Assistance dog is life-changing for Bundaberg teen Summer Farrelly, who lives with autism

For Bundaberg teenager Summer Farrelly, the simple act of walking into a shop to buy milk can be overwhelming and exhausting.

The 13-year-old lives with autism and can feel overwhelmed when she is out of her comfort zone — but her new four-legged friend is changing her life.

Onyx, a two-year-old black labrador, helps Summer stay calm and grounded when she is struggling.

“Onyx, to start off with, is a mirror,” Summer said.

“What he does is, he can identify my emotions before I identify them, which means he can tell me how I’m feeling, so I can regulate myself better and from that information I can work out whether I need to leave or if I’m doing too much.”

The “eyes focus” command helps Summer connect with Onyx.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

Hatching a new friendship

Animal-assisted therapy has helped Summer manage her autism since she started working with chickens at the age of nine in a bid to better understand human behaviour and her emotions.

She developed an autism therapy program called Chickens to Love, but as she grew older felt she needed a companion animal support her when she was out in the community.

“I’m on high alert and worried about absolutely everything and anything that can happen,” Summer said.

“He’s a distraction, a thought-blocker.

A card with the words "sorry I am unable to stop and talk. Oynx and I are working" written on it with a young girl and dog.
This card helps explain why Onyx can’t stop for a pat and chat.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

‘This age group is the future’

Assistance dogs are different from companion or therapy animals in that they are certified and protected under the disability discrimination act.

Once they are trained, they have public access rights to shops, cinemas and public transport.

They are used to help people living with a variety of physical or mental disabilities and symptoms.

Claire Turner, a former canine explosive detection handler who now trains assistance dogs and works with their owners, saw Summer receive three Animal Therapies Ltd awards for her chicken-assisted learning program in early 2020.

Ms Turner thought Summer would make a perfect candidate for the assistance dog program and coordinated the placement of Onyx with Summer while mentoring her.

While it is usually more common for the parents of young people to be the handlers of the dogs, Summer’s experience with animals showed she had the insight to manage the program herself.

“We work a lot with older people, but my passion with canine assistance is to mentor the next generation,” Ms Turner said.

“Summer and this age group is the future.

Getting to bed on time

Onyx does not only help Summer when she is out and about.

The dog has been trained to observe her physical and mental signals and alert her to changing behaviours — even down to making sure she goes to bed on time and puts her phone away.

“If I don’t come with him and lay on my bed he will bark — he won’t listen to anything I say because he is telling me to go to bed,” Summer said.

“When I go to bed with any sort of device, he will bark until I put the device down because he wants me to close my eyes and sleep.

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AFL 2021: Leigh Matthews, ‘all lives matter’, Mick McCormack, reaction

On Tuesday, acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack was slammed over his use of the phrase “all lives matter” with Labor blasting the phrase as “beyond disgusting”.

But the Nationals leader has received a strong defence with AFL legend Leigh Matthews calling the anger head scratching.

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Mr McCormack, who is filling in for Scott Morrison while he’s on holidays, used the phrase to reject criticism after comparing the rioters who overtook the Capitol with anti-racism Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.

Round 1

Mr McCormack said he would not apologise for criticising violent protests, regardless of the motivations underpinning them.

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Kwinana Freeway southbound closed as bushfire threatens lives and homes in Baldivis

The bushfire is moving fast in a north easterly direction and residents were warned burning embers were likely to be blown around their homes.


Avoid the area and be aware of fire and emergency services personnel working on site.

Kwinana Freeway southbound is closed between Safety Bay Road and Karnup Road.

Motorists are asked to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully due to smoke.

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Gini Wijnaldum told he “can’t get away with” Liverpool wages as he hasn’t “changed lives”

Gini Wijnaldum can’t consider himself to be worthy of a place among Liverpool’s top earners, according to former Premier League striker Darren Bent.

Dutch midfielder Wijnaldum is out of contract with the Reds at the end of the season, and there currently appears to be little chance of him signing a new deal in the coming weeks.

Liverpool are said to want to keep the 30-year-old, who has consistently been a key player for Jurgen Klopp, but both parties are currently apart on issues concerning the offer of a new deal.

The former Newcastle man is still on the same contract he signed after arriving from the Magpies in the summer of 2016, and he is said to earn around £75,000 a week.

While the impasse over a new deal is believed to centre around the number of years on the contract, several reports indicate that Wijnaldum is also after a hike in wages that will put him on a par with some of the club’s top earners.

Wijnaldum is out of contract at the end of the season

Former Tottenham, Aston Villa and England forward Bent doesn’t think he’s worth that though, and has questioned Wijnaldum’s position in the squad.

“He’s been very, very good, but no, I’m not putting him on the same wages as Salah, Mane, even Firmino, for that matter,” Bent told Football Insider.

“But to kind of catapult yourself to where van Dijk is, Alisson, these guys, them two, for instance, changed lives at Liverpool when they came in.

“So to say you want to be on the same kind of level as them, I don’t think so, you can’t get away with that.

“He certainly deserves a bigger wage than he’s probably on but to say that he wants to be one of the top earners in the same bracket as them guys, no.”

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Police response to pro-Trump protesters was different to Black Lives Matter. I know why

Like many in Australia, I awoke Thursday to an America in crisis.

From Sydney, I pounced on the images as they filed in — MAGA-clad rioters scaling the walls of the Capitol, or taking selfies on the floor of the Senate, or laidback in the office of the Speaker of the House.

In those initial moments, they left me, above all else, confused. Where were the wounded? The fallen?

