Michelle Telfer has been a lifesaving advocate for hundreds of trans children. But her work doesn’t come without controversy


It has taken seven years for Isabelle Langley to feel like herself. Sitting in her bedroom in Taggerty, Central Victoria, the year 12 teenager lights up as she shares her plans for university next year.

“It’s a new chapter of my life which is scary but exciting. I just feel like a normal kid, which I am,” she says.

Isabelle comes across as a confident 17-year-old with the world in front of her. She’s wearing a red dress adorned with flowers and has long curly brown hair. Her bedroom looks like a classic teenage girl’s retreat. But the journey to get to where she is today has been challenging.

She’s transgender and has been on hormones (oestrogen) and hormone blockers for the past three years.

“When I came out, I didn’t know that I could live as a girl,” Isabelle says.

“I just told my mum, ‘I don’t want to be a boy anymore. I’m not a boy’. And I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it.”

While Isabelle is thriving now, there were dark times in her life before she was able to transition.

“Getting the right treatment for her was critically important,” her mother Naomi Langley says. “It has made all the difference in terms of who she is today.”

The treatment Ms Langley refers to came from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (RCHM). Michelle Telfer heads the hospital’s Gender Service and first met Isabelle eight years ago.

Dr Telfer is credited with helping to save many children’s lives without pulling out a single scalpel or tending to any life-threatening diseases. But the job is also one of the most controversial in Australian medicine, with critics questioning whether the medical treatment of trans children under 18 is appropriate.

For Dr Telfer, the work is more important than the debate.

“We can’t do nothing because doing nothing is not a neutral option for us,” she says. “Doing nothing is actually exposing young people to the risk of harm.”

The gender clinic’s multi-disciplinary team has treated more than 1,500 gender-diverse young people, and when the time comes for people to transition into adult care, it can be tough emotionally.

“Now that she [Isabelle] is 18, finishing school and going into adult care, it will be a really sad time for me,” Dr Telfer says. “I don’t know what Isabelle’s life would be like if she couldn’t transition. I can’t actually picture it, because she’s such a confident, strong, articulate young woman now.”

Isabelle says she hopes Dr Telfer can still remain in her life.

The RCHM Gender Service was the first multi-disciplinary clinic set up in the country to help children and adolescents with gender dysphoria, which is the distress experienced when your body does not match your sense of who you are.

Prior to the clinic being established almost a decade ago, trans children and adolescents had nowhere to seek treatment, according to Dr Sarah McNab, the hospital’s director of general medicine.

“Children with gender dysphoria had no-one who understood them which had awful mental health effects, and in many situations, they would try to self-harm and suicide,” she says.

A 2017 Trans Pathway survey of 859 young trans Australians found half of those respondents had attempted suicide and almost 80 per cent had self-harmed prior to getting the treatment they needed.

Seventeen-year-old Elliot Nicholas has attempted suicide several times. That was before he came out as trans to his parents, who are both Uniting Church ministers.

Almost two years on, Elliot is now the Junior Mayor of Geelong and the vice-captain of Newcomb Secondary College.

“Most of my mental health that I have this day is because of the amount of support and respect and love that I’ve been given being transgender and transitioning,” he says.

Reverend William Nicholas says his son has “flourished” since he started to transition.

“It’s been a long journey,” he says. “There has been considerable psychological assessment and as parents, we felt like we’ve been consulted every step of the way.”

Dr Telfer says her early career as an elite gymnast helped build the stamina and drive needed to do such a high-profile job. As a 16-year-old, Dr Telfer won a bronze medal in the uneven bars at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games.

“In my final year of gymnastics, I spent so much time with the sports physicians, and I saw the power of what they could do, and that made me want to go on to be a doctor,” she says.

Thank you for stopping to visit My Local Pages. We Hope you enjoyed checking out this article regarding “News in the City of Melbourne named “Michelle Telfer has been a lifesaving advocate for hundreds of trans children. But her work doesn’t come without controversy”. This news article was presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local events, news and stories aggregator services.

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Carer Michelle Leanne Stitt who kept 77yo woman in ‘squalid’ conditions pleads guilty


A carer who neglected a chronically ill elderly woman so badly she was in intensive care for weeks has pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Paramedics were called to a property at Tarampa, west of Brisbane, in May 2019, when Margaret Hoffman had gone into cardiac arrest.

The 77-year-old was admitted to Ipswich Hospital, which prompted police to search her carer’s property.

Officers uncovered “squalid” conditions that they said had caused Ms Hoffman’s health to deteriorate.

Michelle Leanne Stitt, 58, was charged with grievous bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life.

