Archive for August 2018

Steve Thomas and Lindsay Sharp in the St Peters warehouse where they are hoping to set up an axe throwing venue, depending on council approval. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Steve Thomas and Lindsay Sharp in the St Peters warehouse where they are hoping to set up an axe throwing venue, depending on council approval. Photo: Janie Barrett

Steve Thomas and Lindsay Sharp in the St Peters warehouse where they are hoping to set up an axe throwing venue, depending on council approval. Photo: Janie Barrett

Steve Thomas and Lindsay Sharp in the St Peters warehouse where they are hoping to set up an axe throwing venue, depending on council approval. Photo: Janie Barrett

Native America has tomahawks, the Middle Ages had francisca and Marrickville will have, well, $15 ones from Bunnings. Axe throwing is coming to Sydney and our weapons of choice aren’t half as grisly as they once were.

A sport with its origins in mediaeval times and newly modernised for the hipster era will soon set up stumps in the inner west – if the unusual business idea gets past the council.

Maniax axe throwing draws on the growing popularity of the unlikely urban sport across Canada, where the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) has six venues and waiting lists of hundreds. According to BATL rules, contestants stand 5m from a target made of five planks of dampened wood and, in three rounds of five throws, score 1, 3, 5 and 7 points depending on where the axe head lands in the target’s rings.

But while the activity appears to have captured the imagination of some potential Sydney hatchet throwers, one group is yet to be convinced.

Local residents have objected to a development application  that Steve Thomas and his three co-founders lodged in December that requests a change of use of the Mary Street warehouse space from a storage facility to a recreational facility.

“As a local resident living within metres of the venue, I am very concerned about drunken patrons throwing axes,” writes one Mary Street resident in a complaint to council. Another takes aim at an unregulated “sport that is inherently dangerous”.

A planning meeting on Tuesday deferred the decision until after a site visit.

The project has been a year in the making. Mr Thomas, an international pilot, and his wife, Lindsay Sharp, along with their friends Adam and Renee Schilling, started looking into the business idea after a trip to Ms Sharp’s home  city of Toronto.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Mr Thomas said of setting up Maniax. “It’s a new concept, yes, but that doesn’t make it bad.”

Responding to neighbours’ safety concerns, the founders have installed a gun safe to store the household axes, banned alcohol from the premises and have lowered the venue capacity from 70 to 45. They have incorporated metal cages around the throwing lanes into the fit-out.

“The gun safe is an extreme measure in our view, but we’re more than happy to do that for the residents,” said Mr Thomas, who plans to charge over-18s $50 for a three-hour session at the centre.

He said some protesters had erroneously claimed axes fall under the prohibited weapons act and that the company’s motto was “Release the axe-murderer within you”.

Instead, Mr Thomas said Maniax had adopted the best practices shaped by BATL over the past six years in Toronto to ensure safety is paramount in the “fun, energetic, social activity”.

Correspondence from police underlined the need for CCTV, anti-graffiti measures, lighting systems and other procedural approaches, but made no mention of any danger posed by the hatchets, which are available from all hardware stores.

Marrickville mayor Mark Gardiner declined to comment, while a council spokesman noted the proposed use was  “permissible” and was  being assessed within a framework of planning controls.

Maniax has been fielding booking enquiries from groups, including a team bonding session for 25 insurance executives. Mr Thomas said that neighbouring businesses at the Mary Street precinct, which include a microbrewery and a coffee roaster, have been wholly supportive of the idea.

The council is due to vote on the application on May 12 and will conduct a site inspection in the next week. In the meantime, the Schillings have been hosting tournaments with friends on a target they have set up in their back garden.

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Extreme loss: A 14-year-old is pushing for education to help young people speak up about violence in the home. Photo: Steven SiewertOne is a 14-year-old girl who wants the NSW government to know that if domestic violence had been better addressed in school, she would have recognised that what was happening inside her own home was not normal.
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The other is a 55-year-old grandmother who, through the tragic death of her daughter, discovered there is no appropriate framework in place to prevent abusive parents gaining automatic custody of children.

As the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was preparing to launch a new national initiative to tackle domestic violence on Friday, these two women unveiled separate online campaigns, both of which highlight the hidden victims of household abuse – and how authorities repeatedly fail them.