I’ve lived in DC and I’ve seen the forces that patrol our halls of government. Surely, I assumed, they didn’t give way willingly.

In the midst of the attack on the Capitol, CNN commentator Van Jones was one of many to echo a quickly growing call: “Imagine if #BlackLivesMatter were the ones who were storming the Capitol building”.


It wasn’t long ago that BLM occupied those same streets, so we don’t have to strain hard to imagine.

In June, authorities unleashed flash grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets upon peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters assembled in Lafayette Square, mere blocks from the Capitol, so that President Donald Trump could pose for a photograph in front of St John’s Church.

US President Donald Trump poses for a photograph in front of St John’s Church, after Capitol Police used force to clear Lafayette Square.

When speaking of protestors outside the White House the day before, Trump said that if they breached the gates they “would … have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least”.

Cities across the country witnessed violence unleashed on protesters — peaceful and otherwise — and over 10,000 people were arrested.

Those national protests were, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, 93 per cent peaceful.


In response to Thursday’s violence, MSNBC commentator Joy Reid stated the seemingly obvious: “Guarantee you if that was a Black Lives Matter protest in DC there would already be people shackled, arrested or dead”.

A difference too stark to ignore

The contrast in responses to Thursday’s events and the BLM protests over the American summer was too stark to ignore. Black Lives Matter’s official account tweeted that authorities provided “one more example of the hypocrisy in our country’s law enforcement response to protest”.


But that is where they were wrong.

There was no logical inconsistency in authorities’ response to the attack; they simply upheld the mantel they’ve been handed. State-sanctioned, black brutalisation is as American as apple pie. So is violent white grievance.

Black brutalisation is woven into the very fabric of America. The nation was, quite literally, built upon it.

According to Yale historian David Blight, in the final years before emancipation, “the nearly 4 million American slaves were worth some $US3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire US economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined”.

A protester wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt holds up a phone as he stands in front of riot police.
When Black Lives Matter protestors took to the streets of the US recently, more than 10,000 were arrested.(AP: Morry Gash)

The Capitol itself was constructed by enslaved peoples. The Civil War, the bloodiest in our nation’s history, was waged over the right to continue black brutalisation and in the century that followed, lynching, or mob justice, claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people.

Many of these executions were staged as communal spectacles — organisers often mass-produced postcards emblazoned with images of the bodies so attendees could commemorate the affair.

Today, black men are imprisoned at a rate of more than five times their white counterparts and are more than 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by the police. It is, of course, this last iteration that has grabbed headlines most recently.

For years we have been drip-fed videos of unarmed black Americans facing their final moments of life. Like a generation ago, the images of black suffering come home with us.

The airing of white grievance has, since our founding, been the other side of this coin.

The insurrectionists on Thursday marched under the Confederate flag, a fitting ode to their treasonous forebears who similarly failed in their attempt to overthrow our institutions.


Fruits of the same grisly tree

Decades after, in the summer of 1919, as World War I veterans returned from war to an economy unprepared to accept them, racial tensions flared in cities across the United States. Between April and October of that year, white mobs beat and lynched hundreds with impunity in a period known as the Red Summer.

Two years, later, white mobs decimated Tulsa, Oklahoma, then the most prosperous black community in America, killing dozens. Two years after that, white mobs did the same to Rosewood, Florida.

Young men holding torches march in the night.
In 2017, white supremacists organisations descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, clashing with counter protesters there.(The Indianapolis Star via AP)

In 2017, we were reminded of this history when white supremacists organisations descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, clashing with counter-protesters there. Then, as now, police were ill-prepared to confront the threat. Counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed in that conflict.

Violent white grievance has long roots in our country and Trumpism itself is an inheritor to its legacy. That is the thinly veiled core of statements like “there were good people on both sides” and “stand back and stand by”.

Which is why it should come as little surprise that snarled at BLM protesters — “when the looting starts the shooting starts” — yet embraced Thursday’s rioters — “Go home. We love you. You’re very special. I know how you feel”.

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Donald Trump calls for peace as protesters overrun police

It does not matter that protesters were, in the first instance, acting on the unjust killings of American citizens and, in the second, attempting to uproot the very foundation of our democracy.

Both reactions underscore a truth that black Americans have long known: it is safer to be white and wrong than it is to be black and right.

Grief is only legitimate when aired by white voices. That is our American legacy.

It is why a black man can kneel for the national anthem and receive the ire of a nation. It is why white men can storm the Capitol Building dressed in military fatigues, draped in the rebel flag, and toast to their own patriotism upon arrival.

Both are fruits of the same grisly tree.

Cole Brown is an American political commentator and author of Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World.

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Trump supporters attack US Capitol after Black Lives Matter protests

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Australian nurses in the frontline fight to save lives as coronavirus overwhelms UK hospitals

The coronavirus health crisis facing the United Kingdom is dire, this week forcing the country back into lockdown until at least mid February as authorities brace for the potential of hospitals being completely overwhelmed.

There are routinely more than 50,000 new cases being recorded each day as an aggressive new strain of the virus takes hold.

Health workers are stretched to the limit, and among them are many Australian professionals.

Here, three Australian nurses tell first-hand of their experiences.

Emily Regan, 29

Perth-born nurse Emily works in accident and emergency at a major London hospital

I’m in one of the best, most safely staffed hospitals in the UK, but even we no longer have enough doctors, nurses or beds. On my past three shifts we’ve been between three and six nurses down.

In Accident and Emergency (A&E) we’re seeing 300 to 350 patients a day. That’s about the same as during the first wave, but their acuity has increased, meaning they are sicker and need greater care.

