The Age photos of the week, May 9, 2021




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Border support group speaks out during Myositis Awareness Month | The Border Mail


news, health, Myositis, Myositis Association Australia, Keeping in Touch, Myositis Awareness Month, Albury-Wodonga

“The doctor said sit on the floor, which I did, then he said get up, which I couldn’t.” More than a decade ago, Stan Walter began feeling the muscles in his legs were weak. “What I noticed, when I was climbing up stairs or a ladder, I was doing it with my arms, that was the first sign, my arms would pull me up,” he said this week. His wife Trish also saw some differences. “We had a split-level house in Baranduda and he had trouble coming up and down the steps,” she recalled. “That was the start of it, I think, he couldn’t handle the steps.” In a similar way, Marg Doherty struggled to get up from a chair while Maralyn Allitt also found she couldn’t climb stairs without pulling herself up. All three have since been diagnosed with myositis, a collective term for rare autoimmune conditions caused by the body’s immune system turning against itself and destroying healthy muscle tissue instead of building new muscle tissue. There are five primary adult myositis diseases and also forms that affect children. The occurrence rate is about 10 in 100,000 people with currently no cure and limited treatments. But such basic information was not immediately available to the three Border patients, with numerous tests, investigations and eliminations needed before they received any answers. And even then, the health professionals around them often had no experience, or even knowledge, of myositis. Mrs Doherty remembers her feelings when one doctor finally undertook to “get to the bottom of this”. “I just was crying with relief because I thought ‘someone’s believing me’,” she said. “People make assumptions … it’s partly invisible; it’s lack of understanding, I think, because we can look quite well.” This widespread ignorance motivates Mr and Mrs Walter, Mrs Allitt and Mrs Doherty to speak publicly during Myositis Awareness Month throughout May. Their Border support group, Keeping in Touch, will meet for lunch on Wednesday at Commercial Club Albury. IN OTHER NEWS: Up to 24 people attend the group’s quarterly gatherings, with members travelling from Barooga, Benalla, King Valley and Wagga as well as Albury-Wodonga. These events allow those with myositis to share their experiences and information with people who understand even better than family. Myositis Association Australia secretary Anita Chalmers said getting the word out that support was available was a key factor of Myositis Awareness Month. “You’re not alone, that’s the crux of it,” she said. “People who are diagnosed, especially in country areas, they think, ‘What do I do now? “‘I’ve been told I’ve got this dreadful condition, I don’t know anything about it, what do I do and who do I turn to for help?’ We’ve got 373 members at the moment, and in the last two months we had 28 people join us.” Aligned with that is helping GPs and allied health workers like physiotherapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists learn more about the misunderstood condition. “We’re also targeting social workers because they’re the ones that if you had a fall and you’re in hospital, they’re the ones that need to know that there is an association that can help,” she said. Mrs Chalmers recalled telling her doctor, after a couple of falls, there was something wrong with her legs. “She just said ‘Buy a walking stick’, and it took two years to get a diagnosis,” the secretary said. “We need to speed the process up to get a diagnosis more quickly.” Mrs Allitt and Mrs Doherty, both aged in their late 60s, can certainly relate to diagnosis delays. Each retired early from careers they valued, as a small-business owner and pharmacist respectively, because of myositis. Mrs Allitt had been planning a trip to Italy about 2016 when she started struggling on stairs and originally thought maybe a pinched nerve or arthritis could be the cause. But her muscle strength didn’t improve after two hip replacements, further investigation revealed the truth – and the doctor outlined a potential future of not being able to walk or even swallow. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t ask any questions because it shocked me,” she said. These days Mrs Allitt is still able to drive, tries to do 10,000 steps each day and lives with husband Kevin in a purpose-built Thurgoona home that has “not one step in the place”. “I did go to Italy and I did manage with a stick climbing steps, because there’s lots of steps in Italy,” she smiled. The Walters moved from Baranduda to a more suitable central Albury home in 2012, but Mr Walter, now 81, no longer drives and uses a motorised scooter. “I’m having trouble getting out of cars now, I can get out of a high car but there’s no strength in my quads,” he said. An active sportsman for many years, Mr Walter marks having to give up bowls in 2010 as the main starting point of his condition. He can’t hold a pen any more but taught himself to use a computer. Falls are a real risk and common fear of people with myositis yet it’s also important to keep moving. More research is needed to determine the causes of myositis, but stress and genetics could play some part. Jindera’s Mrs Doherty, who convenes Keeping in Touch, focuses on what people can do, rather than what is now not possible. “I think it’s a grieving process, like many things with chronic diseases,” she said. “Some people don’t get out of the denial phase, you know, the anger, anxiety, depression and so on but it’s good to get to the acceptance stage and I can say I’ve done that after so many years. “We have to live our life to the best of our ability.” For more information, go to myositis.org.au/. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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Liberal Senator Eric Abetz bumped from top spot on party’s Tasmania Senate ticket



Influential Tasmanian Liberal powerbroker Eric Abetz has been demoted to third place on the party’s Senate ticket in a shock preselection vote.

