‘I spoke the truth’: Jarryd Hayne maintains his innocence after being found guilty of sexual assault


Content warning: This story contains references to sexual assault.

Two-time NRL player-of-the-year Jarryd Hayne maintains his innocence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in her Newcastle home in 2018, but accepts he is going to jail.

Hayne, 33, had denied assaulting the woman saying the incident in her bedroom had been consensual.

After nearly 18 hours of deliberations that began last Wednesday, the Sydney District Court jury found him not guilty of both counts of aggravated sexual sexual intercourse without consent inflicting actual bodily harm.

But Hayne was found guilty of two alternative counts of sexual intercourse without consent. 

Outside court on Monday, Hayne told reporters: “I’d rather go to jail knowing I spoke the truth than be a free man living a lie.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s disappointing but at the end of the day they’ve come to a decision and I respect that,” he added.

The Crown had argued the former State of Origin player felt entitled to sex when he went to the then-26-year-old woman’s Newcastle home, having left his friends drinking at a bucks party and also missing watching his old teammates in the NRL grand final that evening.

The woman testified Hayne was “rough, forceful and inconsiderate,” despite her protests of “no” and “no Jarryd,” and pushed her face into the pillow before ripping her jeans off.

Hayne testified that the woman had become “filthy” after finding out a taxi was waiting for him outside her home and knew she did not want sex.

But he wanted to “please her” and the pair kissed before he commenced consensual oral and digital sex, he said.

“She said she didn’t want to have sex. We didn’t have sex,” Hayne said.

He rejected the suggestion the woman was retreating up the bed to get away from him, saying she helped him remove her pants. 

Jarryd Hayne has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in 2018.

AAP

The assault lasted for about 30 seconds before the woman started bleeding from her genitals.

The Crown argued Hayne had no reasonable grounds for believing the woman would have consented to any sexual activity that evening.

But Hayne’s barrister argued his client was content to “take it or leave it” and fully respected the woman’s wishes to not have sex after she found out about the taxi.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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Truth commission will reveal what really happened at first settlement


A depiction of John Batman making his way up the Yarra River in 1835.Credit:The Age Archives

The governor of the island colony, implicated in the invasion even while publicly upholding its illegality, brought time by seeking advice from distant London. This was unambiguous when it came – remove and prosecute the trespassers. But a subsequent administration, headed by Lord Melbourne, not only sanctioned the squatter camp on the Yarra River, but abandoned any further attempt to control the bounds of settlement. A first-come best-served land rush on the pastures predictably followed.

Squatters moved well-armed men and sheep up the river systems of eastern Australia with such speed that in a decade, conquered country stretched from Hervey Bay to Wilsons Promontory.

While London had not intended the licences to confer an exclusive right of possession, the squatters, with the backing of colonial courts, asserted this anyway. Aboriginal people, now trespassers in their own country, were forcefully evicted, and those who resisted taught a firm lesson.

Indigenous survivors clustered in forlorn refugee camps where the usual factors associated with such places when there is no external support – inadequate food and shelter, polluted water, poor sanitation and broken spirits – predictably led to high levels of death from disease.

There was resistance and extraordinary stories of survival and adaptation. But by the time Victoria separated from New South Wales in 1851, the First Nations population had declined by more than 80 per cent.

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Australians are remarkably adept at normalising our history: while it might be regrettable, it is just what happened in those days. But the truth is that the founding of Melbourne and the subsequent opening of the continent to an uncontrolled land rush was a unique event in the history of the British Empire that was largely driven by local vested interests. It was known at the time that this policy would result in the rapid death of Aboriginal people, but decision-makers put other priorities above preventing this.

The establishment of a squatter camp on the Yarra was the catalyst for the uncontrolled conquest of much of Australia. Its consequences are still being experienced today.

The truth-telling commission will have enormous ground to cover but it will be important to begin with dispelling the celebratory myths still associated with Melbourne’s founding story.

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William and Kate reclaim their own narrative in the face of Sussexes’ ‘truth’


“At the moment, Harry seems to have taken ownership of the whole story,” adds Junor. “He is calling the shots on what this family is all about and invoking Diana. But what he’s actually done is effectively put a bomb under William’s future. He’s done such damage to his family.”

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Shortly after the Cambridge children’s touching cards were posted online, it emerged that Prince Harry had arranged for flowers to be placed on his mother’s grave in the grounds of Althorp Park – a reminder of the different ways in which the brothers are both still wrestling with Diana’s legacy.