We’ve also got lots of people turning up with non-emergencies because they can’t see their GP.

In April, we had extra doctors redeployed from other areas and a special COVID intubation team. Hypoxic patients could be instantly intubated and in ITU (intensive care) within 30 minutes if necessary. The efficiency was amazing.

But now we have limited extra support because other health services like outpatient clinics and non-emergency surgeries are still running.

We’re also accepting ICU transfers from hospitals that have no capacity. It’s great we can offer that support, but soon we’ll have to stop because we won’t have capacity ourselves.

At one point last night, we had eight ambulances waiting outside to deliver patients, and a wait time of about 1.5 hours.

The anxiety when you’re walking into a shift is huge. We know it’s going to be hard, but just how hard is the question.

There have been times when I felt like I wasn’t able to give my patients the care they needed, or I’d not advocated well enough for them. I’ve just been scrambling all day, not taking toilet breaks — or not even needing a toilet break because I haven’t even had time to drink enough water.

That’s the hardest part: feeling like you’ve not given someone the care they deserve.

Luckily, I’ve stayed healthy so far. I’ve been on the Oxford vaccine trial since June, so I’ve been swabbing weekly for that, as well as doing COVID sensitivity tests twice a week.

‘People don’t want to have an educated discussion’

Emily Regan (centre), pictured with family during a holiday in Cornwall, says she has seen burnt-out nurses leave the industry.(Supplied)

I am lucky to have good mental health, but it’s been hard to see colleagues struggling. I have seen some brilliant nurses just be done with it all and leave. It is such a loss.

On Boxing Day, morale was really low. We were just so busy and understaffed, and I found myself becoming easily irritated. My colleagues noticed I wasn’t my usual upbeat, joking self. I try to put on a friendly, happy face for my patients but it can be draining, so my colleagues aren’t getting the best version of me when they need it the most.

Occasionally, I run into COVID deniers protesting outside the hospital. It no longer shocks me. I just don’t engage. I originally did but there’s no point anymore. People don’t want to have an educated discussion.

Once someone’s seen a patient who is hypoxic from this virus and is aware of the time and resources directed at saving their life, then they have the right to an opinion. Otherwise, stay in your lane. I’m not going to waste my limited time on you.

‘Things are terrible and it’s only the start’

Seeing everyone at home lead normal lives is difficult at times, but I’ve lived in the UK for four years now and built a life here.

As hard as this past year has been, I love my job and have incredible friendships with my colleagues. I don’t want to walk away from all of that.

But we’re burnt out, and it’s made harder by the necessary restrictions. We can’t socialise and blow off steam outside work like we used to. We can’t visit friends and have them make us a cup of tea and just look after us for a little while.

About 60 per cent of the staff in my department are from overseas, so many of us don’t have families here either. We’re all just really tired. Things are terrible and we know it’s only the start of the next wave.

Louise Faint, 25

Louise is a nurse from Perth and works at a hospital in the West Midlands

Louise Faint poses for a selfie photo in front of Stonehenge.
Louise Faint fears more people will die if the nation’s hospitals become overwhelmed.(Supplied)

I work in A&E in one of the UK’s worst-hit areas.

It’s pretty much as close to the COVID front line as you can get and the situation is deteriorating.

A few weeks ago we could go a few hours without seeing any patients in the “hot” area, where COVID cases are treated, and now we’re seeing 10 or more every shift.

It doesn’t sound like many, but most of those are quite poorly and require lots of care and close monitoring. And like everywhere, we are short staffed.

If hospitals are overwhelmed there’s a greater chance people will die unnecessarily simply because we won’t be unable to provide the care they deserve.

‘Their cries and distress are haunting’

Louise Faint poses for a photo in front of an old castle.
Louise Faint says she has battled loneliness and burnout.(Supplied)

I’ve been a nurse for a little under three years but I only joined A&E last January.

In this past year, I’ve experienced my first CPR, my first resuscitation attempt and my first patient deaths.

Last week, I had two patient deaths over two shifts. One was somewhat expected but the other was a normally fit and well 30-year-old who was brought in in cardiac arrest.

Seeing their families is usually what upsets me the most. Their cries and distress are haunting.

It’s been heartbreaking to see very sick patients go through it all alone because visitors weren’t allowed.

I’ve held the hands of lonely, elderly people while they fought for breath. I’ve tried to reassure families about their loved ones over the phone when I wasn’t even sure myself.

‘I made myself sick from overworking’

Louise Faint stands with her boyfiend Alex in the snow.
Louise Faint says having her boyfriend Alex (right) with her in England has helped her.(Supplied)

I’ve battled loneliness too. The pandemic began not long after I moved over, and then the national lockdown was announced and my boyfriend’s move from Perth was delayed.

I was working seven days a week just so I could be with other people and not alone with my thoughts. It was a really low time. I was stressed, bordering on the edge of depression, and I made myself sick from overworking. In May, my boyfriend arrived and things got better.

Now, though, a lot of staff are totally burnt out. We have short fuses and get worked up over small things that would normally not be an issue, such as doctors requesting another x-ray after we’ve already taken the patient for one.

I struggle to sleep before my shifts and I’ve stopped seeing the good in my day-to-day life. I never feel like I’m rested or have had a break. On my days off I barely have the energy to move off the sofa.

‘Staff often feel like they at risk’

Louise Faint, wearing PPE gear that covers her entire body, gives a thumbs-up.
Louise faint, pictured in PPE, says staff struggle to keep up with changing coronavirus policies.(Supplied)

The way the UK Government has handled things has caused a lot of confusion. The tier system is terrible and restrictions change so suddenly that making plans is next to impossible.

