Queensland sex workers forced underground by ‘draconian’ laws amid ‘predatory’ police targeting, advocates say


“American girl next door …,” it read.

When he arrived at her apartment in Brisbane, he was nervous — nosey even. Then the barrage of questions began.

Where was she from? Who was she working with? Will she have group sex? Does she offer natural services (sex acts without a condom)?

While Isabel was used to awkward, middle-aged men prying about her services, she felt uneasy.

Queensland’s sex industry is home to a labyrinth of complex laws that are tightly regulated, with sex only legally sold in about 30 licensed brothels across the state or by people working alone.

Despite it being legal to be a sex worker in Queensland, workers are criminalised for explicitly advertising their services, working in pairs or offering “natural services” — sending much of the industry underground.

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8 jobs to do in the garden before the end of summer


It’s true that 2020 saw us all spending more time at home and in our gardens, so what did we enjoy about it? What did our gardens provide us, beyond a sanctuary of green? What did we improve on and what’s still on the to do list?

There are a few things lingering on my list that I’m yet to get done in my garden this summer, and finding the perfect grafted Hass avocado is one of them. In the meantime, here are eight jobs I’m getting done before summer’s out.

Irrigation and La Nina

If you’re a hand-waterer then this summer’s La Nina has probably given you a bit of time off – the east-coast rains have been giving our gardens a soaking. If you haven’t already, turn down your irrigation system to avoid overwatering lawns or garden beds. Some systems have rain sensors so will be already adjusting their watering duration to suit the weather. To make the most of this rainfall, take your indoor plants outside for a good wash on the next rainy day and they’ll love you for it.

Harvesting summer annuals

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Eggplants have been thriving in the steamy weather. Photo: Alex Carlyle Photography

I’m seeing plenty of eggplants and tomatoes ballooning on their vines, as well as beans, pumpkin, okra, passion fruit and a variety of leafy greens sprouting throughout all our gardens, rapidly ripening in this steamy weather. Once these are finished come the end of summer or early autumn, our beds will need to be topped up with fresh compost, cow manure, worm castings and some organic veggie fertiliser and soil conditioners in preparation for autumn planting.

If you’re keen to grow some autumn veggies, now’s the time to get planning – buy the pots or make the beds, do the soil prep and order your seeds for planting in a couple of months. Remember, you’ll be planting winter annuals this autumn. It’s already too late for most summer crops to go in now, but get cracking on some autumn growing.

Lawns and top-dressing

Our lawn has loved the ample sun and rain of late and looks vastly different this year. I’ll be busy aerating compacted areas, fertilising and adding a quality top dressing over the next few weekends.

Potting up and repotting plants

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Repot plants with fresh premium potting mix and water in well with some seaweed solution. Photo: Urban Growers

While our plants are actively growing throughout summer and we have wet weather to keep them hydrated, now would be a great time to get repotting and potting up. Remove your plants from their pots and tease off about a quarter of the old potting mix from around the root ball. Repot them with fresh premium potting mix and water in well with some seaweed solution. Mix a quarter of a bag of cow manure to every bag of potting mix for plants that love water. Avoid doing it on a hot day and water the plant the day before.

Pruning deadwood

You’ll need a sharp pair of secateurs, a saw and or some good loppers. Have a close look at your trees and shrubs and then remove dead branches and crossing branches that are rubbing. What to prune and when depends on the plant type, but taking out old dead or diseased wood will open up the tree for light and allow new growth to thrive.

Fertilise

Healthy soil is your priority focus as a gardener, so build it up with rich, organic matter such as compost, manure, worm castings and mulch. A great combination of these nutrient-dense ingredients will build excellent soil structure, which will provide water and nutrients to plants. Adding organic fertilisers and soil conditioners will boost nutrients.

How to grow Hass avocados

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Try your hand at growing your own avocado tree. Photo: iStock

If you love a bit of smashed avocado like the rest of us, and you have the space, then try growing one. You can buy grafted trees that fruit sooner, rather than growing from seed.

They do best with an A and B type planted close by for pollination, but most cities on the east coast have plenty of varieties growing in backyards, so you’re pretty safe with the one type.