Intriguingly, though, the Cambridges’ recent candour when it comes to publishing images of their children – along with their heart-rending artwork – does appear to borrow from the Sussex playbook of drawing back the curtain on the window to their souls.

The previously intensely private couple have been far more open since Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, became a couple, regularly sharing snaps from the family photo album while laying bare their own personal feelings about issues such as parenting and mental health.

Since having her three children, the 39-year-old Duchess of Cambridge has appeared to spread her wings, spearheading a landmark study on early years learning while carrying out other solo projects, such as designing a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower show in 2019.

Her unexpected presence at Saturday’s “banned” vigil on Clapham Common, when she let it be known that she “remembers what it was like to walk around London at night before she was married”, marked a real watershed for the once-passive Kate, asserting her credentials as one of the monarchy’s most influential members.

Junor believes that the couple “are acutely aware of the following the Sussexes have got” and are “rightly trying to emulate it”.

The author, 71, explains: “People my age are bemused and appalled by what Harry and Meghan said on Oprah, but younger people, who don’t give two hoots about monarchy, sided with the Sussexes and they are the future.

“Maybe the Cambridges are learning, just as the Royal family did when Diana came and started doing things in a different way, that there is traction to be had in being a little more open with the public.”

Both brothers must have in mind the public scrutiny that will come with their attendance at the unveiling of the statue of their mother on what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1.

All eyes will be on the estranged siblings as they are reunited, possibly for the first time in 15 months, in Kensington Palace Gardens.

Despite all that has been said and done, and with William admitting he had not even spoken to his brother on Thursday, three days after the interview aired in the UK, royal aides insist it would be “unthinkable” for either to pull out.

“It’s the most damaging thing that anyone could say [about] anyone else. It is hard to see how they come back from this.”

Penny Junor, royal biographer

Yet royal watchers remain perplexed as to how the Palace are going to orchestrate what could prove to be a very awkward engagement with the world’s press looking on.

“Part of me thinks that the relationship is possibly irreparable,” Junor says. “We know how determined William can be, and Harry and Meghan have not only trashed his wife but accused the royal family of racism. It’s the most damaging thing that anyone could say [about] anyone else. It is hard to see how they come back from this.”

Behind palace gates, however, insiders insist the Cambridges remain “hopeful of a reconciliation”, saying: “What they really want is peace.” Evoking the spirit of the Queen’s statement, in which she said the “serious” and “concerning” issues raised by Harry and Meghan would be “addressed privately”, there appears little desire for a protracted transatlantic slanging match, although as one source put it: “The trust has been lost.”

It is perhaps indicative of the depth of the tensions between the brothers that one of the reasons the statue project stalled, after first being announced in January 2017, was because they disagreed about the design.

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The two princes – who were just 15 and 13 when Diana was killed in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997 – commissioned the statue of the woman who they said “touched so many lives” after the £3.6 million Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park was beset with problems. The Princess’s grave on an island at Althorp cannot be accessed by the public, and the royal brothers had long felt there was no “fitting or lasting tribute” to her life. But after commissioning sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, whose likeness of the Queen has appeared on Commonwealth coins since 1998, it is thought Diana’s sons struggled to agree on what the statue should look like.

Eighteen months passed, and in July 2019, amid reports he was “barely on speaking terms” with Harry, William reportedly told fans gathered outside Kensington Palace (on what would have been his mother’s 58th birthday) that the statue would materialise “soon, very soon”.

It was only in August last year, five months after the Sussexes had moved to Los Angeles, that Kensington Palace announced the big reveal would finally be taking place in the Sunken Garden this summer.

A rare joint statement on behalf of both princes announced: “The statue was commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of her death and recognise her positive impact in the UK and around the world.

“The Princes hope that the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on their mother’s life and her legacy.”

It also now gives them a deadline to ensure that the unveiling is not overshadowed by sibling rivalry, no matter how deep-seated or difficult to resolve it may seem to have become.

For, regardless of what Diana might have made of “Megxit”, the woman who William describes as having “smothered me and Harry in love” would surely want her sons to rediscover the special bond she fostered between them, as brothers in arms.

The Telegraph, London

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Christian Porter’s defamation case is no sure-fire way to find the truth


As for the allegation of rape itself, the ABC story referred to it as an allegation only. They did not claim they knew it had happened. And the story did not name Porter.

