The challenge of making public spaces safer for women


Belinda Lo and Olivia Greenwell meet once a week to go running at sunrise along the Merri Creek, in Melbourne’s inner north.

They love the greenery, the birds and the quiet.

“It’s an oasis in the city,” Ms Lo said.

But they would never do it alone.

“The reality of women in our public spaces is we’re actually not safe to run alone,” Ms Lo said.

“We’re always having to look over our shoulder because of potential predatory behaviour of people hiding in the bushes, potentially going to assault us or harm us in some way.

“It’s the reality that girls and women grow up with, and we all know it.”

The local council commissioned a report to examine safety issues along the Merri Creek at Coburg, where there was an alleged rape in 2019.

Monash University’s XYX Lab, which studies gender-sensitive design practices, surveyed more than 800 people, and found although people loved the area’s green space, there were issues with perceptions of safety.

“Since the [alleged] attack, women have been absenting themselves from the creek either permanently, or at certain times of the day, or under certain conditions,” the report found.

It said women experience public spaces differently to men, and often change their behaviour, doing things like walking with a friend or dog to protect themselves from violence.

It found environmental solutions alone would not fix the problem, and more needed to be done to address violence against women.

It suggested adding things like park benches and scheduling community events, to attract people to the area.

For Ms Greenwell, that would make a huge difference.

She said, during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, she felt safe enough to run by herself, sometimes even at night.

“There were people around, walking their dogs, and it felt safe because there were a lot of people around,” she said.

The Deputy Mayor of Moreland, Mark Riley, said that was something council would look at closely.

“The more people there, the more comfortable you can feel sometimes rather than feeling alone, so it’s important to activate the space,” he said.

The Merri Creek includes several underpasses, where the path crosses under busy roads.

Many women told the researchers they wanted more lighting, with some describing the underpasses as “creepy”.

“Darkness is a strong trigger for raising levels of caution and fear, such that many women curtail their after-dark activities,” the report found.

However, a number of people were also opposed to lighting that would disturb the animal life.

The report called for lighting in key areas, like the underpasses and footbridges, but found CCTV was unlikely to work, given the large area of the creek.

Like many trails along creeks, parts of the path along the Merri Creek are quite narrow or crumbling.

“Paths that are narrow force women closer to strangers who might grab at them or make unwelcome comments,” the report found.

The report also suggested adding more routes in and out of the parkland, so women could escape potentially threatening situations.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Calls for change as new report finds Victorian paramedics under stress levels akin to a mental disorder


Paramedic Dean Adams was coming home from a 12-hour night shift during which a patient had threatened to murder him when he realised something had to give.

He’d barely had time to use the toilet, let alone eat anything that night, as his crew was sent from job to job — culminating in treating a man who’d assaulted a police officer, and then turned on him.

In his three years since starting as a paramedic, Mr Adams has seen the workload increase dramatically.

“The relentlessness was just unsustainable going forward, and for me that was evidenced by sleeping difficulties … it was impacting my eating patterns,” he said.

He was dreading going to work, especially to back-to-back 12-hour night shifts.

He stopped seeing friends and felt drained.

“I think we all strive to provide the best care to our patients … but there’s times where you’ve been working for 10-12 hours and you haven’t had time to stop and recover … and that’s when it becomes dangerous,” he said.

A new study, led by researchers at Swinburne and RMIT universities and obtained exclusively by the ABC, has found that like Mr Adams, many Ambulance Victoria employees are at breaking point.

More than a third feel burnt out by their work, and 10 per cent are looking to leave the profession in the next year.

Almost one in 10 are exhibiting stress levels comparable to having a severe psychological disorder, while a quarter report being under moderate levels of psychological distress.

In comparison, previous studies have found less than 13 per cent of the general population exhibits similar distress levels.

Report author Peter Holland said the research pointed to a dangerous level of emotional exhaustion in the workforce, far beyond anything he’d seen in his previous studies on nurses in hospitals.

“They’re under very significant levels of stress, to the extent that some of these people need some help themselves in that sense,” Professor Holland said.

The survey of 663 staff — about 17 per cent of on-road Ambulance Victoria employees — was completed in September last year during Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown. 

But Professor Holland and co-author Lara Thynne believe the situation would not have changed since that time because workloads had increased dramatically since the lockdown ended.

“If anything, things have gotten worse,” Dr Thynne said.

She said while being a paramedic was always a high-intensity job, the research found recent trends of missing meal breaks, working overtime, and gruelling night shifts with no rest time were taking their toll.