Keep an eye out for good-looking specimens at your local nursery and choose the ideal size for your home and variety for your climate.

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Man’s death years after heart attack on Nauru shows toll of Australia’s refugee policies, advocates say


But the Somali refugee’s health problems would only become more severe in his years in offshore detention on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and later on Nauru.

Mr Mohammed died of a heart condition in Perth this month, on February 15, a day after his 39th birthday.

He is survived by his wife, from whom he is separated, and other relatives in Australia who did not wish to speak to the media at this time.

Mr Mohammed reported frequent chest pains and first received tests on his heart in late 2014, when he was in PNG, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).

He was given further heart tests in 2017 and battled other health issues, including eye problems and a compound fracture to his thigh where the bullet struck.

But he was not transferred to Australia for treatment until almost five years later, when he suffered a heart attack on Nauru in April 2019.

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What happens to Byron Bay locals who can’t afford the soaring property prices?


“There are no options,” says Pip Hood about coming to terms with holding a losing hand in the game of Byron Bay’s rapidly escalating property boom.

After receiving notice just before Christmas that her rented home of 10 years is to be sold, the 31-year-old has given up hope of finding anything in the wider region.

“I’d be looking at $700 a week or more for anything like this,” Ms Hood says, as she looks around her well-maintained, but basic, three-bedroom house for which she pays $450 a week to live in with her three children, aged 9, 5 and 2.

Figures and insights from local agents back up her conclusion. While media attention has focused on wildly escalating property prices — with Domain data showing median house prices in Byron Bay rose 37 per cent in 2020 alone — the plight of renters is less in the public eye.

Ms Hood lives in the seemingly more affordable north Byron Shire town of Ocean Shores — the median asking rent is $590 a week compared with Byron Bay town’s $750 a week — but the story on-the-ground is grimmer.

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Domain data shows median house prices in Byron Bay rose 37 per cent in 2020. Photo: iStock

Local real estate agent Peter Browning, of LJ Hooker Brunswick Heads, told Domain it’s not uncommon for applicants to offer hundreds of dollars above the quoted weekly rental, which means data based on the “asking price” does not always reflect reality.

Mr Browning also noted that he could receive hundreds of enquiries for a single rental vacancy.

As a single parent, Ms Hood has reluctantly accepted that, with those numbers, her odds are on the low side. “I know I’ll be at the bottom of a prospective tenant list,” she says. “Even though this place is in as good or better condition than when I moved in, and my kids have never done anything like draw on the walls.”

She’s far from alone in her predicament. “I’m watching others scramble to stay in the area – setting up in vans and the like – but I wouldn’t feel secure, especially as it’s only going to get worse,” she says. “We simply want to feel settled in a home.”

What is unsettling is the impact that moving away will have on Ms Hood’s day-to-day support networks. Her plans to undertake a course and related work experience are in disarray as they rely on help from family and friends. “I have a really solid web of support here,” she says. “My intention of raising my kids within a strong community has been taken out of my hands.”

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Pip Hood, pictured with children Minabellah, 9, Meeks, 2, and Miles, 5, hopes to find a home in Coffs Harbour. Photo: Danielle Smith

Ms Hood is looking around Coffs Harbour. She is surprised to hear that the reported median rental price in the last months of 2020 was $330 a week, as she hasn’t seen anything remotely that affordable.

She is also worried that, even if she does find something, the rising price trend (with rents up 22 per cent over the past five years) will catch up with her again. Her other option is Brisbane.

Ms Hood is calm as she shares her story at her kitchen table after making sure her chooks are secure from the coming rain, and her youngest is set up with a snack.

“I’ve moved through the initial panic and grief, though I’m sure there’s more to come,” she says. She stresses that, unlike others she’s heard about, her landlords are proceeding by the book and communicating well after deciding to sell to fund their retirement.

“I really like my landlords; they live in the same street and have tried to keep rent increases manageable up until now,” she says.

Coffs Harbour on the north coast of NSW.
The median rental price in Coffs Harbour has jumped 22 per cent in five years. Photo: Destination NSW

In this, Ms Hood is better off than those who have shared stories off the record or in local Facebook groups of being evicted without due notice or process or mistreated by landlords even once a new rental has been found.

