a broadcast booth open to the elements.

SEN’s Dwayne Russell found a creative solution to the Tassie chill, however, buying Chiko Rolls and stuffing them in his pockets to keep his hands warm.

“We were in Launceston, it was a really cold day broadcasting the footy, Dermott Brereton and Dennis Cometti were broadcasting that day with me,” Russell told SEN’s Dwayne’s World.

“It was freezing and I was really cold and there was no closed window on the broadcast box so the breeze was coming through.

“So I bought a couple of Chiko Rolls and put them in my pockets, warming my hands during the broadcast.”

Of course, Brereton would not allow the food to go to waste, despite spending an hour in Russell’s pockets.

“The heat went out of them by half-time, so I pulled them out of my pockets because they weren’t warm anymore and put them on the desk,” Russell added.

“Dermott looked at me and said, ‘what’s that?’ and I said, ‘it’s a Chiko Roll I’ve had in my pockets to keep my hands warm’ and he said, ‘are you going to eat it?’ and I said ‘no!’ and he ate it at half-time.”

Brereton has been reached for comment*.

*Not really.

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German man Tobias Pick charged over Launceston murder on Boxing Day

Police have released the name of a German man charged with murdering a 49-year-old woman on Boxing Day in Launceston.

Tobias Pick, 27, has been charged with one count of murder and one count of stealing.

In a statement, Tasmania Police said: “Tobias is from Germany and has been in Australia on a working visa for at least several months.”

Police were called to a Wellington St home after the woman’s body was discovered in a bedroom about 8:30pm on Saturday.

A witness, police and paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the woman.

A 25-year-old woman also arrested in relation to the alleged murder was later released.

Police said Mr Pick has been remanded in custody to reappear in court again on Wednesday.

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Man charged with murder over woman’s body found in central Launceston home

A German man has been charged with the murder of a 49-year-old woman discovered dead on Boxing Day in a home in central Launceston.

In a statement late on Monday, Tasmania Police detective inspector Craig Fox said the 27-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman had been arrested in relation to the alleged murder, but the woman was released unconditionally.

“The man was interviewed and charged with murder,” Mr Fox said.

Police were called to a Wellington Street home after the woman’s body was discovered in a bedroom about 8:30pm on Saturday.

A witness, police and paramedics tried to resuscitate the woman.

The home has since been examined by Tasmania Police and Forensic Services Tasmania.

Police had appealed for dash-cam footage from the busy Launceston street.

The man will appear in the Launceston Court of Petty Sessions on Monday night.

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Tasmanian coroner finds 2017 deaths of sisters Ruby and Shanzel Brewer, near Launceston, were an ‘avoidable tragedy’

A Tasmanian coroner has described the death of two sisters in a shed fire in 2017 as an “indescribable, but avoidable tragedy”.

Ruby Brewer and her sister Shanzel were just 13 and 11 years old when the shed they were sleeping in caught fire and burnt to the ground.

At the time of their deaths, the girls were living on a 3.1-hectare rural block in Turners Marsh, north of Launceston.

The block of land was owned by Kristy Seymour, who had built the shed in 2009 with her then-partner Shaun Holden. They did not have a council planning or building permit.

In his report, coroner Simon Cooper noted that at the time it was built, Ms Seymour was “operating the property as some type of foster home”.

He said it was evident that Child and Family Services was aware that children placed under her care would be living in a shed, and had “actively encouraged the construction of the shed and provided financial assistance” with building costs.

The 6 x 6-metre galvanised shed was lined with pine panelling and separated into two bedrooms and a lounge-type area. It had no water or plumbing and had only one entrance.

Concerns over electrical work

The electrical works were done by Bryan Pike, a man who, at the time, “did not hold the necessary licence to perform electrical work of the type carried out” at the property,” Magistrate Cooper said.

In 2013, he was investigated by a regulator for performing unlicensed electrical work and was cautioned. He would later refuse to cooperate with the coronial investigation.

In December 2015, Clifford Brewer moved into the property, unofficially leasing it from Ms Seymour, with his partner, the three children they shared, an 18-year-old family friend and Ruby and Shanzel — his daughters from a previous relationship.

Ruby and Shanzel had been living in the shed for a year. Ruby slept in the front room, Shanzel in the rear. The rest of the family were sleeping in the main house.

On the evening of Saturday, June 10, 2017, the girls ate their evening meal in the main house before eventually returning to the shed to go bed.

Neither girl was seen alive again.

Ruby and Shanzel Brewer died after the shed they were sleeping in caught fire in June 2017.(ABC News: Carla Howarth)

Just after 2:30am, a neighbour called emergency services to report what he thought was a bushfire.

It would take almost another hour for fire crews to arrive on the scene.

By that time, the shed had burnt to the ground and both girls were dead.

While Magistrate Cooper described the response time as “poor”, he said that the evidence did not suggest an earlier arrival would have altered the outcome.

When the girls’ bodies were recovered, they were so badly burnt that they had to be identified using a combination of DNA analysis and forensic dental examination.

A forensic pathologist concluded that both girls died as a result of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation.