Nathan Elvery​, from Change.org, said: “These two petitions are among the most powerful we have seen on our platform to date.” 

In a confronting letter that she compiled on her grandmother’s laptop, following her mother’s suicide last month, Rachel* has called on the NSW Department of Education and Communities to “educate children about domestic violence and how to seek help.”

“I am 14 years old and I have been a victim of domestic violence. I didn’t know that what happened in my home was different to any other family home, as a child how could I have known any better?” she asked.

The youngster revealed how she, her three brothers and her mother had been the victims of ongoing abuse, adding: “I wanted help but didn’t know how to get it.”

Following a “major” domestic violence incident last year, the family became homeless for nine months. “The police were involved this time and that’s when I realised how serious domestic violence is,” she said.

Despite eventually finding a new home, Rachel said her family remained “silent sufferers of never-ending sadness” and that when the violence returned, her mother was no longer able to cope.

“If domestic violence was addressed within the public schools educational criteria, I could have gotten help and saved my mum,” she said, adding that if the NSW education system teaches students to recognise what is wrong, they “will begin to speak up and get the help their family needs.”

When the Baird government and Labor rolled out their extensive policy plans to combat domestic violence before the NSW election last month, neither featured any changes to the existing school syllabus. A spokesman for the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards said the syllabus “supports student learning and understanding of a broad range of personal safety and health issues, including respectful relationships.”

Rachel’s grandmother, who is now her full-time guardian, said: “She’s an extremely bright, intelligent young girl who feels, very strongly, that something good has to come out of this situation. If she can stop one other child from going through what she went through, she’ll be happier. She asked me whether the government might even allow her to attend classrooms so she could talk to other children…that’s how determined she is to improve the situation…and make a difference.”

Like Rachel, 55-year-old Louise* is grieving after losing a loved one to suicide. Having witnessed her deceased daughter’s abusive ex-partner receive automatic custody of her grandchildren, she is hoping to harness enough people power to pressure authorities into find new ways of better protecting vulnerable children.

“My daughter was the victim of physical, psychological and financial abuse for 11 years,” said Louise, who added: “She often cried, ashamed that her children had witnessed their father repeatedly and violently beating her as well as seeing the constant psychological manipulation.”

“Her forgiveness and commitment to her family were her undoing. She paid his bail, police fines and withdrew the AVOs, believing if she tried harder, she could change him and avoid further abuse.”

Louise said that for the previous two years, both her daughter and grandchildren had resided with her, but added: “Her ex-partner was relentless. Each time the abuse and manipulation occurred, it became more destroying.”

One day last September, Louise was informed that her daughter had failed to pick up the children from school. A short time later, her worst fears were confirmed. She said that in the months since, authorities had made the father full-time guardian, without even as much as a glance at police reports and a “violent documented past.”

“When my daughter died, he took the children from a loving environment, our and their home.

“He agreed to let me organise counselling for the two littlies. But when they contacted him, he closed it all down.”

Louise wants authorities to know there is “there is nothing in place” to protect her grandchildren and hundreds like them”.

“I fear the day when my granddaughter turns around and says ‘grandma, why did you allow me to live with him?”

* Not their real names

change.org/violenceeducation

For support and information about suicide prevention or domestic violence contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732 Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491

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The dive in violent assaults since lockout laws were introduced has had a knock-on effect for other crime in Kings Cross, with a five-fold increase in the number of people arrested for prostitution.
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The number of people arrested on prostitution offences soared from 44 in 2013 to 259 last year, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s Recorded Crime Statistics 2014 report released on Thursday.

All but 13 people of the arrests were in the Sydney central business district, where laws imposing a 1.30am lockout on drinking venues took effect in February last year.

BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn said the 489 per cent increase was a reflection of increased policing rather than increased activity.

“I don’t think we’re seeing a sudden surge in prostitution,” Dr Weatherburn said.

“What’s happened is that the police have gone into Kings Cross to enforce the new liquor laws and while they’re there in much larger numbers they’ve also gone looking for other breaches of the law.” The latest figures show an overall declining trend for crime in NSW since 2001, with stealing from a dwelling the only major offence that has continued to trend upward. Many of these offences involved items being stolen from garages or driveways outside the home, with items such as hot water systems, bicycles, tools and letterboxes being snatched. 