It’s likely most of those desperate people won’t feel much sympathy for real estate agents but, according to Tim McKibbin, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of NSW, real estate staff are also experiencing downsides of this property boom. “It’s very stressful for everyone,” he says. “If someone is constantly missing out on finding a home, the emotions spill over, and that can be directed towards agents.”

Mr Browning agrees. “People need to not blame the agent. We’re the scapegoat and punching bag for everyone, but it’s the entire world that has shifted,” he says. “We’re being sworn at, and someone is physically abused on an hourly basis.”

The shifting world that Mr Browning refers to is a COVID-inspired, work-from-home-enabled flight out of capital cities coming hot on the heels of a celebrity-influx and an Airbnb bonanza in areas that were traditional havens for renters.

Ms Hood is trying hard to find any silver lining that might come from her enforced move, as well as hold onto hope that she might find a rental close enough to allow her kids to see their treasured cousins on occasional weekend trips back “home”.

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Queensland Reds beat the Melbourne Rebels in a dour Super Rugby AU match at Lang Park


In a match littered with penalties — 32 in all — and numerous handling errors from both sides, two second-half tries from Alex Mafi were enough for the Reds to mount a late comeback.

The Reds not only survived the second half sending off of Feao Fotuaika, but finally began to settle into their play when down a man, leaping into the lead for the first time in the game with two minutes to go.

However, one final infringement threatened to settle the contest when Hunter Paisami was cruelly judged to have tackled Frank Lamone within the kicking range of Matt To’omua.

But, To’omua missed a straight-forward penalty after the 80 to hand the Reds their second win of the Super Rugby AU season.

Although high on drama in the closing stages, that brief flicker of excitement could not mask a desperately disappointing match that stood in stark contrast to the enthusiasm of last week’s season opener.

“It was a tough old game,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said after the game.

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How this rundown 1980s abode transformed into a bright two-storey townhouse


A lot of applauding happens in Richmond. From AFL footy teams kicking goals at the MCG to diners savouring chefs’ best at top restaurants and iconic bands performing at the Corner Hotel.

Adding to the list is this townhouse, which confidently expands the horizons of small-footprint living with maximum impact.

Conscious of the modestly proportioned and narrow block of land, designer and developer Jon Rowatt wanted to create a home that was spacious and full of light.

Building on the site of what was formerly a rundown 1980s house, it was obvious to Rowatt that going up would be in his favour, resulting in a two-storey townhouse with a rooftop terrace that overlooks the city and the MCG.

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It now expands the horizons of small-footprint living with maximum impact. Photo: Dylan James

On a mission to get the most bang out of the floor plan, Rowatt explored and integrated materials and finishes that did not take space for granted.

“We were able to create more space inside by using concrete walls and we did a suspended concrete slab, which allowed us to gain extra ceiling height,” he says. “We also opted for a set ceiling and didn’t include skirting or architraves.” Once he’d been able to remedy the original spatial limitations of the property, Rowatt’s focus shifted to adding warmth to the space.

“I was worried about it feeling super clinical so I paid special attention to tactile surfaces and elements that were hand-finished,” he says. “It’s always my style to create a human house that you can enjoy; I’m not a fan of highly finished houses that make me feel too nervous to sit in them.”

Integral in injecting some of that “human touch” appeal into the home, Rowatt commissioned local specialist painters Mockturtle Design to apply a tactile custom finish to walls and cabinetry featured in the ground-floor kitchen, living and dining area.

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Mockturtle Design applied a tactile custom finish to walls and cabinetry in the kitchen, living and dining area. Photo: Dylan James

“I love that everything in the home has a texture to it,” he says; you can run your hand across any surface and feel a handmade application, from the tiny bubbles in the concrete to the super-smooth, glass-like feeling of the cantilever island bench.

The sculptural bench fixture was two years in the making for Rowatt, and was a labour of love.

“I’d been wanting to make something like this for ages,” he says.

The process moved slowly from his pen and paper sketch to collaborating with a local artist-maker to bring it to life and experimenting with various materials, finishes (resulting in a custom paint job by Mockturtle) and seals.