She was set to go to trial over the matter, but after a committal hearing in October, on Wednesday entered a guilty plea to two counts of failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Crown prosecutor Clayton Wallis told the court Stitt was a seasoned caregiver who provided appropriate care to Ms Hoffman between 2009 and 2015.

He said the standard of care declined to “appalling levels” between 2015 and 2019.

“The complainant was not provided her prescription medication, not taken to medical practitioners and required to live in squalid conditions, fending, in the main it would seem, for herself despite the commensurate decline in her health.”

He said the defendant’s standards of care went largely unchecked by officials.

“Eventually on May 29, 2019, as a consequence of the defendant’s protracted and systemic failings, the complainant experienced a traumatic event requiring hospitalisation.

“At that point the complainant’s impoverished state was identified and police were contacted.

Mr Wallis told the court that while this was considered an early plea of guilty, it was of concern that this was not the first case of carer abuse that brought Stitt before a court.

Stitt was sentenced over an incident in 2007 where she was seen to have repeatedly hit a 55-year-old intellectually impaired man in her care, something she initially denied.

She was sentenced to a good behaviour bond and no conviction was recorded.

Mr Wallis said while Ms Hoffman was subject to squalid living conditions, Stitt lived in the same conditions.

“[This] suggests she was either ambivalent to them, or was simply incapable of overcoming them,” he said.

“A case entirely indifferent to one which a person lives in luxury while those or whom they care are left in squalid conditions.”

Defence lawyer Simon Lewis referred to Stitt’s mental health conditions in his submissions.

He submitted reports from four different practitioners that he said showed she should not go to prison.

A report from a psychiatrist said: “Ms Stitt appears to be over low/average intelligence and displays considerable difficulty in managing certain situations, easily becoming overwhelmed.”

He said Stitt was an extreme hoarder and had an excessive number of animals, which overran the lower level of the house.

She also had an inability to look after the excessive number of livestock and financial pressures, the court was told.

The report by the psychiatrist also criticised the authorities for not checking on Stitt’s living situation and ability to meet her responsibilities as a carer.

“She had received NGO [non-government organisation] support who were aware of her hoarding tendency but elected not to visit her property,” the report said.

“She had also received a carer’s pension yet no-one seems to have assessed whether she was providing the due care and attention required of this responsibility.”

A report by a GP highlighted that Stitt had complex mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and PTSD.

His report said she had made progress and now has support.

“She has support from a psychiatrist, family who have significantly cleaned and decluttered her house and a mental nurse.

“She has taken responsibility for her treatment … the patient is not a danger to the community and with the continuing support and treatment that she is receiving I feel her prognosis is very positive.”

Defence lawyer Simon Lewis told the court Stitt “should never have been responsible for the care of another”.

“There is a clear causative link between the offending and the defendant’s mental health conditions … they reduce her moral culpability in these circumstances.

“A term of imprisonment would be more difficult for her than the average prisoner taking into account her mental health condition.”

Stitt will be sentenced in the Ipswich District Court on May 20.

Thank you for stopping by to visit My Local Pages and checking out this news article regarding “News & What’s On in Brisbane” called “Carer Michelle Leanne Stitt who kept 77yo woman in ‘squalid’ conditions pleads guilty”. This post was presented by My Local Pages as part of our QLD events and what’s on local news services.

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Artist-in-Residence – Pressed Flowers: In the gardens with Michelle Pujol


Date & time

Sun 16 May 2021
10:00am to 2:00pm

Add to Calendar
2021-05-16 10:00
2021-05-16 14:00
Australia/Brisbane
Artist-in-Residence – Pressed Flowers: In the gardens with Michelle Pujol
This month will see Artist-in-Residence, Michelle Pujol, explore designing with pressed flowers and how to make a portable flower press.

Join Michelle as she explores floral form by breaking down the structure into shapes for pattern and design by using pressed flowers. Learn how to make a small portable flower press, easy tips and tricks and uses in design. 

Michelle believes that by pressing flowers it alters the form enough that you can play with the basic shapes of flowers and leaves and combine forms and flowers to create new design.  Adding a small flower press to your daily creative tool kit,  will encourage observation and creative development across many design fields. This is a great way to encourage a daily creative practice whether you are a beginner or a practising artisan. These simple techniques teach observation skills and give you the confidence to start a daily / weekly creative habit and enjoy connecting to nature in your own way. 

As a small part of this workshop may be held outdoors, please be sun smart and bring a fold-up chair if required. All materials are supplied. Participants are welcome to bring their own materials. 

<strong>Location</strong>:&nbsp;Meet at the Administration Building.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, 152 Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong

Similar events

Age

Suitable for adults

Cost

Free

Artist-in-Residence - Pressed Flowers: In the gardens with Michelle Pujol

This month will see Artist-in-Residence, Michelle Pujol, explore designing with pressed flowers and how to make a portable flower press.