Other offences that have risen include weapons possession, transport offences and prostitution. But the relatively small increase in theft across the state was a portent of what may come once recreational users of ice start to become dependent, Dr Weatherburn said. “At the moment, even though methamphetamine use is booming it doesn’t seem to be having the kind of effect on property crime that heroin did,” he said. “As the balance changes to more dependent use, that may change.” Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society president Andrew Woodhouse said police had told residents that they had more resources to deal with matters such as illegal prostitution since the lockout laws. They had also been able to send more staff to Woolloomooloo, where residents have complained about the behaviour of street prostitutes. Prostitution is not illegal in NSW, but soliciting for paid sex is prohibited within view of a dwelling, church, school or hospital, and brothels need to be licensed. “There are some very brazen street workers on the street outside Porky’s [on Darlinghurst Road] wearing practically nothing,” Mr Woodhouse said. “I just looked at this girl and thought, what are you wearing? I couldn’t quite see anything.” Police were unavailable for comment. With the vast majority of prostitution offences occurring in the CBD, the BOCSAR data also demonstrated that certain pockets of NSW were more prone to certain crimes than others and some experienced an increase in offences that were trending downward elsewhere. Parramatta defied a downward trend in sexual assault crimes, with a 32 per cent increase in the number of people arrested on such offences.

People living in Sydney’s north should be most careful to lock down any possessions usually kept in their frontyards, driveways, verandahs and garages, with a 45 per cent increase in thefts from a dwelling in Ryde and a 37.5 per cent increase in North Sydney and Hornsby.

But if you live on the northern beaches, check your credulity. Pittwater experienced a 50 per cent surge in fraud.

Murders and assaults have fallen in the state, but fraud and drug possession offences were on the rise in 2013 and 2014.

 

Fraud rose in 2011 and 2012 but remained steady in the past two years. The total number of fraud offences in 2013 and 2014 was 98,647.

Most of the increases were in the Pittwater local government area which includes Newport and Mona Vale.

Drug possession crimes involving amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and other drugs had the highest increases. The increase in the use of crystal methamphetamines, or ice, has prompted the federal government to launch its National Ice Taskforce to crack down on the drug.

NSW has the highest number of ice users in the country.

The highest increases in thefts in homes were in North Sydney, Lane Cove and Ashfield areas in Sydney while areas such as Young and Cabonne had decreases in thefts.

BOCSAR says most burglaries, which rose 3.2 per cent in the past two years, were from yards, carports, garages, verandahs, driveways and sheds. The most common items stolen were hot water systems, mail, letterboxes, bicycles, scooters, tools and garden accessories.

The far west including Dubbo and Bourke registered the highest increases in most crimes including murders, assaults and breaking and entering.

 

In greater Sydney, the areas with the highest number of crimes were the city and inner south, inner south-west and Parramatta.

Theft from homes in North Sydney and Hornsby was up 37.5 per cent and in Ryde, 45 per cent. Sexual assaults in Parramatta increased by 32 per cent.

 

 

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Luke Lazarus leaves Downing Centre Court in Sydney after his sentencing hearing last month. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Convicted rapist Luke Lazarus jailed for at least three years

A man found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman in an alleyway behind a Kings Cross nightclub owned by his family is set to appeal his conviction.

Solicitors for Luke Andrew Lazarus lodged the necessary papers with the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal five days after the 23-year-old was sentenced a minimum of three years’ jail.

Along with his conviction, Lazarus is also appealing the maximum five-year sentence handed down by Judge Sarah Huggett on March 27. He has engaged the services of Back Schwartz Vaughan, an eastern suburbs law firm that specialises in liquor licensing.

The Lazarus family own a number of well-known licensed premises including Soho and The Eastern at Bondi Junction. Lazarus was convicted by a jury in February over the sexual assault of 18-year-old woman in an alleyway behind the Soho Nightclub on Victoria Street in Potts Point in May 2013.