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Light and bright: Sunlight streams into the main bedroom at Richmond House. Photo: Dylan James

Beyond its artistic merits, Rowatt likes the practicality of the island bench. “I wanted to avoid the home feeling cramped, so the idea with the island bench was to create a two-function item that works well in the kitchen when cooking and easily becomes your dining table.”

The cantilever curves were a deliberate choice, encouraging at-home entertaining with its ability to comfortably seat 10 people around the table.

“The kitchen instantly becomes this dining room, where you can pop out some extra stools when you’re entertaining and put them away when you’re living day to day,” he says.

Natural lights streams through the home, particularly the ground-floor social area, with its floor-to-ceiling rear windows.

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The two-storey townhouse has a rooftop terrace that overlooks the city and the MCG. Photo: Dylan James

“We used steel-frame windows rather than aluminium-framed windows, which allows you to go to super-minimal profiles and again creates more space,” Rowatt says.

Following his design mantra to make “everything feel brighter, lighter and more liveable”, Rowatt has created a textural, layered townhouse worthy of applause.

Style notes

The island bench

In tight spaces, opt for a freestanding fixed island bench that also serves as a dining table. For optimal seating, lean towards a curved bench and bar stools.

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The sculptural bench fixture was two years in the making. Photo: Dylan James
The armchair

The Alva armchair by Sarah Ellison invites you to relax in its soft, oversized linen cushions. Its powder-coated steel frame gives it streamlined, slim proportions.

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The Alva Chair by Sarah Ellison. Photo: Supplied
The feature walls

Specialist painters Mockturtle Design add warmth and interest with tactile feature walls that compliment the lime-wash floorboards and concrete kitchen.

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White spot prawn disease now endemic to wild populations in Queensland’s Moreton Bay region


Authorities had previously been trying to eradicate the disease but will instead move to contain and control it.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner told ABC Radio Brisbane the Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Disease had declared the disease as “established in the wild”.

The new classification means efforts will no longer be focused on eradicating the virus but instead on containing and controlling it within the movement restricted zone.

Areas of Moreton Bay stretching from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, to the New South Wales border and west to Ipswich, have been declared as “containment zones”.

“Anywhere in the world where there is white spot, there has been no cases where there’s been an ability to eradicate it,” Mr Furner said.

“The best thing we can do and my department, Biosecurity Queensland, does extremely well is containment.”

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Hamish Blake and Zoë Foster Blake selling Richmond home


Funnyman Hamish Blake and skincare company founder Zoë Foster Blake are preparing to list their stylish Richmond house, just two months after purchasing an impressive home in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Vaucluse.

The large home, which spans three levels and sits on a large 440-square-metre block, is expected to come close to setting a new sale price record for the suburb when it hits the market next week as an expression-of-interest campaign.

The pair paid a record-setting $4.25 million for the Rowena Parade home back in June 2015.

Zoe Foster Blake and Hamish Blake.
Zoe Foster Blake and Hamish Blake moved to Sydney last year. Photo: Instagram

Lead agent Carla Fetter, from Jellis Craig Stonnington, said the couple had added some personal touches of their own, including a downstairs gym with a reformer bed, since buying the property. Foster Blake also worked with interior designer Simone Haag on remodelling the home.

“They’ve really softened the feel of the interiors with some beautiful details like wallpaper and an ensuite bathroom which has this wonderful pink terrazzo look and feel,” she said.

Ms Fetter described the home as an entertainers’ dream.

“You’ve got amazing 360-degree views from the rooftop,” she said. “It’s stunning. Not to mention it’s right in the heart of Richmond, on the doorstep to the city and to South Yarra.”

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom home, which has featured on Grand Designs Australia, was designed by Neil Architecture. It features a swimming pool, a home theatre and a temperature-controlled walk-in wine cellar with an adjoining bar room.

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The Richmond home will be listed for an expressions-of-interest campaign. Photo: Jellis Craig

Fellow Jellis Craig Stonnington agent David Sciola said the privacy of the property, which has no street-front access, was also appealing for many prospective buyers.

“The frontage is on a laneway off Rowena Parade, so it’s very private which would appeal to celebrities or anyone with a high profile,” he said.