“The damage is the emotional effects on paramedics outside work. We know paramedics [already] have higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of marriage breakdown,” she said.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown ended, Victoria’s health system has been under strain, with demand for ambulances skyrocketing.

Victoria’s hospital emergency departments are full, which leads to ramping — a situation where paramedics care for a patient in the ambulance outside a hospital until a bed becomes available inside.

This in turn prevents the crew from attending emergencies in the community.

Pair that with an increase in call-outs in recent months, and ambulance wait times are now at their worst levels in six years, according to new quarterly data.

The deadly consequences of this were evident two weeks ago, when 32-year-old Christina Lackmann died after waiting six hours for an ambulance.

It prompted the Victorian government on Friday to announce more than $750 million in the upcoming budget for more paramedics, better systems to deal with non-urgent emergency calls, and better access to beds in emergency departments.

The exact reasons for increased call-outs are not known, but Danny Hill from the Victorian Ambulance Union said his members were seeing more patients with chronic illnesses who had let their treatment go during the pandemic.

He also believes his members are increasingly taking patients who don’t need further care to hospital, because the paramedics fear they won’t be supported by Ambulance Victoria if the patient later suffers an adverse event.

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Victoria moves to single QR code COVID-19 check-in system amid concerns about compliance


It wasn’t until Rachelle Connor left Victoria and returned that she started to become worried about how QR codes were used in her home state.

At the first restaurant they visited after arriving in Western Australia, Ms Connor and her family were asked to download the SafeWA app before scanning into the venue.

“That’s how diligent they are,” she said.

It was one of the first times she had been told she would not be allowed into a venue without showing proof of her checking in.

“It’s just everywhere, people are doing it and people are complying,” she said.

“And it just struck us that after being in Victoria, where we’ve had so many cases, to go to a state that has had barely any cases, and everyone is still scanning to go into any sort of shop or any outlet was just extraordinary.”

Ms Connor, a council worker, said she had written to businesses since returning home “and I was told that it’s not mandatory in Victoria”.

Most venues, including hospitality, sport facilities, gyms, religious sites, community venues, entertainment venues, real estate inspections, museums, nightclubs, gaming, accommodation and beauty services, are all required to use a QR code system.

Supermarkets, retail and shopping centres are “highly recommended” to use the service.

The results of a recent survey released by the government found only 41 per cent of visitors to hospitality venues checked in every time.

Authorised officers visited a range of venues between April 30 and May 2 and issued warnings or notices about a lack of compliance with the system.

Health Minister Martin Foley said there had been “declining levels of compliance with the kind of measures we need to stay safe and stay open”.

The use of QR codes for contact tracing is in the spotlight after New South Wales authorities praised a couple at the centre of the outbreak for using the state’s system.

Nancy Baxter, head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, said the QR codes were “really helpful” if everyone was using them.

The data collected through the QR codes can work faster than the “deep detective work” of contact tracers, meaning potentially infected people isolate sooner.

But Professor Baxter said their usefulness depended on their uptake.

“Even myself, I try to be vigilant about it, but just recently, I couldn’t seem to get the system to work. Did I persist? No, honestly … and I don’t think I’m unique,” she said.

The government has today announced small-to-medium-sized businesses will have patron caps lifted from May 28.

Venues that are 400 square metres or below will be able to have up to 200 patrons per space — such as a dining room or band room — with the previous rule of one person per 2 square metres removed.

They must use the government’s Service Victoria app and have COVID marshals in place to ensure people are checking in to each space.

Mr Foley said the move to the single system was made on public health advice and after looking around the rest of the nation.

After allowing venues to use their own check-in system for months, Victoria recently mandated the use of the Service Victoria app, or for third-party systems to link back to the government’s interface.

Venues were given an amnesty until April 23 to comply.

There had been some pushback over fears small businesses would be forced to bear the cost of the move to a single program.

The new rules announced today mean all venues must use the government’s app instead, despite many going through the process of having their systems approved over recent weeks.

“Business welcomes the announcement of the easing of restrictions today,” chief executive of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Paul Guerra said.

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Man charged after serious truck crash injures five pedestrians in Melbourne’s Southbank


Victorian police have charged a man over a serious crash in Southbank that left five pedestrians injured.

Police said the 64-year-old driver from Wyndham Vale was arrested after the incident on Thursday night. On Friday night he was “initially” charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury.