Join Michelle as she explores floral form by breaking down the structure into shapes for pattern and design by using pressed flowers. Learn how to make a small portable flower press, easy tips and tricks and uses in design. 

Michelle believes that by pressing flowers it alters the form enough that you can play with the basic shapes of flowers and leaves and combine forms and flowers to create new design.  Adding a small flower press to your daily creative tool kit,  will encourage observation and creative development across many design fields. This is a great way to encourage a daily creative practice whether you are a beginner or a practising artisan. These simple techniques teach observation skills and give you the confidence to start a daily / weekly creative habit and enjoy connecting to nature in your own way. 

As a small part of this workshop may be held outdoors, please be sun smart and bring a fold-up chair if required. All materials are supplied. Participants are welcome to bring their own materials. 

Location: Meet at the Administration Building.

Bookings

Bookings required. For more information and to book call 07 3403 2535.

Venue

Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, 152 Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong

Thanks for stopping by and seeing this post involving “What’s On in the City of Brisbane” titled “Artist-in-Residence – Pressed Flowers: In the gardens with Michelle Pujol”. This news update was presented by My Local Pages as part of our QLD events and what’s on news services.

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How Michelle Heyman rediscovered her love of football




Michelle Heyman is now the W-League’s all-time leading goal-scorer, has just played her 100th game and her form for Canberra United this season has been top level. The road back has been anything but smooth, but Heyman is thrilled to be playing and finally loving the game again.

Thank you for stopping by to visit My Local Pages and reading this news article on ACT and Australian news titled “How Michelle Heyman rediscovered her love of football”. This news article is shared by My Local Pages as part of our Australian news services.

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Tabitha and Michelle spent years seeking justice, now they want the legal system to change how it treats sexual assault survivors


Michelle Snape and Tabitha West both reported the same family member to police for allegedly sexually abusing them as children.

One woman’s case never made it to trial, the other saw a conviction recorded against her abuser.

But neither really got the closure they sought from the justice system.

Here they tell their stories and join leading criminologists and advocates who are calling for change to the way our justice system treats sexual assault victims and complainants.

A child reports sexual abuse, but it goes nowhere

Michelle Snape describes herself as a survivor.

She was just eight years old when she says her older brother, Keith Dudley, sexually abused her.

While Ms Snape was just a small child in the mid-1970s when she says the abuse occurred, her brother was 18 at the time.

“I just put it down to my brother being a young adult at the time and I suppose experimenting, that was my way of dealing with it.”

Michelle Snape was eight years old when she says her brother Keith Dudley sexually abused her.(

Supplied

)

It was something she pushed to the back of her mind as she was growing up, but by her late teens and early twenties, Ms Snape says it was causing her emotional pain and distress.

She spoke to a chaplain about the issue and thought she could move on with her life.

But decades later another revelation changed everything for Michelle.

Her niece Tabitha came forward with her own story.

As an adult Tabitha tells her family about her own abuse

Tabitha West was between the ages of eight and nine when her uncle Keith Dudley sexually abused her.

The abuse occurred over a year and on two separate occasions.

For Ms West, it took time to be able to talk about what had been done to her and she was in her early 20s when she told her family.

Tabitha West stands looking at the camera
Tabitha West wants to see more work done to prevent the abuse of children from occurring.(

ABC News: Gemma Hall

)

She then sent a clear message to her uncle through family members — she would not go to police if he sought professional help.

Ms West says if that had happened, “That would help me understand this person is seeking help, is remorseful and the chance of them doing it again would be reduced.”

Her biggest motivation was reducing the risk that Dudley could offend again.

Both women say they decided to go to the police only after Dudley refused to get any professional help.

But that decision was difficult.

“I didn’t have that, so that added to my stress.”

With her heart pounding and body shaking, Michelle makes a statement to police

It was in 2014 that Ms Snape went to make a statement to police at a station in the ACT where she was living at the time.

She says it is important for the public to understand how difficult that process can be for sexual assault survivors.

“It does feel like you are living it [the alleged abuse] again,” she says.

“You are not sure if the person sitting across from you can relate at all, and to be honest they probably can’t, they are just trying to do the best job they can.”

While Ms Snape told her story to an officer, she didn’t explain how stressed she was sitting there in that interview room.

Ms Snape says that moment was the start of a two year legal process for her as her brother was charged and the case slowly made its way to court.

“It is a lengthy time and it is a lengthy time to feel stressed,” she says.

“You peak and trough.”