It could signal the end of Senator Abetz’s almost three-decade Senate career, given that third place on the ticket is difficult to win.

Senator Abetz lost votes to outer ministry senate colleague Jonno Duniam in first place, and Senator Wendy Askew in second.

It was widely speculated that Senators Abetz and Duniam would take the top two positions at the next federal election, with Senator Askew in third.

Tasmanian electoral analyst Kevin Bonham said Senator Abetz’s senate seat was not unwinnable at the next poll, but he was in a risky position.

“Ever since he got into the senate he’s been top of the ticket,” Mr Bonham told AAP.

“There’s never been any direct test of his popularity and now he has to actually fight for votes for the party as well as himself.”

Considerations that could have swayed the 67 rank-and-file members who cast votes in the preselection, Mr Bonham said, were that Senator Abetz has long been a politically controversial figure, that he is close to retirement age and that it would not have looked good to demote a woman to third place.

Senator Duniam, 38, entered the senate in 2019. He is seen as an up-and-comer in the Liberal Party and is technically more senior than Senator Abetz because of the outer ministry position he currently holds as Assistant Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Industry Development.

In a statement on Saturday night, Senator Duniam said he was honoured by the confidence preselectors had placed in him.

“Today was a vote about the future of our party, our state and our nation,” he wrote.

“I made a promise to continue to work hard every day to use my place in government, and the opportunities of my position in the ministry to deliver on our values and deliver the best outcomes for Tasmania – and I will do exactly that.

“It is a critical time for the future of our state and nation, and I am committed to ensuring that we remain in government and return three senators to Canberra at the next federal election.”

Mr Bonham said Senator Duniam was a conservative Liberal, had the appeal of youth and would not detract from the party’s electoral appeal.

Senator Askew was elected to the senate in 2016 and is chair of the senate’s community affairs legislation committee.

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Emergency crews respond to scene where five pedestrians were hit by a truck at Melbourne’s Southbank




Police say the b-double tanker smashed into a traffic light before hitting five people at Southbank about 7:00pm.

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After the horrors of the Gippsland blazes, Victoria had a ‘really good’ bushfire season


Under the shadow of COVID-19, Victoria’s latest fire season slipped by almost unnoticed.

After the terrible destruction of the 2019-20 season, it was a welcome relief for Alen Slijepcevic, the CFA deputy chief officer.

The 2020-21 fire season turned out to be moderate, as predicted, with La Ninja bringing wetter than normal conditions.

Fires seldom lasted more than a day and there was plenty of rain.

One of those fires in mid-December last year threatened the communities of Mount Cottrell and Truganina, burning sheds and old cars, but it was quickly brought under control.

There were 1,677 fires between October and March and 9,100 hectares of land was burnt.

The average number of hectares burnt over the past 10 years was about 250,000.

“So [it was] a really good season from that perspective,” Mr Slijepcevic said.

“The largest fire this season was around 200 hectares in comparison to hundreds of thousands of hectares for individual fires in 2019-20.”

Compare that to early 2020: there were 3,067 fires and more than 1.5 million hectares of land was burnt.

Trapped residents eventually had to be evacuated by Navy ships.(

Instagram: @travelling_aus_family

)

There were 98 days of fires in Gippsland — three months of continuous smoke, burning, and destruction.

Fires around ten communities including Omeo and Swifts Creek threatened communities for weeks.

Images from Mallacoota of people huddled at the wharf under an eerie red sky waiting to be rescued illustrated the extent of the catastrophe.  

No question climate change is having an impact

This year there was just enough rain to “keep a lid on” the fire season,  Mr Slijepcevic said.

But thanks to climate change, this year’s ‘good’ fire season is likely to be the exception to the rule.  

Mr Slijepcevic said there was no doubt the increased frequency and severity of bad fire seasons was linked to climate change.

Consider the statistics:  before 2004, there were two recorded fires that burnt 1 million hectares of land.

In the past seven years, there have been three of those seasons. 

A lone woman in an orange high-vis vest walks through a burnt forest as blackened gums tower above her.
The 2019-20 fires scorched the landscape and killed many native animals. (

ABC News: Emilia Terzon

)

Dealing with fires and COVID would’ve been ‘difficult’

Then consider the implications of a bad fire season coupled with COVID-19.