Even for medical staff, the rules change a lot. There are constant updates to policies and regulations surrounding PPE, swabbing, results timeframes, admission criteria, and trying to determine what’s potential COVID-19 and what’s asthma.

Staff often feel like they are out of the loop and being put at risk.

But I have a stable job and I have learnt so much.

Travel home out of the question

I came to the UK because I couldn’t get a job as a newly qualified nurse in Western Australia. I went to an NHS nursing expo in Perth in March 2019 and was offered one on the spot.

Living overseas has always been a dream of mine and I knew that if I didn’t take the leap of faith then I never would.

I’d love to go back and see my family soon but with flights costing at least 3,000 pounds ($5,303) it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Sarah*, 27

Sarah is a nurse from Sydney working at a London hospital

A masked nurse adjusts their blue plastic glove in an operation room.
Sarah says members of the public “don’t seem to understand, or care, how dangerous COVID is”.(Rawpixel: Chanikarn Thongsupa)

At the start of the year, when it became clear we were facing a pandemic, I was retrained to work in intensive care.

My background is in respiratory nursing but I had never worked a day in an intensive care unit (ICU) before, not even in university rotations.

I was petrified, but it was essential.

‘I went home and just cried’

Intensive care shifts are 10 times more stressful than other shifts.

Patients are so sick, and COVID patients deteriorate so much faster. A normal shift might have one deterioration a day. A COVID ICU shift will have multiple patients deteriorating and multiple patients dying.

Normally, one nurse will look after one or two patients on breathing machines in an open space. That is the safe ratio. During COVID the ratio is more like one to four or five, and now they are all in single rooms, making them effectively invisible if they deteriorate.

My first ICU shift was in the middle of the night. I was meant to be doing a “shadow shift” — following a nurse around to get an introduction — but we had no staff, so as the most senior of the learning nurses I was asked to take a patient.

During the shift my patient deteriorated and could no longer tolerate the breathing machine.

They were intubated at 5:00am. It was a tricky intubation with a lot of different medical professionals involved. I had to quickly learn about new medications, a new breathing machine and complicated new settings. I have never been more stressed in my life.

Sadly, the patient passed away. I went home that morning and just cried.

Scared and angry, but determined to help

The numbers now are higher than they were in April. That is terrifying.

People don’t seem to understand, or care, how dangerous COVID is. They aren’t taking it seriously anymore, or they think they are invincible.

I have one friend who thinks it’s made up. I can’t even bring myself to argue with them now because I get too angry.

The hardest thing has been pretending to loved ones in Australia that I’m fine when really I’ve been very scared and homesick.

I’ve nearly gone home on multiple occasions, but I stay because I feel I have a duty to the NHS and to the sick people of the UK.

Some days it’s almost impossible to be strong for my patients. I’ve cried with husbands and wives, sons and daughters on the telephone. I try to put them at ease when deep down I don’t whether the person they love will survive or not.

It scares me that my own family are so far away and I have no way of getting home to them quickly. But I love my hospital and I’m so proud to be part of the NHS. None of this is their fault.

*Not her real name.
Kate Guest is an Australian journalist based in the UK

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Proud Boys leader Henry Tarrio arrested after Black Lives Matter banner set on fire | US News

The leader of the far-right Proud Boys has been arrested after it was claimed he burned a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from a historic Black church in downtown Washington last month.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, was arrested after he arrived in the US capital ahead of protests planned by supporters of president Donald Trump to coincide with the congressional vote expected on Wednesday to affirm Joe Biden’s election victory.

Tarrio was taken into custody after a warrant was issued for his arrest for destruction of property, police said.

He is also facing weapons charges after officers found him with two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested.

A pro-Trump rally in December ended in violence as hundreds of Trump supporters, some wearing the signature black and yellow of the Proud Boys, clashed with counter protesters attempting to bar them from Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Later in the evening, vandals tore down a Black Lives Matter banner and sign from two historic Black churches in downtown Washington and set the banner alight.

Video posted online showed people pouring an accelerant on a banner near the Asbury United Methodist Church and setting it alight.

More from Black Lives Matter

Tarrio told The Washington Post he joined in with the burning of the Black Lives Matter banner and said he would plead guilty to destruction of property and pay the church the cost.

“We just want to see justice be done,” the Reverend Dr Ianther Mills, senior pastor at Asbury, said in an interview on Monday.

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Access to Lancelin cut off as Gingin blaze rages on, threatening lives, homes and animals

Warning areas

Residents in Regans Ford, Red Gully, Cowalla, Moore River National Park, Nilgen, Mimegarra, Karakin, Yathroo, Orange Springs, Lancelin and Ledge Point, including Ocean Farms and Seaview Park, are being issued an emergency warning they are in danger and need to act immediately to survive.

A watch and act advice is in place for parts of Wedge island, Mimegarra, Nilgen and Cooljarloo and residents in parts of of Lancelin, Nilgen Karakin and Ledge Point are under an advice alert.

Gingin’s out of control bushfire is spreading quickly, reigniting fears for homes and safety.

The bushfire, which started near the intersection of Mogumber Road an Brand Highway in Red Gully, which is out of control and unpredictable, is moving fast in a westerly direction at three kilometres per hour, according to the DFES.

Burning embers are likely to be blown around and are starting spot fires up to 200 metres ahead of the fire and there is a lot of ash and dust blowing over the fireground.

People within the emergency area are advised it was too late to evacuate horses and large animals or to handle animal movements outside.

An evacuation centre has been set up at Guilderton Country Club on Wedge Street, Guilderton, which will be open from 5.30pm Monday.