But the defamation law will ask the ABC to prove more than just what it actually reported. Porter’s lawyers say the story raised “imputations” – impressions in the minds of readers – well beyond those words. Imputations are the “vibe” of the story taken as a whole. In this story, the key impression Porter’s lawyers will argue was conveyed to readers is that he, as a matter of fact, “brutally raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988”, and that this contributed to her taking her own life.

Assuming the judge accepts these imputations, if it wants to defend itself on the basis that the article was true, the ABC will need to prove that the rape actually occurred. They will also need to prove that it contributed to the woman’s suicide. The police cannot prove these things. The ABC cannot prove these things. Nobody can.

Or, as The Australian’s Chris Merritt gleefully put it: “Milligan and the ABC are in a dreadful position. Their best option is a long, grovelling apology accompanied by a very large cheque. They have been snookered.”

The Federal Court, where Porter has filed his action, has proven a particularly difficult place for journalists to establish the truth of the imputations that are said to arise from their stories.

The Geoffrey Rush case was heard in the Federal Court. In that case, a cack-handed piece of tabloid journalism alleging Rush groped his co-star started looking a lot better after actors Eryn Jean Norvill and Yael Stone agreed to give evidence. But Justice Michael Wigney found Norvill “unreliable” and “prone to embellishment or exaggeration”. Stone was denied the ability to give evidence at all because she came forward too late in the piece.

Eryn Jean Norvill was the witness found unreliable in Geoffrey Rush’s defamation trial against The Daily Telegraph.Credit:AAP, Supplied

In a Federal Court case brought against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC by Chinese-Australian political donor Chau Chak Wing, Justice Stephen Rares barred the journalist Nick McKenzie from even making a truth argument because, he ruled, there was initially not enough evidence to sustain it. He then prevented the defendants from relying on further evidence supplied by the FBI (which was later tabled in Parliament), because that too did not reach the high standard set by the plaintiff’s imputations.

In another Federal Court case, author and journalist Steve Cannane and his publisher, HarperCollins, were put through a years-long defamation process in which they essentially had to prove all over again how a pair of doctors killed multiple patients in the 1960s and ’70s in the notorious Chelmsford Deep Sleep case. The whole case had already been extensively heard and the doctors found at fault in a royal commission, which reported in 1990.

But Justice Jayne Jagot (who has now been assigned Porter’s claim) said it was not enough. The publishers had to prove it all over again, from scratch. They won, finally, but only after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and dragging into court 10 witnesses who were forced to relive their trauma.

Porter knows these defamation laws backwards. He is pushing for them to be amended because, as he said in 2019, they “don’t strike the perfect balance between public interest journalism and protecting individuals from reputational harm”.

New laws have been drafted but, thanks to inertia among the states, they still do not apply. Those laws will allow media companies to argue their stories were responsible communication of matters in the public interest. They also limit damages payouts.

Businessman Chau Chak Wing shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting of global leaders in Beijing.

Businessman Chau Chak Wing shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting of global leaders in Beijing.Credit:China Central Television

But Porter is suing under the existing law and he is going for broke. His barristers are the heavy-hitting Bret Walker, SC, considered one of Australia’s best barristers and Sue Chrysanthou, SC, who represented Rush.

His solicitor, Rebekah Giles, also represented the deep sleep doctors. And, when working for the corrupt Ahsani family of Monaco and their company Unaoil, she ran a legal campaign and a parallel public relations campaign against reporting in The Age and Herald.

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In one opinion piece published in The Australian, Giles wrote among other things: “My clients believe Fairfax was an instrument in … blackmail”. In March 2019 her clients, Saman and Cyrus Ahsani pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate millions of dollars of bribes.

You might choose to believe Porter is innocent of rape, or guilty of it. He vociferously denies it and the police have ended their investigation. But no one should pretend that, in searching for the truth, the defamation law will be the place to find it.

Michael Bachelard is The Age’s deputy editor and investigations editor.

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It’s a travesty of truth that Europe blames Astra for its vaccine mess


A little background. The European Union likes to think of itself as a sovereign nation in its own right, but of course it is no such thing; whatever its pretensions, it is at root no more than a treaty organisation, albeit a powerful one. With few exceptions, those sent to staff the European Commission therefore tend to be second raters, or those who have failed politically at home but are loyal to their national sponsors. Von der Leyen is a case in point. Widely thought of as incompetent in Germany after a less than brilliant spell as defence minister, she eventually wound up in Brussels as a way, essentially, of pensioning her off.