“If we had a busy fire season in which we had to keep people away from each other, that would be a difficult season to manage,” Mr Slijepcevic told the ABC.

“Our colleagues in the US managed … they had different strategies, keeping people in small teams so it doesn’t go through large teams.

“It is manageable but it would’ve been very difficult.”

Fire by the side of a road in a planned burn between Kennett River and Wye River.
The calmer conditions this year have allowed fire crews do double the amount of planned burning done the previous year.(

ABC News: Cameron Best

)

For example, moving resources around the state, or even interstate as they did with the NSW fires, would have been very difficult.  

Mr Slijepcevic said any downtime this season was spent in preparation for the next one.

All of the fire agency’s procedures were reviewed to work out what would need to change in the event of a COVID outbreak during a fire.

The CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria have also doubled the number of hectares of planned burns. 

There have been 380 burns so far this year totalling 110,000 hectares.  

Asked what the forecast is for the next season, Mr Slijepcevic said it was about three months too early to know for sure.

The basketball backboard and ring are burnt out, only the metal pole and frame remain. Burnt out buildings are in the background
The 2020 fires destroyed the school in the tiny community of Clifton Creek, north of Bairnsdale.(

ABC News: Billy Draper

)

One thing is certain: while it may seem like it was a wet summer it really wasn’t.

“People in Melbourne would probably think this was a really wet year but even in Melbourne it was just an average year,” he said.

“Yes we received more rainfall than previous years but it would still only be an average year for Victoria.

“Conditions are returning to what we’ve been seeing for the last 50 years. There is quite a significant decline in the rainfall, in late autumn and winter, of about 15 per cent less.”

He said the fuels were 35 per cent drier than they were 30 years ago.

So his prediction for the fire season ahead?

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North East students attend Albury Health Forum at La Trobe University | The Border Mail


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The future is bright for healthcare in the region, with over 230 students attending La Trobe University’s fourth annual Albury Health Forum. Students from across the North East were provided a smorgasbord of healthcare seminars ranging from speech pathology to paramedics. The Albury Wodonga Careers Advisers Association initiative gives high school students a chance to sample this range of professions to better inform them on what career might be best for them. James Fallon High School student Aalirah Kirkby, 17, enjoyed being able to hear stories first-hand from professionals in the healthcare industry about their work particularly the paramedics. IN OTHER NEWS: “It was interesting hearing the experiences that they’ve had doing paramedics and some of the cases that they’ve had to go to and how that affects them in their personal life as well,” she said. Aalirah said she planned on doing nursing or working in some kind of surgery practice but the NSW Ambulance presentation has “definitely” inspired her to consider changing directions. Intensive care paramedic with NSW Ambulance Service Michelle Owens was one of the presenters on the day. A big part of her presentation centered around helping students best prepare to be a paramedic. “We’ve spoken to students about what they can expect when they get into the job,” Ms Owens said. “Things like its unpredictability, the wide demographic of patients and the wide range of jobs.” But it wasn’t just about relaying the realities of the job to students, but also showing them how to get their start in paramedics. “Paramedics is quite popular at the moment and there are a lot of graduates wanting to do it so we’ve talked to them about preparing themselves,” she said. “Things like volunteering and how they can get ahead when getting that job.” Tallangatta Secondary College student Kira Collins said she was given a greater understand of the depth of medical and healthcare professions. “I’ve gotten a lot out of it and learning about all the different fields and realising there are a lot more to these jobs,” Kira said. “Like social work, I learnt that there’s a lot more to it than just going out and helping people.” Tallangatta teacher Sue McKenzie said the day exposed students to a number of new career prospects. “It’s not about what they do know, it’s about finding out about those areas they’re unfamiliar with,” she said. “Like finding out the differences between myotherapy and osteotherapy. “It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to come here face to face and get all the information about all the courses.”

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International students will no longer face a cap on working hours for hospitality and tourism jobs



International students will have a cap imposed on their working hours lifted if they are employed in hospitality and tourism, marking a significant change for many who rely on these jobs.

There are around 300,000 students in Australia who face the 40-hour fortnightly limit on their working hours while they are studying. 

But in a bid to boost the tourism and hospitality sectors, the government is now removing the existing cap for student visa holders employed in these industries following strong industry feedback. 

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says the move will help fill staffing gaps in these sectors and support Australia’s economy recovery. 

“Government has listened carefully to the states, territories and industry and is introducing these changes to support critical sectors for Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery,” he said. 

The decision comes after international students, including those working in these sectors, were among the worst impacted by COVID shutdowns at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year.   