She says when she had to speak to police her anxiety escalated, but then she would worry when it felt like nothing was happening.

Michelle Snape stands in front of a river, looking at the camera.
Michelle Snape wants the public to know how difficult it can be for victims to go to the police, and take a case through the justice system.(

ABC News: Tara Cassidy

)

Michelle takes the stand, but her coping strategies work against her

In 2016, Ms Snape’s case came before the County Court in Wodonga in regional Victoria where the abuse was alleged to have occurred, for a committal hearing.

It’s a type of hearing where prosecutors need to show they have enough evidence for a case to go to trial.

“I went into a podium box thing and the judge was on my left and the counsel and the defendant and the prosecutor were just in your eyesight,” Ms Snape says.

“So that is intimidating to see him [the defendant] there and scribbling notes.”

Ms Snape could have used a remote witness box to give evidence but chose to be in the courtroom.

She says she only met the prosecutor the day of that hearing — it’s an issue that still bothers her.

Ms Snape says it meant the prosecutor didn’t know her and didn’t know that she was someone who coped with extreme stress by putting on a brave face.

It’s a coping strategy that Ms Snape says she had been using since the alleged abuse as a child, but in court she says it worked against her.

Michelle Snape sits by a river, looking at the water.
Michelle Snape says she spent two years with high stress levels, while her case was before the courts.(

ABC News: Tara Cassidy

)

She says the lawyers questioning her were respectful, but she was asked to articulate intimate details of the alleged abuse.

“I just struggle with that, so articulating that was very confronting for me.”

She was so distressed she says, “The only way I thought I could get through it was almost like being a robot.”

“The problem with that is that it was like my mind had shut down.”

Ms Snape says her stress level left her with a “surreal” feeling, like she wasn’t completely there.

And she says it made it difficult for her to answer even simple questions.

“I didn’t always answer them [the questions] according to my statement, even though I knew the question that was being asked and I knew the answer, but I was saying, ‘I do not recall’.”

Ms Snape left the courtroom “devastated” and critical of her own performance on the stand.

While the Judge did commit her case to trial, ultimately the Office of Public Prosecutions decided to withdraw the case.

“I wasn’t a strong witness and they felt like the case wasn’t strong enough and they didn’t want to put me through doing that and not get a conviction at the end,” Ms Snape says.

It meant after two years pursuing her complaint through the justice system, her allegations were not taken to trial, her story wasn’t heard by a jury and there will never be a verdict.

Dudley found guilty of six sex offences against a child

In 2017, Ms West gave evidence at trial at the Wodonga County Court in regional Victoria before Judge Frank Gucciardo and a jury.

It was the first time she’d properly told her story.

“I hadn’t really verbalised the specific details of what had happened to anybody, not to my husband, not to anybody,” she says.

“So to sit there to a roomful of people and to describe in specific detail what happened, it was quite confronting to be honest.

“It was a bit more confronting than I was expecting.

“In some ways it felt like being undressed in a roomful of people.”

But Ms West says she was in a strong mental space to deal with the pressure and had the support of her close family members.

Tabitha West sits at a desk reading through a folder of court documents.
Tabitha West has kept a folder of all of the court documents relating to her case.(

ABC News: Gemma Hall

)

Unlike many sexual assault cases where prosecutors must rely heavily on the evidence of the complainant, Ms West’s case had two other important witnesses.

Her dad and aunt both testified that Dudley had made confessions to them.

A jury found Dudley guilty of five changes of an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16 and one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 10.

Judge Gucciardo said Dudley’s conduct comprised “repulsive acts of sexual abuse”.

The Judge said the defendant’s behaviour was deplorable and an “egregious breach of trust”.

“These acts exploited in a manipulative sense both the relationship which enabled you to have access to her as well as her bodily integrity.”

A school photo of Tabitha West smiling as a child.
Tabitha West smiles in a school photo. She was between the ages of seven and nine when Keith Dudley sexually abused her.(

Supplied

)

Judge comments on Dudley’s ‘contumacious self-absorption’ during trial

For Ms West, her case was dominated by delays and the behaviour of her uncle leading up to and during the trial itself.

Court documents show that during Dudley’s police interview he remained mute the entire time.

Once the case came before the Country Court of Victoria, Ms West says he caused many delays.

“Delaying things and firing legal counsel etc and having to push court dates back as a result.”

She says she often learnt of delays at the last minute — and while she coped with the setbacks, she says it did take a toll on her family.

“I certainly feel that the process is not geared towards the experience of the victim in that case.”

Tabitha West stands inside a white rooming looking at the camera
Tabitha West went to the police as an adult to report childhood sexual abuse. It took years for her case to go from a police report to a criminal conviction against her uncle.(

ABC News: Gemma Hall

)

These delays were also referred to by Judge Gucciardo in his sentencing remarks after the trial.