“If you cannot leave, you need to get ready to shelter in your home,” DFES advised.

“Go to a room in your home away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape.

“Choose a room with two exits and water such as a kitchen or laundry.”

People who shelter should close all doors and windows and turn off evaporative air conditioners but keep water running in the system if possible.

If the house residents are sheltering in catches fire and conditions become unbearable, than they should move to an area outside which is already burnt.

Residents should protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and trousers – made from cotton or wool – and strong leather boots.

People in an area bounded by Brand Highway, Nammegarra Road, Mimegarra Road, Dingo Road, Nilgen Road, Indian Ocean Drive, KW Road, Sappers Road, Orange Springs Road and Nabaroo Road are in the path of the fire.

Residents within the watch and act area are urged to take animals to stay with a friend or family member or to a private boarding or agistment arrangement. Its advises to move livestock through paddocks with a low fuel load and ensure the animals have feed and drinking water for several days of high to extreme temperatures.


A number of roads have been closed including Indian Ocean Drive from K.W Road to Wedge Island Road, K.W Road (East of Indian Ocean Drive), Nilgen Road (East of Indian Ocean Drive) and Minegarra Road from Meadows Road to Sappers Road.

Strong easterly winds, hot temperatures set to continue

The Bureau of Meteorology is also predicting extremely hot and dry conditions going into next week, which only fuelled the unpredictability of a fire threat.

The bureau is predicting wind speeds f over 30km/h during Tuesday morning at a top of 34 degrees.

DFES Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters said climate change had caused fires to burn with the same intensity into the evenings, where before firefighters would get a lull or reprieve with cooling conditions.

“Whenever you come into a period of hot weather and gusty easterly winds in you’re in for a world of hurt,” Mr Waters said.

He said DFES was expecting this fire season to be the same as last year’s Yanchep fires, with active fires burning into the night, which also happened over the weekend.

Kwinana tip to burn for days

A bushfire in Kwinana which had ignited a rubbish tip had kept more than 100 firefighters busy on Monday.

“We’ve been advised that the smoke coming off is no more harmful than bushfire smoke, so we’re asking residents to stay indoors and close all windows and doors,” Mr Waters said.

The blaze, which started just after 12.30pm on Saturday near the intersection of Thomas Road and Gilmore Avenue in Orelia, has razed 240 hectares of bushland. It is yet unclear what caused the fire.

The uncontained bushfire is moving slowly in a westerly direction, with authorities warning of burning embers being likely blown around homes in the naval base, Kwinana Beach, Hope Valley, Orelia, Pamelia, Calista, Leda, Medina, Kwinana town centre and East Rockingham.

Mr Waters said the ability to gain control had been “extremely challenging”, with temperatures set to soar to almost 40 degrees by Saturday.

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Loo paper, karens, rona: How COVID-19 controlled our lives

Coronavirus was the overseas disease. Until it wasn’t.

We knew it was on cruise ships and we had locals from Mackay and Whitsundays on board in late February.

But back then I was still planning on jetsetting to Italy and Spain for my friend’s 50th.

“It’ll be fine. The virus is just in the north of Italy,” we assured ourselves.

“We’re young and this virus is hitting the oldies,” we told our families.

On March 10, our trip was cancelled when Italy closed its borders to try to shut down the spread of COVID-19 as hospitals were overrun with patients and deaths escalated.

A few days later, we were given a directive to work from home and our office administrator was madly ordering hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes.

Before we knew it, schools were closing until further notice, state borders were slamming shut and people were losing their jobs as non-essential services shut down.

At first toilet paper gate was a great lark as people brawled in supermarket aisles ready to stock up for the long haul.

That was until a mother of two at the Merc was down to one roll and could not find more anywhere in Mackay.

It was great amusement for the team when my latest Who Gives A Crap delivery arrived in the office earlier in the middle of the panic gripping the country.

Flatten the curve. Practice social distancing. Sing happy birthday while washing your hands.

The council election went ahead on March 28 and Queensland went into full lockdown two days later.

With cases rising to 689, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk dramatically tightened social-distancing restrictions and announced a two-person rule for all Queensland households.

It meant we were only allowed to gather and exercise with one other person, outside of family members living in the same house.

We were not allowed to travel outside the home except for four essential reasons: getting food, medical reasons, work and exercise, under threat of $1334.50 on-the-spot fines from police.

It was scary, isolating and an unprecedented control of our civil rights.

But when you look at the United States hitting more than 3000 deaths in a single day this month and healthcare systems across the country at breaking point, I think there’s little doubt we had short term pain for long term gain.

After the Melbourne outbreak that put my family into lockdown for months, it’s rather scary to see New South Wales teetering on the edge during the festive season.

While many of our business owners have suffered the effects of the lockdown and subsequent restrictions, Mackay has escaped relatively unscathed compared to much of the country and for that I am thankful.

And I know our health workers in Mackay are prepared for another outbreak in 2021 if it comes – the scramble in March has prepared them well.

Fingers crossed we remain safe in 2021 until we can safely administer a vaccine to enough of the country to create herd immunity.

But if not, that we can put our trust in our community leaders again to keep us safe.


Here’s a snapshot of how it unfolded in Mackay:

News of the coronavirus spreading through cruise ships was talk of the Daily Mercury office in February as we learned of couples from Mackay and Cannonvale aboard one docked off the coast of Japan.

February 6: Whitsunday reporter Laura Thomas first reported Glenn, who is known as Boris, and Lynne Dunn were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the Japanese port of Yokohama along with almost 4000 other passengers who have been put into mandatory quarantine for two weeks.

