5 Great Road Trips from Melbourne

ImagePhoto Credit: Google Images

I have European relatives visiting and like many others out to impress overseas guests, I faced the dilemma of how to best show them around.

I wanted to give them a complete experience of Victoria, but I did not want to spend a fortune in the process. I came across an easy and practical Melbourne car rental website, DriveNow. DriveNow compares and presents all the best prices available from all the car rental companies.

The hard work was done for me so I simply entered in my destinations, selected a car within my price range, and picked it up from one of DriveNow’s 1250 plus locations across Australia.

Because I saved so much time with the car hire, I have time to share my ideas on some great road trips from Melbourne!

Phillip Island is worth a trip. The penguin parade is a must-see, especially for overseas visitors. Try Pino’s for a delicious family feed.

Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, you could find yourself defrosting and relaxing at the Peninsula Hot Springs in Rye. With pool temperatures varying from 37ºC to 43ºC, you won’t be disappointed.

While you’re in the area, take a trip to Flinders, at the Southern tip of Mornington Peninsula. Whatever you do, set aside time to try the biggest (one slice feeds three) and yummiest vanilla slice at ‘The Flinders Fish and Chip shop’.

You cannot say no to a trip down the iconic great Ocean Road. Just when you think all those kilometres of the winding road have given you enough beautiful views, you can visit the Erskine Falls at Lorne and watch the water tumble into a lush fern gully.

To experience more flora and fauna, visit Wilson’s Promontory Natural Park in Gippsland. With the option of hiring campervans through DriveNow, you might decide to stay overnight in one of the promontory’s caravan parks.

My relatives are relieved to know that their upcoming adventures around the world have been made that bit easier (and cheaper!). DriveNow can assist you with hiring vehicles not only in Australia, but in Europe, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and the UK.

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Family violence: no easy solution for a common problem

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Family violence is increasing in Victoria.
Photo credit: The Age newspaper

‘No matter what I did, I always ended up in trouble. If I didn’t cook something right or it wasn’t hot enough, if I didn’t look alright. Or sometimes he had too much to drink.

‘There was always a reason things got started up. I copped verbal abuse all the time. But the violence was the worst, getting hit and belted all the time.’

Victorian woman, Gerdina Jansen, has been a victim of family violence for 30 years. Jansen’s story is being repeated every day for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women in Victoria.

Sadly, their distressing plight is not new. What is new, though, is that the numbers are accelerating. Statistics show that in just the past 12 months, reports of family violence have increased 23 per cent.

This alarming number has triggered a rapid response from Baillieu Government. However, the commitment of an extra $16 million over four years to fighting domestic violence is being both welcomed and criticised.
Although the funding increase appears to be a step in the right direction, political opposition has emerged in light of the Government’s previous decisions on family violence funding.

It was only in June that the Government cut $25 million from community health services, which covers the integrated health promotion program, therefore impacting on services that help women through family violence.

Reports quoted Health Minister David Davis saying these cuts were ‘modest’, however, Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Women Danielle Green says that for affected organisations, it represents a 10-25 per cent cut from their overall budgets.

‘It just shows lack of commitment to community health and women’s health.’

Ms Green acknowledges that the funding increase is ‘laudable’ but she is sceptical about the Baillieu Government’s motivations.

‘The announcement just seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to the overall crime rate rise.’

Ms Green believes the reason the Baillieu Government cut the $25 million is because it thought it would go unnoticed; especially after reducing health spending by more than $600 million since coming to office.

She is unimpressed that the Baillieu Government has still not delivered their framework on family violence after two years in office. There is a consultation framework at present to help develop the action plan according to Department of Human Services.

Like the Labor Government, Ms Green wants the Baillieu Government to tackle family violence using a ‘whole of government’ approach.

Spokesperson for the Minister of Women’s Affairs Michael Moore says the action plan will be released soon and will articulate the ‘whole-of-government approach to preventing violence happening in the first place.’