Judge Gucciardo said the prosecutor had noted that Dudley “caused delays by sacking two teams of lawyers” and “taking time in deciding whether to accept assistance of counsel to cross-examine protected witnesses” when he represented himself at trial.

He also spoke about Dudley’s behaviour during the trial.

Judge Gucciardo said Dudley’s “lack of participation or co-operation in a trial process needs no further comment, your obstinacy even in your address to the jury is reflective of a contumacious self-absorption.”

At the time, Ms West says she just accepted these delays, but added it was left to the detective in her case to apologise to her again and again for what was occurring and the impact it had.

Dudley sentenced to prison, but released with little notice

For Ms West, the trial outcome was important.

“I felt happy only because the guilty conviction was needed for my wider family I think,” Ms West says.

Judge Gucciardo sentenced Dudley to four years in prison with a non-parole period of three years.

But three years after that sentencing Ms West received a letter in the mail alerting her to Dudley’s release.

She says it told her Dudley would be released from prison in a fortnight’s time.

She contacted the Victims Register seeking more information.

“Because he was let out early I assumed he participated in rehabilitation activities, that type of thing,” she says.

“I really wanted to know that he got support and help and access to rehabilitation.

Ms West says all she was told was that Dudley was going to be released and the release date.

“I really feel like that process needs to be improved,” she says.

“I feel like people need to be contacted by phone, not just get a letter in the mail.”

Call to improve justice system for victims

Both Ms West and Ms Snape are grateful for the work of the detective in their case, who they say was empathetic and understanding.

But they felt like he was often trying to cover for gaps in the justice system.

Ms Snape would like to see specialist courts created to deal with sexual offences, “Because they would have the right people in the job, they would have the right people who had that emotional intelligence that would help the victim through the process.”

It is an idea that is being investing by the Law Reform Commission in Victoria, which is reviewing how the justice system deals with sexual offences in that state.

Michelle Snape stands in front of a river.
Michelle Snape wants to see prosecutors spend more time with complainants before court hearings.(

ABC News: Tara Cassidy

)

Ms Snape would like to ideally see the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) assign a single prosecutor to a case and for prosecutors to be better resourced to spend more time with complainants.

In a statement, the OPP said: “Before allocating prosecutors to a case the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) first assess the type of case and its complexity and will then brief counsel who have commensurate experience.”

Ms West believes there are both small and large changes that could be made to improve the justice system for sexual assault survivors.

She noticed when the courts communicated with her it would be through formal letters requesting her attendance and there would often be a brochure sent with the phone numbers for helplines included.

To her, the brochures felt like a “box ticking” exercise rather than real support.

She says she understands that the court process does need to be fair and that does involve the difficulty of victims giving evidence about traumatic events.

But she wants to see complainants better supported through that justice process so they can tell their story and have a better experience than her aunt did.

Ms West would have liked access to a liaison officer at the court who could have been a point-of-contact and a person who could answer questions about the court processes and what to expect.

But one of the bigger issues that she noticed was the lack of options she had as a victim.

She says it felt like her only options were to report her abuse to the police and go through a criminal trial or to do nothing about the abuse.

“If they had said you have the option of sending him to jail or send them somewhere to get rehabilitation and support, I would have chosen rehabilitation and support,” she says.

It frustrates Ms West, that after all this time, she still doesn’t know if the man who sexually abused her did access any rehabilitation services.

She says it left her without the closure she always sought.

Thank you for dropping by My Local Pages and checking this article about Victoria and Australian news published as “Tabitha and Michelle spent years seeking justice, now they want the legal system to change how it treats sexual assault survivors”. This news article was posted by My Local Pages Australia as part of our Australian news services.

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Mark Wright edges closer to footie deal which could make Michelle Keegan a glam new WAG


Michelle Keegan could soon become League Two’s most glamorous WAG as Crawley Town are reportedly looking to sign her husband Mark Wright.

The former TOWIE star, 33, recently showed off his fancy footwork when he appeared on Soccer Aid, but it’s claimed he’s looking to take his career on the pitch a step further.

Claims emerged on Friday that Mark had been offered a contract with Crawley Town after impressing coaches during training.

The Sun reported the former semi-professional footballer is a “real asset on the pitch,” according to a source.



If Mark signed with the League Two club, wife Michelle would catapult herself to the top of the hierarchy of the most glamorous supporters in English football

The insider speaking to the publication claimed: “He is fighting fit so the club’s bosses are keen to see if he would join.

“Mark’s not officially agreed to anything yet but Crawley think it won’t be long until he says yes.”