So when the pandemic came along, a caucus of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy determined to take control of vaccine strategy themselves, knowing that Brussels would likely screw things up.

By mid-June, the so-called Inclusive Vaccines Alliance had signed a number of major contracts, including AstraZeneca. This was slightly later than Britain and the US, but not by much. Inexplicably, the IVA, in a decision heads of government will I imagine always regret, then handed management of the contract back to the commission, and that’s where the rot set in. Ponderous, bureaucratic and with a penny-pinching focus on cost, the commission failed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s with the urgency required, with the result that Astra was much slower in establishing its European production facilities than elsewhere.

People standing in line at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Rome: Facing backlash over his country’s slow vaccination campaign, it hasn’t taken Prime Minister Mario Draghi long to descend into the gutter of Italian politics.Credit:Bloomberg

It’s water under the bridge now, but that hasn’t stopped the scapegoating. It was odd, in some respects, to see a globalist as considered as Mario Draghi, the latest in Italy’s constantly changing kaleidoscope of prime ministers, become the first to assume the vaccine nationalism mantle. As the man who supposedly “saved the euro”, he’s meant to be a super-rational internationalist, but it hasn’t taken him long to descend into the gutter of Italian politics. By acting as he did, he even managed to win plaudits from the ultra-Eurosceptic Lega Nord head, Matteo Salvini. Clever, or what?

Actually, not clever at all. If this unelected technocrat now looks for legitimacy from populist rabble raisers such as Salvini, he really is in trouble.

Great disservice

By blocking a tiny contingent of Astra vaccines to Australia, vialled and packaged in Italy, he sends out a couple of powerfully destructive messages.

One: don’t invest in Italy, lest you find yourself sanctioned. Two: don’t expect your orders to be satisfied from other parts of the global supply chain if you are effectively going to gum it up yourself. For instance, a large part of the next batch of Astra doses for Britain is coming from India. If India were likewise to hoard the product, the UK too would be in trouble. By banning the export of vaccines, Italy and the EU only shoot themselves in the foot.

The EU does itself a great disservice by disparaging Astra in the way it has. Evidence that its vaccine is as effective if not more so as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna alternatives grows by the day. To boot, it costs a lot less and is much easier to deliver.

Astra is moreover a major supplier to the COVAX international effort to get vaccines distributed quickly to poorer countries, unlike Pfizer, which has seemingly put profit before all other considerations, selling largely only to those prepared to pay the most.

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Against the 340 million doses Astra has agreed to supply to COVAX, Pfizer has committed a paltry 1.2 million. Astra’s largesse is much more likely to deliver results than having the WTO abolish intellectual property rights.

And yet in Europe, Pfizer/BioNTech are seen as the good guys. By trying to do the right thing, Astra by contrast gets beaten up.

I hesitate to join the unseemly cacophony of triumphant Brussels bashing we see in the UK these days – itself a form of scapegoating for failings at home – but the EU really only has itself to blame for the mess it has got itself into.

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Greens welcome Truth Commission, say truth-telling must be central to Treaty process – 16 News


The Greens today welcomed the announcement of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Victoria – a historical opportunity for First Nations people to tell the truth of the history of violent dispossession from their land.

It comes as Senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe, then Greens MP for Northcote, called in 2018 for “funding (to) be provided for a process of truth telling about the true history of Victoria”, as truth-telling needs to be a central part of any Treaty process.

Truth and Justice Commissions have been held across the world in the aftermath of grave and often racially motivated injustices being carried out by governments.

The Greens believe the forthcoming Elders Council is well-placed to provide cultural governance and oversight over this important process, as First Nations people must be given complete agency over how the Commission is run. The Commission must also be representative of all 38 nations in this state.

If successful, a Truth Commission of this kind could also set an important precedent for similar Commissions in other jurisdictions, and at the national level.

“We can’t  move forward as a country until we reckon with the truth about our history,” Senator Thorpe said today.

“When the colonisers invaded, there was a war on these lands – a war that hasn’t ended. But we won’t achieve peace without truth. The announcement of a Truth Commission today is a historic opportunity to bring people together to open up the possibility of a genuine Treaty process, not just in Victoria, but across this country.”

Senator Thorpe also reaffirmed the Greens’ earlier calls for a moratorium on all sales of Crown land until a genuine Treaty has been signed.

“Victoria’s treaty process has been a pretty token gesture so far. If Labor is serious about justice for our first peoples, they will also agree to a moratorium on logging while the Commission does its work. You can’t be serious about telling the truth about our ongoing connection to these lands and waters, as you keep destroying it,” Senator Thorpe added.