In a media statement, police said it was alleged that while turning left, the truck cut the intersection corner and mounted the footpath, knocking over a traffic light.

Five pedestrians — four men and a woman all aged in their 20s — were injured.

The driver has been remanded into custody and will face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today.

Earlier, investigators said the B-double tanker was turning left from City Road on to Power Street about 7:00pm on Thursday when it mounted the footpath. 

The tanker did not stop at the crash scene and left via Power Street.

Earlier, the driver’s employer said the driver had told them he was “unaware” of the incident.

The K&S Group said in a statement that the man had worked for the company for nearly 10 years and was on his way to a depot in a company truck at the end of his shift.

“Our thoughts are with the people and the families of those involved,” K&S Group managing director and CEO Paul Sarant said in a statement

“It’s obviously a very serious matter which is being fully investigated by the police and the company. We’re advised the driver maintains he was unaware of the incident.”

Police said a motorist who saw the crash unfold followed the truck and provided information that helped officers find the driver. 

A truck, believed to be that involved in the crash, was found in Truganina in Melbourne’s west.

Investigators have appealed for anyone who saw the incident or who has dashcam footage to come forward.

Ambulance Victoria said the five pedestrians were taken to two different hospitals.

Two men in their 20s were taken to the Alfred Hospital with lower body injuries. 

One remains in a critical but stable condition while the other is in a stable condition.

Two men and a woman in their 20s, were taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with lower body injuries.

The men are in a serious condition and the woman is in a stable condition.

Southbank resident Peter Duras was at the scene of the crash shortly after it happened.

“My stomach just turned, it was just horrifying to see people lying everywhere, ambulance officers doing their best and police and fire cars everywhere,” he said.

Mr Duras said the corner had been a concern for years, because trucks with placarded loads were not allowed to enter the Domain or Burnley tunnels, and were funnelled onto City Road.

“As the area is built up more and more and more highly developed it’s become a definite concern because you see the difficulty which some of these vehicles have getting around that corner,” he said.

“This is a high density residential area so it’s possibly inevitable that one day this would happen.”

Another Southbank resident Janine Patterson said last night’s crash was an accident “waiting to happen”.

“That particular corner had a recent build on it and it actually decreased the size of footpath available for pedestrians to stand safely,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

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Prime Minister criticised on Q+A over abandoning Australians of Indian heritage during COVID-19 crisis


Australia may be set to resume flights from India next week to get stranded citizens home, but the Morrison government received a lashing on Q+A from guest Mannie Kaur Varma, who said Australians of Indian heritage are not being seen as equals by the Prime Minister.

Ms Varma said those in the Indian community felt abandoned by Mr Morrison, as she took aim in a show opening that mocked the PM’s love of curries, suggesting he thinks they are India’s major contribution to Australian society.

“First you grant us exemption to go to India to look after our loved ones who are fighting for their lives, then you abandon us and leave us in a country that is gasping for air,” Ms Varma said.

“In 2019 the Prime Minister said Australia is like a fragrant garam masala…for the Prime Minister, is the value of Indians reduced to just our food or does he see us as equals?”

Asked by host Hamish Macdonald how the flight ban and the threat of jail time for those returning from India made her feel, Ms Varma said the government ruling, under the Biosecurity Act, made it feel like Indian-Australians were not equal.

“What is going on in India is horrible and to know we are not treated the same as everyone else is just appalling,” she said.

Coalition Member for Reid in NSW, Fiona Martin, said the ruling was simply a case of following the health advice available to the government due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in returned travellers from India.

“Last month we saw over 40 per cent of people travelling home from India testing positive to COVID-19,” Ms Martin said, before adding other countries such as the United States (6 per cent) had a much lower rate.

Asked if those of Indian descent in her electorate had expressed similar feelings to Ms Varma, Ms Martin said that was not the case, but they did feel the threat of jail was overly aggressive.

“The penalty is what has been of concern by constituents, not the ban itself,” she said.

“As I mentioned, earlier in the week, I thought the penalty was a little heavy-handed and that part of it was problematic.”

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney, who herself has a sizeable Indian population in her Barton electorate in NSW, said she had heard similar gripes to Ms Varma’s.

She said constituents felt “abandoned” and pointed out that to become Australian citizens, those who hail from India had to renounce their India citizenship, making the government’s flight ban an even more egregious move.

“We’re not talking about people who are not Australian citizens,” Ms Burney said of the Australians stranded in India.

“They are Australian citizens and Australian governments are responsible for keeping their citizens safe and providing them with as much support as possible in difficult circumstances.