The couple’s cabin was about four metres wide and six metres long with a kingsize bed and ensuite but they had a sense of humour about the situation

February 19: When deputy editor Tara Miko spoke to Peter and Linda Giles from the tiny room they were holed up in on the Diamond Princess, they joked “next time we might go bush”.

Little did any of us know, that’s exactly what we’ve had to do for the rest of the year and probably well into next year as the virus took hold worldwide and shut down international travel.

And, back then, their quarantine in Darwin was free before that became untenable for Australians returning to their home country.


Mercury front February 19, 2020.

February 21: A few days later the retired Andergrove couple were back on home soil and still cracking jokes about their predicament in a Darwin camp.

Turns out they were right next door to another Mackay couple who had been neighbours of Mrs Giles in the 1960s.

On the same day, we learned the Cannonvale couple were split up when Boris had an 11th-hour positive coronavirus diagnosis.

Just as they were about to disembark, he was stranded in Japan longer as Lynne flew to Darwin.


Mercury front February 21, 2020.

Mercury front February 21, 2020.


February 26: Mr Dunn was taken on an overnight bus to Osaka where he ended up testing negative in three more tests and was allowed to return to the Whitsundays while his wife stayed in the Northern Territory.

March 6: Two staff members from Glencore’s Hail Creek mine were isolated after experiencing flu-like symptoms but two days later they returned negative COVID results.


Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 13, 2020.

Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 13, 2020.


March 13: The first Central Queensland case was confirmed on March 13, with Queensland Health stating a man tested positive in Rockhampton.

The 60 year old quarantined in Rockhampton Hospital after initially flying into Mackay and then travelling across Central Queensland, including to Daunia mine.

It is understood the man came into contact with a 56-year-old woman who tested positive to the virus after holidaying in Indonesia before he flew north.

He met with people in Mackay before driving out to the mine site for a training presentation to BMA mine workers.

March 15: Two days later, a second case.

A United Kingdom tourist, who defied orders to stay in quarantine, flew to Hamilton Island from Sydney.

Health authorities in New South Wales alerted Queensland Health which undertook contact tracing.

The woman, 36, was taken to Mackay Base Hospital the next day, on March 16, and put into quarantine.

She was found on the beach at Hamilton Island, after reportedly not understanding the directive to self-isolate following a positive test for the virus in New South Wales.

It is understood the woman was the first person with the virus in our region.


Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 16, 2020.

Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 16, 2020.



March 16: A man was evacuated from a bulk carrier moored off Hay Point under COVID-19 precautions.

RACQ CQ Rescue landed on the 292-metre long bulk carrier to airlift a sick crewman to hospital.

The 39-year-old Filipino sailor had become unwell on the vessel Pan Bona and required immediate hospitalisation

March 20: A travelling companion of the British backpacker who was isolated in hospital is the second confirmed case for the region.

It is understood the travelling companion was taken to hospital at the same time as a precaution because of the high risk there would be a second positive test result.

March 21: Contact tracing is under way for a number of passengers on board a flight from Brisbane to Mackay as Queensland Health issues a public health alert.

Passengers in rows 11 through to 15 on-board Qantas flight QF2512, which landed on Monday March 9, were advised to self-isolate for 14 days and contact a doctor immediately if they became unwell.

March 22: Hamilton Island was among the first tourist operations to cancel or postpone travel bookings after Scott Morrison announced new restrictions on non-essential travel.

March 24: There are two new positive cases of coronavirus confirmed in Mackay.

They are believed to be locals who had been travelling internationally.

The Mackay diagnoses doubles the number of cases in Mackay to four.

March 25: Virgin Australia announced it would temporarily suspend services to 19 destinations across the country, including Hamilton Island Airport and Whitsunday Coast Airport.

Starting at midnight March 27, the flight ban included all flights for 11 weeks until June 14.

March 26: A fifth person tests positive to coronavirus in the Mackay health district.

The patient, who had returned home from an overseas trip, was treated at Proserpine Hospital.

Passengers who came into close contact with a coronavirus patient on a flight to Hamilton Island were urged to contact a doctor immediately.

Queensland Health listed the flight from Brisbane Airport into the region to the growing list of contact tracing alerts.

Some passengers on-board Virgin flight VA1497, which landed at Hamilton Island on Sunday, March 15, were advised to self-isolate for 14 days and contact a doctor immediately if they become unwell.

With escalating restrictions in place because of coronavirus, all non-essential businesses including beauty therapy, tanning, massage and tattoo parlours were ordered to close.




March 27: Mackay dentists restricted all services to urgent or emergency treatment only in line with the statewide crackdown against the spread of coronavirus.


Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 27, 2020.

Mackay Daily Mercury front page March 27, 2020.


March 31: A sixth person tested positive for COVID-19 in the Mackay district.

The person had returned to the region from an overseas trip and had been quarantined in their home since their arrival.

The patient was being cared for in hospital and in a stable condition.

Fishing at Kinchant Dam, Teemburra Dam and Eungella Dam was prohibited under new government restrictions.

The closure included all SunWater and Seqwater recreation areas, lakes and weirs.

This includes the ban on all day trips, camping, land and water-based activities.

April 1: Another person tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the Mackay region’s total to seven.

The two new cases were from the Whitsunday region, but unrelated, bringing the total for that patch to three of the seven.

April 2: ABowen-based mother and son on the trip of a lifetime across South America are some of the hundreds of Aussies trapped in foreign countries without a way home.

George Bluck, 27, and his mother Irma, 64, were stuck in Cusco, Peru’s seventh largest city, since the government declared a national emergency and abruptly closed its borders to prevent coronavirus spreading on March 15.