A survey by Unions NSW last year found many were struggling to make ends meet and were forced to take cash-in-hand jobs to stay afloat.

Mr Hawke said the tourism and hospitality sectors employ more than half a million Australians and these changes will help businesses supplement their existing workforce, which he described as “generating employment through a job multiplier effect”.

Hospitality and tourism will now also be classified as critical industries alongside other sectors such as agriculture, food processing, health care, disability care and childcare with similar allowances.

Temporary visa holders working in or intending to work in tourism and hospitality will also be able to apply for the 408 COVID-19 Visa up to 90 days before their existing visa expires. 

This will enable them to remain in Australia for up to 12 additional months. 

In a separate measure, Mr Hawke says he will include veterinarians in the Priority Skilled Occupation List for skills deemed critical for Australia’s economic recovery. 

The immigration minister has also flagged further changes to visa settings.

“I am continuing to take feedback and advice from a range of sectors and will make further announcements on temporary visa flexibility measures and priority skills in the near future,” he said. 

Earlier this year the Australian government announced a $1.2 billion package to assist tourism operators facing the withdrawal of the JobKeeper wage subsidy in March. 

The package received a mix response with some operators flagging the need for more targeted support amid the challenges posed by border closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic.   

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6 unforgettable experiences you can only have in Adelaide and its surrounds


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Department of Primary Industries investigating | The Border Mail


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Authorities are investigating a mystery infection causing rashes and fungal growths on redfin in Lake Hume. Russell Mason, of Compleat Angler Lavington, is collecting samples of the fish from residents for the Department of Primary Industry so they can look into it further. He said the affected fish have a red rash and yellow growths along their scales, but the cause was so-far unknown. “It’s quite obvious when you see it,” Mr Mason said. “If you catch one, don’t release it back to the water, take it out and freeze it and throw it out on bin night. “Our fisheries have asked for people to drop off any affected fish [to the store] as we’re trying to get samples for them.” A Department of Primary Industries spokesman said they were aware of a suspected fungal infection among fish from Lake Hume and were on working with Victorian authorities on the matter. IN OTHER NEWS: He advised ulcerated fish should not be consumed. “Suspicions of disease should be reported on the national 24 hour Emergency Animal Disease hotline 1800 675 888,” he said. “Samples of fish for disease testing should be kept chilled (not frozen). “Please note that photographs while useful, cannot be used for disease diagnosis and laboratory confirmation would be required.” Mr Mason said of 120 fish he’d caught recently about two had been infected so estimated the disease could be affecting one in 100 fish in Lake Hume. “It’s concerning,” he said. “You don’t like to see any diseases going through fish especially after the year we’ve had, we’ve had such ridiculously high numbers of fish. “It’s the best year a lot of people have seen in living memory, one of the best years ever.” Mr Mason said anyone who catches infected fish can drop them off at 343 Wagga Rd, Lavington.

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Five more blood clot cases likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine recorded across Australia



Five Australians over the age of 50 have developed blood clotting and low platelets after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in the past week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has confirmed. 

The TGA says it is also looking into three other reports of blood clotting in the last week but is yet to make a determination on them.

The five new cases were in a 74-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman from Victoria, a 66-year-old man from Queensland, a 64-year-old woman from Western Australia and a 70-year-old man from Tasmania.

TGA head Professor John Skerritt said many of those had “serious and significant” underlying health conditions, stressing blood clotting following vaccination remained a rare event.

“The evidence from TGA and the advice from ATAGI, the advisors to governments, that the benefits of this vaccine for the over 50s still very significantly exceeds the risks,” he said on Thursday. 

The latest figures take the total confirmed number of blood clot cases linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine since the start of the rollout to 11.

Four of those have already left hospital, the TGA said in a statement. 

“Encouragingly, of the five cases reported in our statement on 23 April 2021 as hospitalised with thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following vaccination, four have now been discharged from hospital and are either at home or have returned to work,” it said.

On Thursday, Tasmanian authorities announced a 70-year-old man was in hospital in a stable condition after reporting clotting symptoms seven days after receiving the vaccine.

Earlier that day, Queensland authorities announced a 66-year-old man was in intensive care in a Townsville hospital with thrombosis linked to the vaccine.

The man received the first dose of the vaccine on 30 March and then developed abdominal pain, before being admitted to the Townsville hospital.

Professor Skerrit said given the AstraZeneca vaccine was only being administered to those over 50, the results were not surprising.

“If you’re only giving a medicine or vaccine to people over 50 that’s the only group where you’ll see an adverse event,” he said.

As of 2 May, approximately 1.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered.

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