“For too long the history of this Country has been white-washed, and the voices of First Nations people have been relegated to the margins,” Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC said today.

“Hopefully this Commission is the first of many steps towards changing that. This is a direct result of years of community campaigning for truth-telling and First Nations justice,” Ms Ratnam added.

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Truth commission will succeed only if Indigenous people get a seat at the table


When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on the eve of 2021 that the words of our national anthem would change to “one and free”, it seemed that a fait accompli was being declared without any of the necessary groundwork towards concrete reconciliation between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Indigenous peoples of this land.

When Indigenous leaders met to issue the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017, the word they used to encapsulate such a process of reconciliation came from the Yolngu language of north-eastern Arnhem Land: Makarrata. It was a word that a parliamentary select committee set up to respond to the Uluru Statement summarised as “settling our differences and moving forward together as one”. The sequence of those two elements is crucial. As former Indigenous Collingwood football star Leon Davis told this masthead: “Before we can move forward you have to deal with what has happened in the past. The foundation is not there yet to move forward from my point of view.”

Wurundjeri and Woiwurrung elder Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams and acting Premier James Merlino at the launch of the truth commission.Credit:Simon Schluter

Indeed, only once the autonomy of Indigenous points of view and separate Indigenous agency has been recognised can such a process address the needs of all participants and create a new relationship. The unique experience of our Indigenous population demands a move beyond the prism of minority rights within a larger polity.

Tuesday’s launch of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission by the Victorian government to guide the journey towards a treaty marks the first step on a path that will matter only if it can surpass symbolic gestures to redress the injustices of the past, make Aboriginal experience central to our understanding of this country’s present and give First Peoples a controlling stake in their futures.

That most of the commissioners will be Indigenous is itself welcome, although this puts an extra onus on Victoria’s government and state and national media to ensure that the commissioners’ work is not pigeon-holed as “Indigenous affairs” but is kept front and centre in our collective consciousness and conscience.

Among the models cited for the commission’s work are similar exercises in historical truth-telling carried out in post-apartheid South Africa and more recently with respect to the indigenous peoples of Canada. The latter’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was part of a wider agreement that awarded billions of dollars in compensation to those put through the country’s residential schools system. If the Yoo-rrook commission is to seriously discuss a model for payment of reparations to Indigenous people, then it is vital that the government stays the course when talk turns to what may well be considerable sums of money.

The Andrews government also needs to pay attention to positive and negative aspects of such earlier efforts. To many black South Africans, the amnesties granted after damning testimonies of abuse seemed a mockery of their ongoing pain and powerlessness.

In Canada, progress on implementing the 2015 recommendations of their commission (which ran for seven years before that) as well as those of a separate inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been criticised as piecemeal and too slow to benefit the communities they are meant to serve.

The course that the Andrews government has set out stretches years into our future – the hearings of the Yoo-rrook commission are scheduled to end in 2024, to be followed by a governmental response, political decisions and legislation. So it is also vital that attempts are made to transcend partisan politics in setting out objectives and what we are willing to do to achieve them. If we are to be “one and free”, that work will need to run in parallel to the commission’s.

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Victoria announces landmark truth and justice royal commission as part of Aboriginal treaty talks


Ian Hamm calls it “the transformation document”.

It is a single piece of paper that outlines the legal end of his life as Yorta Yorta baby Andrew James, and the start of his new life as the adopted son of a white family in Yarrawonga.

It is a document that took Mr Hamm, a member of the Stolen Generations, decades to find.

“At the top of the page I’m referred to as Andrew James … and at the bottom of the page, it says, ‘shall henceforth be known as Ian David Hamm’,” he said.

Mr Hamm has forged a distinguished Victorian public sector career filled with landmark reforms for Aboriginal communities, including his involvement in the creation of the Traditional Owner Settlement Act.

But he said for him and the more than 800 members of the Stolen Generations or Stolen Children living in Victoria today, being torn from their Aboriginal identity at such a young age left a permanent mark.

“What you’re always trying to do is find your place in the world,” he said.

“Find out who you are, because there’s this thing about who you are, and there’s this thing about who you might otherwise have been.”

The stories of Victoria’s Stolen Generations are expected to be just some of the material covered by a new truth and justice royal commission announced by the government today.

It will be Australia’s first formal truth-telling process and a significant step in the Victorian government’s path to forge state-based treaties with its Aboriginal communities.