Ms Martin was quick to refute the notion of it being a political response.

“This is not a political response. This is a health response. This decision has been based on health advice,” she said.

While India and coronavirus opened the show, a large part was devoted to the discussion of coercive control and how Australia can tackle the issue moving forward, including making it illegal.

In a powerful opening to the topic, audience member Suzette Sutton said she endured abuse for 25 years during which she tried to take her own life twice. She asked how the issue could be solved in relationships that involve domestic violence.

SBS journalist Jess Hill said that criminalising coercive control would make the entire gamut of domestic violence visible — not just physical or sexual assaults — and that it would ultimately help victims.

“What we’re proposing with criminalising coercive control is to make the entire arc of what you were subjected to visible,” Hill said.

“Not just the physical incidents, not just the things that our criminal justice system recognises now, but everything from the start to the finish so that we understand what the risks are, what the damage has been and how dangerous the offender is.”

Ms Burney, herself a survivor of domestic violence, said she wanted Australians to understand just how crippling coercive control could be, adding that it should be criminalised.

“Something that I want people to understand is this often the basis to destroying a person,” Ms Burney said.

“It takes away who you are.

“I agree that coercive control should be criminalised. 

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Man charged after serious truck crash injures five pedestrians in Melbourne’s Southbank


Victorian police have charged a man over a serious crash in Southbank that left five pedestrians injured.

Police said the 64-year-old driver from Wyndham Vale was arrested after the incident on Thursday night. On Friday night he was “initially” charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury.

In a media statement, police said it was alleged that while turning left, the truck cut the intersection corner and mounted the footpath, knocking over a traffic light.

Five pedestrians — four men and a woman all aged in their 20s — were injured.

The driver has been remanded into custody and will face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

Earlier, investigators said the B-double tanker was turning left from City Road on to Power Street about 7:00pm on Thursday when it mounted the footpath. 

The tanker did not stop at the crash scene and left via Power Street.

Earlier, the driver’s employer said the driver had told them he was “unaware” of the incident.

The K&S Group said in a statement that the man had worked for the company for nearly 10 years and was on his way to a depot in a company truck at the end of his shift.

“Our thoughts are with the people and the families of those involved,” K&S Group managing director and CEO Paul Sarant said in a statement

“It’s obviously a very serious matter which is being fully investigated by the police and the company. We’re advised the driver maintains he was unaware of the incident.”

Police said a motorist who saw the crash unfold followed the truck and provided information that helped officers find the driver. 

A truck, believed to be that involved in the crash, was found in Truganina in Melbourne’s west.

Investigators have appealed for anyone who saw the incident or who has dashcam footage to come forward.

Ambulance Victoria said the five pedestrians were taken to two different hospitals.

Two men in their 20s were taken to the Alfred Hospital with lower body injuries. 

One remains in a critical but stable condition while the other is in a stable condition.

Two men and a woman in their 20s, were taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with lower body injuries.

The men are in a serious condition and the woman is in a stable condition.

Southbank resident Peter Duras was at the scene of the crash shortly after it happened.

“My stomach just turned, it was just horrifying to see people lying everywhere, ambulance officers doing their best and police and fire cars everywhere,” he said.

Mr Duras said the corner had been a concern for years, because trucks with placarded loads were not allowed to enter the Domain or Burnley tunnels, and were funnelled onto City Road.

“As the area is built up more and more and more highly developed it’s become a definite concern because you see the difficulty which some of these vehicles have getting around that corner,” he said.

“This is a high density residential area so it’s possibly inevitable that one day this would happen.”

Another Southbank resident Janine Patterson said last night’s crash was an accident “waiting to happen”.

“That particular corner had a recent build on it and it actually decreased the size of footpath available for pedestrians to stand safely,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Thank you for dropping by My Local Pages and reading this news release involving “News in the City of Melbourne titled “Man charged after serious truck crash injures five pedestrians in Melbourne’s Southbank”. This news update was presented by My Local Pages as part of our local and national events & news stories services.

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The man behind Victoria’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout answers your questions about the shot


So far, more than 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Australia — well short of the 40 million doses needed to fully inoculate adults across the country.

As more people become eligible, many of you have questions about when you should get vaccinated and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

ABC Radio Melbourne put some of these queries to infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist Professor Ben Cowie, who is advising the state government on the vaccine rollout in Victoria.