Lazarus approached his victim on the dance floor introducing himself as a part owner of the venue.  He then offered to introduce her to the DJ before saying instead they would go into a VIP area.  But Lazarus took the woman, who was a virgin, to the lane way where he anally raped her before demanding she put her name in his phone.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Huggett described the attack as the “spontaneous and opportunistic” actions of a young man who felt a sense of “power and entitlement” by virtue of his family’s connection to the Soho club. His victim told the court, via a victim impact statement read on her behalf, that she would never be the person she was before the attack.

“I thought that once I left the alleyway the pain would go away … but it didn’t,” the woman’s statement said.

“Everything that made me who I was stayed in that alleyway.”

Lazarus said he had sex with the woman but that it had been consensual. Lazarus said the fact he had “done this unknowingly” made him “absolutely sick to my stomach”.

“What happened on that evening I honestly believe it was consensual,” Lazarus told the court.

After Lazarus was sentenced NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward slammed a series of prominent public figures who offered him character references.

Those figures included Waverley mayor Sally Betts, the honorary secretary of the Honorary Consulate-General of Greece in Brisbane, Tsambico K. Athanasas, and South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club chairman Nick Pappas, who all declared their shock at Lazarus’ conviction and vouched for his good character in references prior to sentencing.

Ms Goward said those high-profile people had not only diminished their own standing, but could discourage victims from coming forward.

Cr Betts came under fire again this week for proposing education sessions to teach girls how to minimise their “risky behaviour”.

She told a local paper that she is working with police and Waverley Action for Youth Services to introduce “a new risky behaviour education program to try and help young women understand and better deal with being in vulnerable situations”.

However, Waverley Action for Youth Services (WAYS) distanced itself from Cr Betts’ idea, saying there was no new program and they would never undertake a program that involved “victim blaming”.

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Filled with the flaws and failures of ‘everyman’, ordinary Australians still managed to achieve extraordinary things. Photo: Australian War MemorialAs we approach the shores of the Gallipoli centenary, those drums you can hear getting louder are not just coming from bands practising for the big day, but rather the usual beating of hairy-chests draped in Australian flags, claiming Gawd knows what powers for the original Anzacs.
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If you didn’t know better, you’d reckon that the Australians who hit those beaches on that devastating dawn were angels of moral rectitude, bronzed behemoths carved from granite, fired only by the desire to fight for liberty, and not one of them wavered.

I respectfully submit that those who push that line are somewhat missing the point. The wonder was not that these were superhuman men of superior morals, achieving superhuman feats through their superior strength and skill. It was that they were ordinary Australians from all walks of life – butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, most of them, with only a few months serious training under their belts – filled with the flaws and failures of everyman, frequently with fractured pasts, who still managed to achieve extraordinary things.

The great war correspondent, Charles Bean himself, though, he might have blushed a little while writing it – as he was one of the key architects who laid the foundation stones for the superman mythology – was frank on the subject, as quoted by Ross Coulthart in his recent book on the war correspondent.

“The truth,” Bean wrote, “is soldiers are not the fictions which war correspondents have made of them, but ordinary human men.”

The first time, in fact, some of those Anzacs made big news, the headlines were of a singularly damaging nature, when just after they had joined up and were training in camps across Australia, Melbourne Truth ran with the front-page story on October 10, 1914, detailing “the super-sensational rumour that A GIRL OF 16 had been plied with liquor and then outraged by about thirty soldiers”.

When the paper hit the streets, the soldiers so exploded with outrage, hundreds of them converged on Melbourne proper and rioted, and it took no fewer than 200 police – on foot and mounted – to protect the building. The story was more than hotly denied.

Once in camp in Cairo, prior to going to the Dardanelles, the Australians were so notorious for their ill-discipline that the running gag was that night after night, the camp sentries would have roughly the same exchange:

Sentry: “Halt! Who goes there?”

Voice: “Ceylon Planters’ Rifles.”

Sentry: “Pass, friend.”

[A little later:]

Sentry: “Halt! Who goes there?”

Voice: “Auckland Mounted Rifles.”

Sentry: “Pass, friend.”

[A little later again:]

Sentry: “Halt, Who goes there?”

Voice: “What the f–k has it got to do with you?”

Sentry: “Pass, Australian.”

And then, when called up to go to the Dardanelles, in early April 1915, an even more infamous riot occurred, when several thousand of them – less the 301 already given dishonourable discharges, many for having dishonourable discharges – headed to Cairo’s red light district, the Wazza, where so many had caught the pox in the first place, and raised hell.