The agents expected interest from far and wide, including overseas buyers who would be prepared to purchase the property sight unseen.

“We are talking to a lot of people who are currently living overseas but looking to return home. They’re living in places like Singapore, where apartments are pretty small,” Ms Fetter said. “To have the opportunity to buy a property of this scale and size so close to the city is pretty rare.”

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The rooftop deck of the Richmond home. Photo: Jellis Craig

The sale comes after the couple, who have two young children, announced in December that they had relocated to Sydney so Foster Blake could spend more time at the headquarters of her multi-million business, Go-To Skincare.

Foster Blake forked out $8,925,000 for a grand, five-bedroom house in Vaucluse, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Their sprawling new abode has six bathrooms, a pool and a self-contained home-office space.

Go-To Skincare propelled Foster Blake onto the AFR Young Rich List for the first time last year with an estimated net worth of $36 million, placing her 84th on the list.

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Zoe Foster Blake and Hamish Blake’s new Sydney home, as pictured in 2016. Photo: Supplied Photo: Supplied

 

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Woman killed as her car is hit by a train at a level-crossing near Lindum station, in Brisbane’s east


The woman’s car was struck by a train near the Lindum station on the Cleveland line about 1:45pm.

She was the driver and the sole occupant of the car and died at the scene.

Nobody on the train was injured.

Services are blocked in both directions.

Police said motorists should avoid the area near Lindum Train Station, with road closures impacting Lindum Road and North Road.

Police Inspector Carl Hahne told ABC Radio Brisbane it was a confronting scene.

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Paddington house sold for $7.75 million, smashing suburb record


A landmark home in need of renovation has smashed the Paddington suburb record after it sold for an eye-watering $7.75 million just days after hitting the market.

The pre-war estate – perched on a rare 4135-square-metre parcel in the inner-city Brisbane suburb – had been in the same family for more than 100 years, making the home a once-in-two-generation buy that sparked nothing short of a feeding frenzy.

Co-selling agent Tom Lyne, of Ray White New Farm, said the home garnered four offers of $7.5 million and higher from buyers on their database before the property was even listed.

The six-bedroom home sold to a local family, smashing the previous suburb record – set by the $5.45 million sale of a five-bedroom home in 2017 – by more than $2 million.

197 Fernberg Road, Paddington.
The estate on Fernberg Road is spread across 10 lots and is across the street from Government House.

The home at 197 Fernberg Road is across the street from Government House, home to Governor of Queensland Paul de Jersey.

Mr Lyne said the new family, who beat developers to snag their slice of Paddington paradise, plan to renovate the sprawling three-level house to create their dream home.

“The owners are rapt. It had been in their family for a couple of generations, and they were at the point where it was a lot to look after, so they’ve relocated,” Mr Lyne said.

“We didn’t even get a chance to advertise the home on Domain or other portals [before the home was snapped up]. In my career, to have four official offers [for a home in this price range] before it’s even listed is unheard of.”

197 Fernberg Road, Paddington.
The home had been held by one family for more than 100 years.

While Brisbane’s red-hot prestige property market had fuelled the outstanding result, Mr Lyne said, the sheer scarcity of such homes led to the record-smashing sale.

“To find a block that big in that location with an opportunity like that, well, they just don’t come by. And the next-door neighbour is the governor, so it’s a truly rarefied property,” Mr Lyne said.

“It appealed to home owners and developers because there were 10 existing lots (on that parcel). But this local family bought it with plans to be there for 20 or 30 years.”

He said the house itself was pre-war but had been upgraded post-war and was an absolute renovator’s delight, with the property featuring a tennis court and a pool on a prime lot with sweeping city views.

197 Fernberg Road, Paddington.
The buyers plan to renovate the Fernberg Road house to turn it into their dream home.

Mr Lyne said what made the sale even more special was that all four offers came from Brisbane residents, with the vendors thrilled to pass their home onto locals.

“So, as much as we are experiencing [increased interest from] interstate and overseas buyers, don’t underestimate the local market,” he said.

“And the market is improving week by week … I’ve never seen the prestige sector better. It’s very, very hot.

“Brisbane is such a great news story right now with all the infrastructure projects … it’s Brisbane’s time to shine.”

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