No. While Professor Cowie recommends getting specific advice from your GP or haematologist, as a general rule a history of blood clots does not put you at greater risk of developing the rare clotting condition associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The type of clotting that occurs with AstraZeneca vaccine is a specific reaction to the vaccine which is mediated by the immune system we think — that is part of the reason why it occurs most commonly amongst younger people,” Professor Cowie said.

“There really is no evidence that any form of underlying clotting disorder (apart from a very rare allergy to an anti-coagulant called heparin) is associated with an increased risk of clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Yes – but you might be waiting for a while.

In April the Commonwealth government announced it had secured an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The bad news? They won’t arrive until the end of the year.

“That is clearly after winter and we want to have as many people vaccinated as we can before winter,” Professor Cowie said.

He is encouraging people who are eligible for the AstraZeneca to get vaccinated sooner rather than later to better protect themselves and the broader community.

“The best vaccine is the one that is available right now.”

After more than a year of closed borders, social distancing and a long lockdown in Victoria, Australia is in the fortunate position of having next to no community COVID-19 transmission.

But Professor Cowie says there is no guarantee that will continue.

“By having as many people vaccinated now as we possibly can … that helps prevent the risk of COVID re-entering our population and spreading,” he said.

“It also means that if we do have transmission that reoccurs in our community we will have fewer people to try and vaccinate as quickly as we possibly can to prevent that from becoming out of control.”

Professor Cowie said health authorities were being “extremely careful” to ensure they had adequate supply of the vaccines and could get their second dose at the optimal time.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the product information says the second dose can be administered between four and 12 weeks after the first dose.

However clinical trials have shown that people who received their second dose on or just beyond the 12-week mark were better protected against COVID-19.

So, if you happen to get your second dose on week 13 or 14, you are still just as protected.

Yes.

If you are under 50 and eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine because of your work or an underlying medical condition, you can choose to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Professor Cowie said if you want to be vaccinated through your GP it would be a good idea to call ahead and explain your situation. In Victoria you can also book into a state-run, high-volume vaccination centre.

This one is easy – yes, you should wait 14 days between a dose of flu vaccine and a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

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Michael Rowland and Norman Swan got AstraZeneca vaccines. Here’s what happened