Five commissioners will be tasked with laying down an authoritative account of Victoria’s history of colonisation, and examine both historic and contemporary injustices.

The majority of the commissioners will be Aboriginal, with at least one elder and one with legal expertise in the group.

The government had already committed to a truth and justice process, and today announced that process would have the powers of a royal commission.

Deputy Premier James Merlino made the announcement at Coranderrk near Healesville, which was the site of one of Australia’s pivotal Aboriginal civil rights struggles.

“This is long overdue. It’s an acknowledgement that the pain in our past is present in the lives of people right now,” Mr Merlino said.

“It’s a recognition that without truth, without justice, you can’t have a treaty.

“You can’t take that incredibly powerful step forward until we go through this process.”

The holding of a truth and justice commission has been pushed for by the state’s First Peoples’ Assembly, which is laying the groundwork for the negotiation of state-based treaties in the future.

International transitional justice experts say truth-telling processes, which have been undertaken in South Africa, Canada and Mauritius, are often an important first step in addressing the legacies of colonisation.

Mr Hamm is hopeful the commission will lay down the “good, the bad and the ugly” chapters of Victoria’s past for everyone to embrace and understand, including the difficulties faced.

Growing up in Yarrawonga, Mr Hamm and two of his sisters, who were also adopted from separate Aboriginal families, were the only Indigenous people in town.

They were aware they were different, but their only reference points to understanding their Aboriginality lay in what they were told or read in news coverage.

“And this was the ’60s and ’70s, so it wasn’t great,” he said, recalling how as the only Aboriginal footballer in his local league he would be subjected to a “shower of racism” every week.

The First Peoples’ Assembly is also keen for the truth-telling process to shine a light on the extraordinary acts of Aboriginal resilience and self-determination carried out in the face of colonisation.

Mr Hamm discovered his own links to that history as a young man, including the story of his non-Indigenous great-grandfather Thomas James, who married Yorta Yorta woman Ada Cooper.

A Mauritian migrant with Indian heritage, Mr James’s legendary tutelage at Cummeragunja equipped a generation of Yorta Yorta men and women with skills they used to take huge strides in Australia’s civil rights movement.

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Truth about Channel 7 star’s shock exit from TV


Samantha Armytage’s emotional departure from Sunrise left fans reeling yesterday – but apparently the writing had been on the wall for some time.

The 44-year-old will step down this Thursday, after taking the Sunrise reins from predecessor Mel Doyle back in 2013.

But while her tearful announcement shocked many viewers, it came after months of speculation that Armytage’s days were numbered.

RUMOURS SWIRL

Back in December, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Hornery reported that “one of the biggest question marks of 2021” was hanging over Armytage’s head, and that “tensions on the set of Sunrise have been well documented, especially the deteriorating relationship between Armytage and her former bestie, Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell.”

Yesterday, Hornery doubled down on his claims, writing Armytage had been “at the centre of an internal storm” at Sunrise for months which had “split” the team and “divided loyalties”, leaving bosses “frustrated”.

RELATED: Sign Sam was done with Sunrise

He also cited sources who claimed Armytage’s relationship with fellow host David Koch was at an “all time low”.

Meanwhile, The Australian also revealed Armytage had been in “secret talks” regarding her departure for months and that her departure had been “weeks in the planning”.

Insiders were reportedly concerned about the amount of personal leave the TV stalwart had been taking and questioning her commitment to the job, with rumours previously swirling her contract might not be renewed.

‘MORE OF A TARGET’

Veteran media analyst and director of Pearman Media, Steve Allen, told news.com.au he also believed the departure was a long time coming and not a snap decision.

“There was a lot of pressure on Sam since she came in – far more than her predecessor,” he said.

“The paparazzi chased her around trying to get inside her personal life, and it’s a tough gig when you’re in breakfast TV it seems, in that you get a lot of surveillance and commentary and probably more than half of that is unwarranted and unneeded.

“You need to be enormously resilient and a very strong person to withstand it week after week, year after year and in the end it doesn’t matter what you’re paid if it doesn’t make you happy.”

RELATED: Sam quits Sunrise live on air

Mr Allen said he wasn’t sure why Armytage seemed to have received harsher coverage than other breakfast TV stars.

“I don’t know whether the publicity hounds at the 7 Network pushed her forward more aggressively which therefore made her more of a target,” he said.

“It just seems that suddenly with Mel Doyle stepping away from the show and Sam coming in, there was a lot more attention paid to the person than to the job.”