After launching his career on TOWIE, the star has previously said not reaching his full potential on the pitch is one of his biggest life regrets.

He played semi-professionally for Southend before joining Towie in 2010.

In his youth, he also played for West Ham United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

The reality telly star even spent nine games on loan at Crawley in 2006, scoring once.



Claims emerged on Friday that Mark had been offered a contract with Crawley Town after impressing coaches during training

If Mark signed with the League Two club, his partner Michelle would catapult herself to the top of the hierarchy of the most glamorous wives and girlfriends in English football.

But her future WAG status could already be in jeopardy as it emerged Mark has reportedly denied signing up to the team.

Debunking the claims, a source reportedly told MailOnline : “Mark hasn’t signed with Crawley Town, hasn’t been offered a contract and is just training with them to keep fit and also because loves football.”

Last month Mark, whose younger brother Josh plays for League 2 side Leyton Orient, told how he believed he had “one last shot” at going pro.

Admitting he wrecked his chances as a youth player at Tottenham Hotspur by not throwing himself whole-heartedly into football, Mark told the Mail he’d turned down an approach from non-league side Billericay Town and was “targeting a move to a club towards the top end of the football spectrum”.



Mark has reportedly denied signing up to the Crawley Town, throwing Michelle’s pending WAG status into jeopardy

Since hanging up his boots, Mark has become a regular for England at Unicef’s annual Soccer Aid match.

He was even scouted by Manchester United after scoring a screamer of a goal in 2016’s charity game.

A move into football couldn’t come at a better time for Mark after he and Michelle, who married in 2015, put their sprawling Essex mansion up for sale earlier this month.

The genetically blessed couple are currently building a new home from scratch after putting the home they moved into in 2013 – two years prior to tying the knot – up for sale.





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Michelle O’Neill ‘working remotely’ after negative Covid-19 test


It is understood Michelle O’Neill has been self-isolating since

she learned a relative was infected with coronavirus.



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Michelle Giles could be called in Supreme Court


One of Victoria’s top health bureaucrats could be called in court as a lawsuit challenging Victoria’s curfew continues.

The court on Monday heard then-deputy public health commander Michelle Giles made the second curfew order as she was authorised to exercise emergency powers during the state’s lockdown.

Prof Giles could be called to be grilled by lawyers about the curfew, with plaintiff counsel Marcus Clarke asking a judge for leave to cross-examine her.

Victoria’s curfew was put in place on August 2 to run from 8pm to 5am.

From September 14 it was loosened by Prof Giles to 9pm to 5am and was due to expire on October 11, the Supreme Court of Victoria heard.

A key question will be whether Prof Giles made her decision to sign off on an order extending the lockdown from September 14 independently, lawyer Jason Harkess said.

“The issue is whether or not Ms Giles made this directive acting at the behest of the Premier,” he said.

But in an affidavit filed with the court, Prof Giles said she signed off on the directive off her own bat and felt a “heavy responsibility” that she still feels now.

She said she had no discussions with the Premier about the directions or the curfew.

“I always very clearly understood that the decision was mine to make,” she said.

“I inferred, based on my experience, that the reduction of case numbers was due to the stage 4 restrictions being imposed.

“Experience with outbreak management in Victoria has reinforced for me how infectious this virus is, how difficult it can be to control, and the kinds of measures required to control it.

“I have also had to consider the hard consequences of my recommendations.”

Prof Giles is an infectious disease physician who had only been in the deputy public health commander role for nine days when she signed the order extending the curfew, making her the subject of the anti-curfew lawsuit.

She was hired by the Government as an adviser and outbreak manager on August 3 and was filling in as deputy commander for someone on leave who has since returned.

She considered the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, information provided by chief health officer Brett Sutton, and her own knowledge and experiences when issuing the directive to extend the curfew and other restrictions, her affidavit said.

“My work for over 15 years as a clinician in the area of HIV medicine has taught me to consider the health and human rights of the individual and the public health risks that can arise from that individual’s behaviour,” she said.

The lawsuit was brought by Liberal Party member Michelle Loielo, a single mum-of-three who runs Mornington Peninsula cafe Unica Cucina E Caffe.

Victoria’s stage 4 restrictions made her feel “helpless”, she said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.

“Since the curfew has been in effect, I have seen an approximate 99 per cent drop in my turnover,” she said.

Ms Loielo said she had gone from making between $5000 and $20,000 a week to $400 a week and not all of her staff members were eligible for JobKeeper.

“I am afraid that I will lose my house,” she said.

She said even when making takeaway orders, she could not go out to buy ingredients at night because of the curfew.