Just before 5 o’clock in the afternoon of Good Friday, people wending their way through the streets were suddenly stunned to see burning mattresses hurtling down from the upper floors of the whorehouse at Number 8, Darb al-Muballat. This was shortly followed by clothes, bedding, heavy furniture, chairs and shutters. Down below, other Australian and New Zealand soldiers, joined in the fun, soon threw the furniture and all the rest onto the burning mattresses to get a proper bonfire going. To put a stop to it, first came the Egyptian police, then the military picket, then the fire brigade, and then the Military Police, but none of them were strong enough to stop the riot.

The Australian attitude on this night, was in the image of the reply of another rioter, later on, who when asked to “Keep the peace in the name of the King,” fired back: “Oh f–k the bloody King; don’t stop my men, let them pass.”

Finally, at 10 o’clock, a whole battalion of Lancashire Territorials arrived with rifles and bayonets fixed. Their officer gave the order, and in an instant his men formed up, with their rifles pointed straight at the rioters.

This time it worked.

In short, just before the landing, the situation for the British authorities, in regard to the Australian troops was reminiscent of the remark most often, and probably apocryphally, attributed to the Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, who, after surveying the British troops sent to him in Spain in 1809: “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.”

There was hell to pay when the news of the Wazza riot broke in Australia, but, mercifully, some hugely reputable newspapers, like Melbourne’s Truth, were honest enough to point out where the blame truly lay: with the prostitutes.

“Certain happenings in Egypt,” the paper delicately raised the subject, “have lately tended to give more prominence to [those arrested for riot] but it is only fair to point out that . . . the immorality of Cairo is noted from one end of the world to the other, and ‘soliciting’ is reduced to a fine art among the lewd women of that city, so that resistance to their nefarious methods is a difficult problem, even with men whose morality would be absolutely unimpeachable under fair conditions . . . Brothels are in abundance, and the harlots are in no wise wanting in enterprise, but try to force poor, innocent Australian boys into their houses of ill fame. Shame.” Exactly!

And of course those rioters were no more than a minority of the Australian troops – and most certainly not your grandfather or my great-uncle twice removed – and the reaction of many, was indeed disgust at what had happened.  But here is the part I love . . .

One of the most disgusted was a sensitive artist Digger from Western Australia, Ellis Silas. And he was also there on the day of the landing, as those same men, ordinary Australians with ordinary flaws, rose to the occasion, and kept pouring ashore at Gallipoli, even though under heavy fire.

“It was a magnificent spectacle to see those thousands of men rushing through the hail of Death,” Silas would record, “as though it was some big game. These chaps don’t seem to know what fear means – in Cairo I was ashamed of them, now I am proud to be one of them though I feel a pigmy beside them.” Bingo.

But even then, it is not as if every man-jack of them was up to it.

When the commander of the AIF First Division, General William Bridges, came ashore a couple of hours after dawn, one of the first officers he found was a battalion commander who – under the extreme circumstances of the angels of death having been flapping their wings all over him for the past two hours – had fallen to pieces, just as you or I might have under the same circumstances. This particular commander was quite “unstrung”. General Bridges had no sympathy and was “coldly contemptuous”, but there would be many other “stragglers” on the day who gave in to civilian sanity and gravitated to the relative safety of the shoreline, rather than press the Turks in the heights where their machine-guns were exacting such a toll.

In sum, what we will be commemorating next week will not be the achievements of our super-race of men who universally triumphed against all odds. For starters, they weren’t a super-race, and of course, they didn’t triumph in the final analysis. But they were volunteers, rare in the Great War for the fact that as a body of men they didn’t have to be there. Instead, they chose to be there, and as a body –  with the Kiwis, Brits, Indians, French and others – really did do extraordinarily well, against a noble foe in a campaign that really did galvanise the nation from which they sprang.

I agree with Paul Keating, in wishing that the foundation stone of our actual nationhood was something other than the devastatingly bloody battle of Gallipoli. (Eureka would do me.) But the point is, that really was the first thing that brought our mob totally together as one, as never before, and 100 years on, it is right we remember them.

Lest we forget.

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