Mr Allen said “unquestionably” some of Doyle’s loyal fans would have had it in for Armytage from the get go, and that the “personality cults” associated with the TV industry paved the way for trolling, coupled with the rise of social media in recent years.

“The world has changed a lot and people are far more prepared to say far nastier things far more frequently than they were even five years ago – it’s a very different age today,” he said.

“My perception was that everyone thought Mel was very wholesome and a real person, and she was never portrayed to my memory in that same kind of way Sam has over the period she was co-host of Sunrise.

“I think the next person who comes in will have a it a bit easier because they won’t have this very wholesome family person to be compared against – when you have someone who has been trashed for a period of time, when they’re replaced by someone else, the comparison is not as stark, no matter what people make of (the decision).”

RATINGS WAR

So what does Armytage’s abrupt departure mean for arch rival Today?

According to Mr Allen, not much, with the program fronted by Karl Stefanovic and Ally Langdon lagging far behind Sunrise even after making recent inroads in the ratings war.

“Unquestionably a change like this is a big opportunity for Nine to wade in and ramp up competitions, cash giveaways, promotions and public relations to try and close that gap further – it’s the one opportunity that is going to come around for the next half a decade and they’d be crazy not to try to take advantage of it,” he said.

Mr Allen said David Koch was also on a short-term contract, and that while it was unlikely he would leave his new co-host in the lurch by departing in the near future, the powers that be would certainly be devising a “strategy”.

“They would be very concerned (about finding a replacement) … Seven has got to have a good strategy and they’ve got to work to protect their base – one thing about Seven is that over the decades they have always been pretty good strategists so they would be boardrooming this well and truly,” he said.

RELATED: Armytage says TV is full of ‘sociopaths’ and ‘narcissists’

“They’ve got to find someone with enormous emotional intelligence and somebody who is really empathetic and someone who can really pick up on an interviewees personality and foibles very quickly and therefore know how to handle them.

“So much of what Sunrise and Today does is live and there’s no second crack at it, so you have to have a really engaging personality with enormous reserves of emotional intelligence.”

THE FRONTRUNNERS

Speculation regarding Armytage’s replacement is running rampant, with Sunrise’s long-time news presenter Natalie Barr emerging as a frontrunner.

Former weather presenter turned entertainment correspondent Edwina Bartholomew has also been named as a potential replacement, as has Monique Wright, the hugely popular host of Weekend Sunrise.

Meanwhile Studio 10 host Sarah Harris, who got her big city break on the Today show before moving to Network Ten to host the morning show, is also rumoured to be in the running.

SAM’S TEARFUL FAREWELL

An emotional Samantha Armytage announced she would leave the show that helped make her a household name on Monday morning.

She revealed through tears she had endured a “bittersweet” year following the death of her mother Libby and her marriage to businessman Richard Lavender on New Year’s Eve.

“The time has come for the sun to set on my time at Sunrise. I have always been brave and fearless in my career and this decision is no different,” she said.

“As many of you know, the last six months of my personal life have been very bittersweet. Some bits have been very happy, and some bits have been very, very sad, and I want to step out of this public world for a while and take some time and calm things down, enjoy a bit of slow living, and spend some time with my precious family, my husband and (dog) Banjo.

“I go out of this job at a time of my own choosing and on top of the ratings, which not many people on television can say they do. I’m extremely proud of my almost eight years at the helm of Sunrise, my seven years before that at Weekend Sunrise, and my almost 18 years with the Seven Network.”



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Hugh Hefner’s ex-girlfriend Holly Madison reveals grim sex truth behind Playboy


It was sold as a world of glitz and glamour filled with beautiful women, but according to one of Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriends it quickly turned into an ugly nightmare.

When Holly Madison went to live rent-free at the Playboy Mansion, she naively didn’t realise there was going to be another price to pay: sex with Hugh Hefner.

Now 41, the aspiring model‘s early-20s dream of glamour quickly turned into an ugly nightmare – where she claims she was cut off from the outside world and strictly controlled.

Madison, who was with Hefner between 2001 and 2008, published an explosive memoir about her time with him and Playboy called Down the Rabbit Hole in 2015.

Now a TV adaptation of the book is in the works with Home And Away star Samara Weaving signed on to play Madison.

The series will dramatise what Madison saw going on behind the gates of the Playboy Mansion – where young women were given drugs and encouraged to take part in twice-weekly orgies with Hefner.