The fire investigation concluded that the fire was caused by either an electrical fault, which caused the combustible materials in the shed to ignite, or from the introduction of a mobile ignition source, such as a candle.

There was no evidence that a smoke detector or detectors had been installed in the shed. During the inquest, Mr Brewer suggested that the fitting of smoke detectors was the responsibility of the property owner.

Tributes at funeral of Lilydale sisters Ruby and Shanzel Brewer
Tributes at Ruby and Shanzel Brewer’s funeral.(ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

Defects indicated ‘dangerous standard’ of electrical work

Magistrate Cooper said a further investigation of the electrical works was unable to determine the cause, however, a number of defects were found.

“It is evident that the most likely source of the fire, which incinerated Ruby and Shanzel, was electrical.”

The coronial investigation revealed that Mr Brewer and his family had had ongoing issues with the electrical supply at the property.

Various people including the landowner’s son, her boyfriend, and Mr Brewer took a “look at the problem”. None of them had any electrical qualifications.

When Ms Seymour sent a qualified electrician to look at the main home in May 2017, about a month before the girls’ death, the coroner’s report said Mr Brewer declined his offer to look at the shed.

Magistrate Cooper concluded his inquest by saying the girls’ deaths were avoidable.

“Coroners, fire authorities and safety experts have repeatedly warned about the need for properly operating smoke detectors to be installed in homes.

“I recommend that every home occupier install and maintain properly operating smoke detectors, especially in rooms where people are sleeping.”

Fire crews at the scene of the fatal fire in Turners Marsh.
Fire crews at the scene of the fatal fire in Turners Marsh in June 2017.(ABC News)

He also said it was “quite clear that the electrical work at the property was dangerous”.

“The ultimate responsibility for this rests with Ms Seymour,” Magistrate Cooper wrote.

“It is also quite clear that Mr Brewer had attempted to do electrical work himself and declined the assistance of a qualified electrician.

“I comment that no-one should ever carry out electrical work of any kind unless they are properly qualified and licensed to do so.”

As no-one was able to determine the actual source of the electrical fire, Mr Cooper made no finding identifying any person as being responsible for the deaths of Ruby and Shanzel.

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Tasmanian bicycle collector’s daughter hopes Launceston bike museum can re-open

When Graham Austin — inventor, bicycle maker and church pastor — opened a bike museum in Launceston, Tasmania, he welcomed in schoolkids and the community.

Now, a decade after the museum was closed, his daughter hopes the intact collection, which is tucked away in an old high school building in the Launceston suburb of Ravenswood, can be revived and opened for public viewing.

More than 300 bicycles are on display, but since Mr Austin died in 2011 they have mainly been collecting dust.

“It’s actually a whole lifetime of collection,” his daughter, Merrilyn Billing, said.

Bikes similar to this were used for tree pruning… riders could turn them on their side and have an instant ladder.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

“He would go to auctions to try and find something he didn’t have, and he would then bid for it and put it with his collection.”

Mr Austin opened the museum in the Zions Hill Church at Ravenswood — about 10 minutes from Launceston’s city centre — in the early 2000s.

“He moved out to an area with a lot of needs and used to take people out on bike rides,” Ms Billing said.

“When he first opened it, school groups came in and had a look, and children from the community used to bring in their bikes for him to repair.”

A black motorcycle in a dark room under a spotlight
The bike museum features old and modern bikes that are all still on display(ABC Tasmania: Mitchell Woolnough)

Mr Austin also made his own bikes, called Ausso bikes.

A bunch of red, blue and yellow bicycles in a group
The museum’s founder Graham Austin made his own bicycles called Ausso bikes(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

“He used to take little bits and pieces and make crazy sort of bikes and little penny farthings and all of that.

“One time, years ago, he built a fun park down the West Tamar, down on the wetlands, and that’s where he used to bring out all his contraptions.”

‘Waiting for the right people’ to reopen it

Many bikes at the Zions Hill Bike Museum were made in Tasmania, while others were from around the world.

A bike ridden by retired Australian track cyclist Danny Clark in his early days hangs in the “hall of fame” section of the museum.

A whole range of different bikes in a big room
There are more than 300 bikes in the museum, including an old McKinlays Department Store delivery bike.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

Other bikes, including an old McKinlay’s Department Store delivery bike — a store once in Launceston’s Brisbane Street mall — were donated.

“He wanted the public to see what was here,” Ms Billing said.

Ms Billing said the museum had only opened for special occasions or organised group events since Mr Austin died.

An old bike with big wheels handing on a green wall
This old Maxwell bike was ridden by retired former Australian cyclist Danny Clark, who went on to win five world championships.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

She said the family had decided against selling any of the bikes in the collection, despite the museum remaining closed.

She said her father would have loved to see his bike legacy live on.

“I think he’d love to see it actually there for the public again,” Ms Billing said.

“So we’ve still got it here, I guess, waiting for the right people to come and help make it happen.”

An old sign with the words "care shop and bike museum" under dark cloudy sky
The bike museum sign remains despite it not being open to the public since 2011.(ABC Tasmania: Mitch Woolnough)

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