Ms Loielo said she “struggled to put into words” the strain of running a restaurant “12-15 hours per day, seven days a week” while juggling homeschooling her children.

She said her home environment was “absolutely suffocating” since the curfew, which was made worse because she couldn’t take a calming stroll around the block after her children were in bed.

“The social isolation from my friends and family has been unbearable,” she said.

“(But) the toll on my children is the greatest concern to me.”

But in her affidavit, Prof Giles said she too had experienced hardship from the orders she had imposed.

“Throughout stage 4, I had been working from home with four children, three of whom were doing remote learning from my home, not seeing any of my family or my usual supports,” she said.

“I had to balance the hardships that I knew the directions would impose on people against what I knew would happen if we did not get control of infection rates in Victoria.

“Based on what I have seen occur in Victoria and overseas, I believed that large numbers of Victorians may die if appropriate restrictions were not put in place, and I considered that the hardships caused by restrictions, even the extreme hardships suffered by some people, were necessary for that reason.”

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Attorney-General do not intend to intervene in the court case, Judge Timothy Ginnane said.

The hearing continues.



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Michelle and her group of mums are changing the face of cheerleading


It’s Monday night and Michelle Parkinson looks forward to this day all week.

She has two sets of teenage twins and is studying for two qualifications. She’s also just lost 50 kilos.

It’s fair to say that for this 42-year-old, life is busy.

But when she sets foot in the gym each Monday, she’s ready for some me-time.

And while she’s at it, she’s smashing the stereotypes of what it means to be a cheerleader.

For up to seven days a week for the past five years Michelle has been at the gym to watch her daughters cheer and dance.

Tonight, she’s getting on the mat at a western Sydney gym.

Michelle says she’s loving both the physical and mental challenges of cheer.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“I can’t say that I was ever looking forward to doing exercise before,” Michelle says.

“But I know now when I go of a Monday night, I’m guaranteed 60 minutes of laughter, hard work, banter and character building.”

Michelle trains with about 10 other adults at Reign Elite in Penrith — mainly parents with children in cheer, dance and tumble classes at the same place.

They do stunts, pom-pom work and a bit of tumbling.

“The other half are sort of a little bit petrified of doing some things, but we make it work.”

Members of an adult cheer team pose for a photo.
The adult cheer team at Reign Elite are gearing up to compete in their first competition.(Supplied: Tyjana Domars)

It all started because most of the mums were spending countless hours there anyway.

“Half the time I can spend more time with the coaches and kids there [at the gym] than what I do at home,” Michelle says.

Along with the physical benefits, it’s given the mother of four a confidence boost.

“For me it was working on my self-esteem, confidence and friendships,” she says.

“And not worrying about how I look to the outside world.”

The team has even signed up to compete in a virtual event at the end of next month.

Part of the motivation is to educate people on how the sport is changing.

“I’d like for people to realise it’s not just a pom-pom, jumping-around, short-skirt, make-up, type of thing.

“It’s a very competitive sport and the athletes put their body through a lot,” she says.

Want a tight-knit sport? This could be your community

A group of athletes sit on the floor and laugh at the gym.
The motto at Reign Elite is Family on and off the Floor.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The motto at Reign Elite is ‘Family on and off the floor’.

Tyjana Domars and her mother Kirsten own the gym and take pride in the community they’ve created.

“You just see the bonds the athletes have in the gym and they keep those bonds outside of the gym as well,” Tyjana says.

As you walk into Reign Elite, the athleticism of this extreme sport is plain to see.

Girls are thrown to dizzying heights before gravity intervenes.

The regular spills and falls are spectacular and wince-inducing — but these athletes are tough and courageous. They’ll get straight up and persist for perfection.

Ages range from two to 46, and classes vary from All Star to All Abilities, for those with a disability.

Jessica Evans, 17, appreciates the gym’s inclusiveness.

She’s legally blind in her left eye, but that doesn’t stop her from competing at the club’s highest level.

An athlete stands on the shoulders of another athlete.
Jessica is legally blind in her left eye, but has been cheering for nine years.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

And competitions are a big deal.

The Australian All-Star Cheerleading Federation’s Nationals Comp is the largest cheer and dance event in the world outside of the United States.

Across their 19 events last year, there were more than 52,000 competitors in total.

Jessica’s mum Janine never thought she’d be watching her daughter in a cheerleading competition.

“No way,” she says.

“I guess I always hoped and tried to put every opportunity in front of her.

“But a team sport, catching people from the air, where you tumble and run across a mat with a really small space and lots of people on the floor, no way.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Jessica was part of this Reign Elite team competing at the Nationals Competition last year.(Australian All Star Cheer Federation)

Naturally, she couldn’t be prouder.