Regulations meant Bowen man George Bluck and his mum were not able to leave Cusco and had to wear masks whenever they were out of their Airbnb. Temperature testing was imposed at all stores. They could not return home from Peru because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Regulations meant Bowen man George Bluck and his mum were not able to leave Cusco and had to wear masks whenever they were out of their Airbnb. Temperature testing was imposed at all stores. They could not return home from Peru because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

April 3: Renters were given much-needed relief through a $2000 COVID-19 grant but the six-month eviction ban was yet to become a reality, with the government slow to pass any new legislation through parliament.

The impending changes were a lifeline for tenants, but many families and retirees in the region relied on their tenants’ rent to get by.

And there were fears commercial property owners would be hardest hit as businesses closed during the lockdown.

April 7: A new patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Mackay region.

The person had returned to the area from an overseas trip and was self isolating when the symptoms occurred.

The latest patient brought the region’s tally to 13, as the number of cases in Queensland jumped to 934.

Of the Mackay Hospital and Health Service total, two had recovered, two remained in hospital and nine had been admitted to a virtual ward.

MHHS expanded its emergency department and Intensive Care Unit capacity in Mackay in response to the challenges of caring for COVID-19 patients and ensured it had extra beds available.

April 8: Religious leaders were determined to stay in touch with their congregants during the coronavirus pandemic to help them through this tough period spiritually.

They opted to deliver their messages via livestream and radio, also providing their Easter messages to the Daily Mercury.

MHHS decided to move women planning to give birth at Mackay Birth Centre, to make way for COVID-19 patients, causing outrage and panic.

The service said the base hospital had to be prepared if women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needed to give birth in Mackay, and the health service wanted to keep everyone safe.

With people confined to their homes with only one other guest allowed, people had to find other ways to celebrate milestones.

Bucasia’s Gabriel Caulton could not party with friends for his eighth birthday but 10 cars took part in the drive-by celebration.


Gabriel Caulton celebrated his 8th birthday at Bucasia with a drive-by. Picture: Tony Martin

Gabriel Caulton celebrated his 8th birthday at Bucasia with a drive-by. Picture: Tony Martin


April 9: Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young received much criticism after granting an exemption that allowed 80 people to attend a funeral for an Indigenous elder in Mackay.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson also said he was gobsmacked, saying there was a huge expenditure of public resources to ensure there was a cordon around this event and ensure people who travelled to this funeral were triaged.

April 12: A new confirmed case of coronavirus was recorded for Mackay.

The new case lifted the total number for the Mackay Hospital and Health Service to 14.

The number of active cases was nine, with five recovered cases.

The latest case, from Mackay, was a close contact of a returned international traveller.

April 13: Another confirmed coronavirus case was recorded in the Mackay district within just 48 hours of the previous case.

MHHS had 15 COVID-19 cases, recording 10 active cases and five recovered cases.

In a statement, MHHS said the latest patient was a “resident in the Mackay local government area and was a returned overseas traveller”.

With supermarket shelves still emptying at lightening speed, Mackay Coles fast-tracked more than 60 people into employment to meet customer demand.

A Coles spokeswoman said the Mackay recruits were sourced from industries and businesses such as travel, sport, fitness and hospitality that were forced to close or stand down staff.

They are part of more than 7000 people recruited by Coles across Australia in the past month to serve customers, replenish shelves, deliver online orders and work in the bakeries.


Coles team members (left to right) Sean Heugh, Daniel Minter, Philip Kean, Sarah Hopgood, Christine Coll and Jamie Allen.

Coles team members (left to right) Sean Heugh, Daniel Minter, Philip Kean, Sarah Hopgood, Christine Coll and Jamie Allen.


April 18: Six Mackay region coronavirus patients were released from isolation after fully recovering from the virus.

Queensland Health announced the patients were no longer presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, taking the total number of recovered cases to 11.

May 1: Restrictions eased slightly with Queenslanders able to go on picnics or visit national parks within 50km of our homes.

It felt like a miracle. And off to Cape Hillborough I went. The Mercury put together a guide of the 50 things to do within 50km.


May 13: It was four weeks since the Mackay district recorded its last new coronavirus case.

This meant the region passed the two incubation periods – two fortnights – milestone.

Mackay Hospital and Health Service’s most recent confirmed case was on April 13.

Out of 15 total confirmed cases, all 15 had recovered.

May 16: We get some sense of normal as cafes, restaurants and pubs can reopen with a maximum of 10 patrons, we are allowed 150km from our homes for day trips and we can have five visitors in our home. Freedom after six weeks in lockdown.

The Mercury put together a list of 15 things to do within 150km.



I took the opportunity to hike the Mount Rooper circuit track and dine in Airlie Beach – it felt like a huge novelty to get away from the sugar city for a day.

But it wasn’t easy going for restaurants opening back up as operators had to decide whether it was financially viable to reopen for just 10 customers.




May 23: Unrestricted travel in the Mackay, Whitsundays, Cairns, Townsville and Outback regions could be a reality by June 12.

Tourism leaders across the state called for a travel bubble in line with the beginning of Stage 2 COVID-19 restrictions, in an attempt to save our struggling tourism industry.

Mackay, Whitsundays, Cairns and Townsville had zero active cases of coronavirus.

The Mackay region was declared virus free on May 2 after just 15 cases and Townsville was cleared on May 6 after 24 cases.


Mackay Daily Mercury front page, May 23-24 2020. Premier, let us have a choice for we are virus free was a play on our national anthem signalling the continued lockdown in a democracy.