RELATED: Playboy Mansion now derelict

“They knew it was kind of a quote-unquote requirement for living there, and expected,” Madison told Buzzfeed News.

“And it had kind of a chore vibe, I felt.”

Here‘s what Madison went through as the number one girlfriend in Hefner’s harem.

GROUP SEX AND ‘THIGH OPENER’ PILLS

What started as a party soon became like prison for Madison.

She was just 20 and still at university when she met a friend of Hefner‘s while working as a waitress at Hooters.

The friend invited her to a party at the Playboy Mansion – she thought it would be a one-time thing, but soon found herself going to its Sunday pool parties every week.

After a year, she decided to try and become one of Hefner‘s girlfriends in order to continue living in Los Angeles.

She thought none of them actually had sex with the ageing porn mogul, who was then in his mid-70s.

But she quickly lost any illusions during her first “Club Night” out with Hefner and the other girlfriends when he offered her a Quaalude, telling her: ”in the ‘70s they used to call these pills ’thigh openers.’”

RELATED: Hugh Hefner dead at 91

She refused the drugs – but couldn‘t refuse later at the mansion when she was told it was time to go to Hefner’s bedroom.

There, the women were expected to perform for him, and one of the other girlfriends pushed Madison towards Hefner.

“There was zero intimacy involved. No kissing, nothing,” Madison wrote.

“It was so brief that I can‘t even recall what it felt like beyond having a heavy body on top of mine.”

Madison soon realised the orgies happened like clockwork after the Club Nights, every Wednesday and Friday.

PUSHED TO THE BRINK

It wasn‘t just sex that was regulated – Madison soon found she was being controlled in other ways too.

She had to abide by a strict 9pm curfew and she was made to give up her waitressing job, cutting her off from the outside world.

Hefner would also make cruel comments about her appearance and he refused to let her see a therapist when she became depressed.

Madison says the situation became so desperate she considered ending her life.

“Drowning myself seemed like a logical way to escape the ridiculous life I was leading,” she wrote.

“I just couldn‘t take my misery anymore.”

The situation began to improve in 2005 when, along with Hefner‘s other girlfriends Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, Madison starred in a reality series called The Girls Next Door.

She says they didn‘t receive a penny for the first series, but eventually it allowed her to make her own money and ultimately offered her a way to leave Hefner, which she did for good in 2009.

After Madison left him, Hefner married a model 60 years his junior, Crystal Harris, in 2012.

He died five years later aged 91.

STRING OF SORDID STORIES

When Madison published her book, co-star Kendra Wilkinson poured scorn on its account of life at the mansion.

Wilkinson, who defended Hefner as an “amazing human being”, claimed Madison wasn‘t being truthful about her experience – or her motivation for publishing a tell-all memoir.

“Holly, you can tell, had this ulterior motive every minute being at the Mansion, and that motive was – it was clear as day – she wanted Hef’s kids, she wanted a piece of Playboy and she wanted to marry Hef for, obviously, his will,” Wilkinson told People.

“That didn’t happen. So what do you think’s going to happen? Revenge. So we’re witnessing some revenge here.”

Madison, for her own part, dismissed Wilkinson‘s objections – and Madison’s bleak picture of the Playboy Mansion is just one of many similar stories to come out in recent years.

Wilkinson herself wrote about the chore-like sexual obligations of being one of Hefner‘s girlfriends, saying she first had intercourse with him when she was 18 and he was 78.

“I had to be very drunk or smoke lots of weed to survive those nights – there was no way around it,” Wilkinson wrote in her book.

“At about the minute mark, I pulled away and it was done. It was like a job. Clock in, clock out. It’s not like I enjoyed having sex with him.”

HOLLY’S HEARTBREAK

After leaving the mansion, Madison found fame in her own right.

In 2009 she competed in the US version of Strictly, Dancing With The Stars, finishing in 11th place.

And she starred in her own reality show, Holly‘s World, about her new life and career in Las Vegas.

In 2013, she started married music business boss Pasquale Rotella in a lavish ceremony in Disneyland.

Her former Girls Next Door castmate Bridget Marquardt was a bridesmaid.

But after having two kids together, Madison and Rotella ended their five-year marriage in 2019.

She reportedly began dating Ghost Adventures paranormal investigator Zak Bagans the same year.

Madison is now looking forward to seeing her story played by Ready Or Not star Samara Weaving.

“I couldn‘t be more thrilled with this casting,” Madison told her million Instagram followers yesterday.

This story first appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission

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