It started with some friendly breakfast TV banter.Norman Swan was on for his regular spot when, as has often been the case in recent months, the conversation turned to the vaccine rollout.I mentioned I had happily booked my first AstraZeneca shot now the program was open to over-50s.Norman said he happened to be travelling to Melbourne the next day and, instead of a coffee date, we should get vaccinated together.”Sure,” I said, thinking he was probably in such high demand the idea wouldn't go anywhere.As soon as he was out of the studio, Norman was enthusiastically texting about making arrangements, and some on-air spitballing quickly became reality.An absurdly straightforward process The queue moves quickly to get into the centre.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)We met the next morning outside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of the city's mass vaccination hubs.At the risk of inflaming Sydney-Melbourne rivalries, this is something my Sydney colleague can't yet do.Sydney's first vaccination hub, at Olympic Park in Homebush, doesn't open until next week.Until then, people have to rely on their GPs and small medical clinics to get their shots.  People wait in physically distanced chairs for their turn in the vaccination booth.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)It was a beautiful autumn day.Norman surveyed the scene and I am sure I detected a look of envy.It was quite a liberating day for both of us, particularly for Norman, who has spent all of his working hours over the past year helping explain the pandemic and the various vaccines to an anxious public.He has been a valuable source of advice and comfort for audiences across a range of ABC programs, and those who've subscribed to the wildly popular Coronacast podcast.Can I wait for Pfizer? Vaccine questions answeredAs more Australians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations we put your questions to the senior medical adviser for the Victorian vaccine rollout.Read moreThe selfie requests in the time I was with him bear this out.I asked Norman how he felt as we walked through the Convention Centre's doors.”Look, I'm excited to get it, actually. I just want that security of protection. And we've all got to get in there and do it,” he said.”It's playing your part, it helps yourself, it helps your family and the evidence is that it reduces infection rates, so it's going to reduce infection in the community.”Once inside, the process was almost absurdly straightforward. After giving their details, including their Medicare number, the pair were reminded they were getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)The mid-morning queues weren't that long, so people were ushered into the vaccination booths at a steady clip. You can either make a booking, or just turn up.The first step was registering our names and Medicare details with health officials, who asked the standard questions about whether you're feeling well.They reminded us that, as over 50s, it is the AstraZeneca vaccine we are receiving. No problem at all.Over in seconds The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination is now available to anyone over the age of 50.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Then it was into another queue for a turn with a vaccination nurse.I landed with Chris, who works for the Royal Melbourne Hospital and was thrilled to be playing her part in the vaccination effort.In fact, all of the medical professionals I came across were delightful and fully committed to this massive public health project. Vaccine nurse Chris talks Michael Rowland through the process of receiving his shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris asked detailed questions about my medical history, including whether I have suffered blood clots, and, importantly, how I go with needles.After all the build-up, the actual vaccination was a bit of an anticlimax. It was over in seconds. The discussions with the nurse take longer than the process of receiving the shot itself.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris set about explaining some of the possible side effects.These include pain in the injection arm, tiredness, headaches as well as fever and chills.These normally don't appear until a day after the vaccination. The side effects are usually mild and disappear within one or two days. The nurse asks questions to ensure Dr Swan is medically suited to receiving the shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Read more about Australia's vaccine rollout:How serious are the risks of blood clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine?Why is the Astrazeneca vaccine approved for over 50s?A very rare and more serious side effect is blood clotting, with symptoms mostly starting between four and 20 days after the vaccination.As a precaution, everyone had to wait on site for 15 minutes after their dose, and there was a general mood of optimism and determination among those proudly waving their vaccination certificates.A random opinion poll produced some common answers:”I actually think it's important for the community. I think it's necessary for all of us to do it.””I think we all need to get vaccinated. We all need to do the right thing and together we can beat this pandemic.””The sooner we can get through this the better and things can get back to normal and start travelling again. I am sick of it, really, so let's get the ball rolling.”To be honest, I'm pretty sick of it too. It is only through all of us playing our small role in getting vaccinated that we can regain some of the pleasures that we lost once the pandemic struck.Hopefully the small amount of “vaccine hesitancy” will dissipate further once the rollout picks up speed, as it is now showing signs of doing.And if it takes Dr Norman Swan to accompany you personally to your vaccination appointment, I have his number.What you need to know about coronavirus:The symptomsThe number of cases in AustraliaTracking Australia's vaccine rolloutGlobal cases, deaths and testing ratesPosted YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 6:51pm, updated YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 11:03pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppRelated StoriesBrett Sutton gets his first COVID jab as mass vaccination centres open across VictoriaBrenda was in tears as she got her COVID vaccine as hubs open to all Australians over 50More on:MelbourneHealthCOVID-19Vaccines and Immunity

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COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria infection control manager stood down after allegedly breaching protocols


The general manager of infection control at the agency running Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has been stood down after allegedly breaching their own protocols twice in the past two months.

Minister for Government Services Danny Pearson said he became aware of the reports last night and had stood aside COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria’s (CQV) general manager of infection prevention and control, Matiu Bush, pending a review into their conduct and behaviour.

“This issue with [Matiu] Bush goes more to [their] attitude and behaviour: there were infection control breaches, but they were of a very low level,” Mr Pearson said.

“Public confidence is paramount, and I don’t think the public would want to see someone in a senior leadership role continue to behave in this way, that’s why [they have] been stood down.”

The head of CQV, Emma Cassar, said the breaches were minor but disappointing.

She said the first incident involved Matiu Bush refusing to get tested at one quarantine hotel after a request by ADF personnel, but they were eventually tested at another site.

“[They] still met the requirement to have a daily test … but my understanding is the staff member did make comments about the fact [they] didn’t need to be tested at that site,” Ms Cassar said.

“We expect the highest standards from our staff, and this has fallen well short of that.”

Another incident involved the infection control manager getting a coffee from a coffee shop and coming back to a quarantine hotel without changing their mask or sanitising.

The leaked incident reports detailing the breaches were published in The Australian newspaper, which also published an internal report contradicting claims by the government that an outbreak at the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel in February was caused by a banned nebuliser.

Instead, the CQV infection control report said the “proposed working hypothesis” was that the leak was caused by a staff member who took an extended amount of time to swab a guest.

Ms Cassar on Wednesday said that was not her understanding.

“The working hypothesis is still as I understand, is that this was caused by the nebuliser,” she said.

The Victorian Opposition has called for all of the incident reports to be released to the public and said the state government had not learnt the lessons from previous hotel quarantine leaks.

“This is an outbreak waiting to happen, this is a lockdown waiting to happen, because the government hasn’t learnt the lessons and they still can’t get it right,” Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said.

Victoria recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the 68th day in a row.

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