Mackay Daily Mercury front page, May 23-24 2020. Premier, let us have a choice for we are virus free was a play on our national anthem signalling the continued lockdown in a democracy.

May 24: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says any eased restrictions would need to be considered closely and asked the NQ tourism organisation to submit a plan.

A week later she announced a Queensland wide bubble.

May 31: Premier announces Queenslanders can travel anywhere in the state but its borders will remain shut to interstate travellers.

Restaurant patron numbers double. Overnight stays are allowed.

It felt like things were returning to normal.

June 12: A Chinese coal ship crew was cleared of coronavirus after a standoff with biosecurity inspectors.

A Queensland Health spokesman said all 21 test results from the ship’s crew returned negative to COVID-19.

Concerns were raised when the ship’s captain reportedly denied biosecurity officers access to search some on-board areas while it was docked at Hay Point.


Mackay Daily Mercury front page June 25, 2020. Covid recovery.

Mackay Daily Mercury front page June 25, 2020. Covid recovery.

July 1: A truck thief was picked up in the Mackay region after breaching a COVID-19 public health order not to enter Queensland.

Allan Gannon appeared in Mackay Magistrates Court via video link from Capricornia Correctional Centre, where his bail bid was rejected.

He was charged with failing to comply with a COVID-19 public health direction not to enter Queensland without reasonable excuse, obstructing police, the theft of a prime mover and possessing two stolen trailers.



July 27: The name Karen became synonymous with entitlement and the source of many memes after a woman was captured on video having a go at a Bunnings employee for the company’s mask policy in-store.

Karen became a noun and a verb for the rest of the year after the “Bunnings Karen” video went viral.

A month later the self-described witch posted a video in which people feared she was leaving her house with COVID symptoms.




August 14: Two crew members aboard a ship moored off Abbot Point were taken to Townsville University Hospital for treatment after testing positive to coronavirus.

It’s understood all Globe Electra crew tested negative to COVID-19 before the ship left China, however two people subsequently tested positive.

August 17: The crew members aboard a ship anchored off Hay Point have been tested for COVID-19 after three crew members had earlier tested positive.


The Kilian Oldendorff is currently docked off the Queensland coast near Hay Point. The bulk carrier, built in 2020, is sailing under the flag of Liberia. It has docked in China, Hong Kong and the Philippines during June and July. Picture:

The Kilian Oldendorff is currently docked off the Queensland coast near Hay Point. The bulk carrier, built in 2020, is sailing under the flag of Liberia. It has docked in China, Hong Kong and the Philippines during June and July. Picture:


The Kilian Oldendorff, built in 2020 and flying under the flag of Liberia, arrived off the Mackay coast.

August 18: Another ship, the Dhun, with suspected COVID-19 crew members aboard heads towards Hay Point.

It’s the third ship in five days with suspected cases of the virus to anchor off the Mackay region.


Cargo ship Dhun, flying under a Panama flag, anchored off Hay Point with COVID positive crew members aboard. Picture:

Cargo ship Dhun, flying under a Panama flag, anchored off Hay Point with COVID positive crew members aboard. Picture:


August 19: All 21 crew members aboard the Kilian Oldendorff cargo ship off Hay Point were cleared from coronavirus.

The 21 crew members aboard the Dhun were believed to have been swabbed the same day to test for the virus.

August 21: Two men aboard the Dhun cargo ship, anchored off Hay Point, tested positive to COVID-19.

August 22: The two COVID-infected patients were transferred from the cargo ship Dhun to Mackay Marina.

The Daily Mercury captured photos as they boarded a plane to Sunshine Coast for treatment.



Queensland Ambulance and Queensland Police service escort two COVID-positive crew members from the cargo ship Dhun, anchored off Hay Point, to Mackay Airport for a flight south. They will be treated at medical facilities in southeast Queensland. Picture: Zizi Averill

Queensland Ambulance and Queensland Police service escort two COVID-positive crew members from the cargo ship Dhun, anchored off Hay Point, to Mackay Airport for a flight south. They will be treated at medical facilities in southeast Queensland. Picture: Zizi Averill

October 8: Police bust and fine 16 carnival operators more than $64,000 for illegally entering Queensland after they were caught in Mackay.

Police say the operators travelled through the Goondiwindi checkpoint on Monday from Victoria, displaying a freight declaration pass.

They were then arrested by police at Mackay Showgrounds on Wednesday and placed into quarantine for COVID-19 testing after the Sierra Linnet Taskforce found the group failed to meet the strict conditions of the pass.

October 26: Victoria comes out of an almost four-month lockdown. While restrictions were eased in regional areas earlier, Melbourne-ites spent much of the year confined to their neighbourhood.

December 1: The removal of our domestic border closures was high on the Christmas wishlists of many Aussie families – and finally, after months of FaceTime calls and cancelled flights, the controversial measure came to an end.

A raft of New South Wales’ remaining COVID-19 measures were rolled back – but it was Queensland’s hard border with Victoria and greater Sydney finally coming down, and South Australia opening its doors to Victoria, that arguably sparked the most excitement, just in time for the festive season.

And our Mackay and Whitsunday tourism operators were looking forward to tourists coming back to our region for the Christmas holidays.

But, of course, Sydney’s Northern Beaches cluster in mid-December led to border closures again before Christmas Day and a lockdown in the hotspot area.

Queensland once again shut its borders to people from NSW just days before Christmas.

The final day of the year involved Victoria shutting its borders to New South Wales after an outbreak in Melbourne and Western Australia shutting its border to Victoria because of the outbreak.

What a year! So much for 2020 vision. No one is making that joke for 2021.

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