“She’s always been intelligent and amazing in my eyes, but to watch it in front of other people now, is really just another proud moment I guess for me as a mum, and her dad just beams every time he sees it,” Janine says.

So how does Jess cheer if she’s vision impaired?

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Here’s a bit of Jessica stunting, acting as a base (notice she’s on the right) and tumbling.(ABC News)

Jessica can’t see the floor and has no perception of depth.

But she’s not afraid to stunt, tumble or base.

She also has no peripheral vision on her left side, so to avoid a collision her coach Alicia Perkins positions her carefully during stunts.

“When we do stunts where the flyer runs in, if I’m on the wrong side it could be quite dangerous,” Jessica says.

“It just all of a sudden comes at her,” Alicia says.

During a routine, Jessica counts her steps and relies on the people around her to judge where she needs to be.

When formations change, her coach makes sure everyone else moves out of the way.

“Last year there was a lot of movement to get to the pyramid,” Alicia says.

“Everybody else needed to give her a clear pathway, where she followed another person. Sometimes she might grab their shirt.”

She also heavily relies on coloured markers.

“Bright colours are my best friend pretty much!” Jessica says.

According to Alicia, Jessica puts everything on the line.

She’s even taken on some coaching

Last year, Jessica started coaching junior teams.

“I’ve always loved kids, but kids with disabilities, they have a certain place in my heart, because I am a kid with a disability,” she says.

A teenage girl is held in the air by three athletes while she poses with both arms straight up.
Jessica Evans has taken on the challenge of coaching younger athletes and is thriving on the experience.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

She’s thrived in the role and cherishes the relationships she’s made with her students.

“She’s just got that presence about her, that positivity and that’s what makes her so special. So having that disability but not using it, she’s utilising it,” Alicia says.

This is Jessica’s ninth year of cheer, and she still loves the atmosphere just as much as when she first started.

“When I come into the gym, you could have the worst day in the world, I can come back from an exam and come into here and spend the four or five hours that I’m here completely happy.

This sport has next-level support

Among the athletes here is 18-year-old Drew Stahlhut, whose team qualified to compete at this year’s Cheerleading Worlds in Florida before it was cancelled due to coronavirus.

A teenage girl jumps in the air and does the splits.
Drew’s team qualified for the World’s in Florida this year, but they couldn’t go because of COVID.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Drew has used cheer as a retreat from the pressures of school and teenage life.

“It’s like an escape for me,” she says.

“Last year, when I was doing my HSC, I was in a lot of stress and anxiety from studying, and then when you go to dancing [and cheer] it’s literally the biggest escape ever.”

She formed a strong bond with her teammates, many of whom were dealing with the same issues.

“We all just made sure that the gym was our happy place,” she says.

“A couple of the girls that were a bit older who had done it the year before were also really supportive too.”

It’s about everyone, and their parents

A girl hangs on a bar and smiles at the camera.
Kiana loves going to cheer and dance classes at Reign Elite, and regularly performs on stage.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Jenny is another mum who never thought her child would be involved in something like cheer.

Her daughter Kiana Roberts is 11 and has Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Motor Dyspraxia and anxiety.

She started at Reign Elite in the All Abilities Cheer two years ago.

“It’s helped her with her confidence, and it’s helped her with her abilities,” Jenny says.

Kiana has made new friends and her mother says her school teachers and therapists have noticed the effect it’s had.

“Her therapists, especially her physio and OT have seen the improvements in her, even with her co-ordination.

“She’s able to do more stuff and not get so tired, her muscles don’t get so sore and that comes down to what she does in cheer.”

Kiana loves performing and trusts her coaches to look after her like she would her mum.

“She’ll go backstage with her coaches and not have to cling to me,” Jenny says.

“Even though she doesn’t talk much to other people, she’ll talk to them about what she has to do and she’ll do great.”

“I love it. Every time I see her I just — it’s an indescribable feeling, every time I see her perform I get tears.

“It’s tears of joy and emotion.”

Despite the stereotypes, this is a true community

Four women look and smile at the camera in a cheerleading gym.
Jessica, Michelle, Drew and Kiana describe Reign Elite as their “cheer family”.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The Australian All-Star Cheer Federation says participation growth is increasing between 9 and 15 per cent each year.

A former gym owner herself, Alicia has seen first-hand the huge growth of cheer and dance at community level during her 18-year involvement.

“Cheer when I was younger was never a thing. We started as an acrobatics sort of thing and it evolved into cheer,” she says.

And despite what you may have seen in movies, she says it’s a friendly atmosphere.

“All the different clubs support each other,” Alicia says.

“At competitions you are not competitive. You want to support each other.



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