Member of the Greens Party, Colleen Hartland, also has doubts about the funding increase given the recent cuts.

‘When a Health Minister says ‘modest’ cuts, you know they’re going to be devastating … Just like the Baillieu Government claimed the TAFE cuts would be $100 million, when the actual figure was $300 million.’

Ms Hartland is still puzzled with the Baillieu Government’s refusal to invest in the BSafe pilot last November, an alarm system installed in the homes of family violence victims in the Hume region. The ‘highly successful’ program would cost only $125,000 per year to run.

BSafe has continued with the help of donations and Labor Government funding.

Ms Hartland thinks part of the problem is that the Government lacks a real concern for family violence because it happens ‘behind closed doors.’

‘This is a Government that talks a lot about law and order and getting tough on crime but … it’s more worried about the violence on King Street.’

The silence of the crime made it harder for Jansen to escape.

She never spoke to anyone about what was happening in case it got back to her husband and she would bear the consequences. This created isolation and Jansen become more accustomed to living as a victim of family violence.

‘When you’re in it (family violence) you don’t know you’re in it, otherwise you’d get help right away.

‘I didn’t know what ‘good’ was. I thought, well, I have my kids, a roof over my head and a business – what more could I want?’

But she admits that the constant fear for her children’s and her own safety, as well as threats, also stopped her from telling anyone.

Family violence counsellor of five years, Kate Shannos, says there are complicated reasons as to why women do not disclose their trauma.

‘The cycle of violence can be confusing.

‘There’s times when the man is trying … he will promise that things will change.’

For those who seek help, family violence agencies exist, but in order for them to properly address women’s needs, they need funding.

Regional Integration Coordinator at Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE), one of the organisations affected by the $25 million budget cut, Tammy Smith does not imagine the $16 million funding increase will benefit their work.

She says the funds are for family violence services, not prevention, and thinks the Government should address the grassroots issues of family violence just as much as support services.

‘The Government just don’t understand the prevention measures that can be taken.’

‘We have huge campaigns about not drink driving or taking drugs … for some reason family violence doesn’t get that recognition.’

Ms Smith concedes that although it is good that agencies are receiving money, $16 million over four years is not enough.

The funding will provide counselling for an extra 1200 women and children per year, but as Ms Smith points out, family violence incident reports to police escalated by 10,000 last year, therefore the funding will not meet the demand.

The $16 million increase will expand counselling and case management services, and men’s behaviour changes programs to nearly double the number of places in court-directed programs.

Counsellor Shannos views these strategies as more reactive than proactive and believes that mandatory respectful relationship programs in all schools could work to change attitudes and provide a proactive strategy to help prevent family violence. Ms Smith (WHGNE) agrees that education is an effective means of early intervention.

CEO of Women’s Health West (WHW) Dr Robyn Gregory says that several women’s health services, in WHW, have not received a funding increase in 15 years and although she commends the $16 million increase, she is not convinced that it will be very effective in stopping family violence.

Dr Gregory is keen for more investment in prevention to create a long-term benefit. However, Dr Gregory acknowledges that for the Government, this is not an easy commitment to make given the short-term nature of election cycles and electorate that want immediate solutions.

‘You have to have a lot of political will to say ‘we are going to invest in something that’ll pay off in 10 or 15 years’.’

Dr Gregory wants the media to ‘re-educate’ the electorate on what is important in the long-run, namely, prevention.

Ms Green agrees, stating ‘prevention is better than the cure’, and that investing in the long-term will pay ‘dividends’.

‘For every dollar spent on prevention, around $6 is saved in acute care.’

Dr Gregory highlights that the economic benefits, second to the social and moral responsibility, are a good reason to invest in prevention.

Family violence costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion each year, according to a study by the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The costs are derived from a combination of factors, including the risk of homelessness, lower workplace productivity, social security and child support payments, and hospital admissions.

Jansen admits that although she was ‘adept’ at hiding her injuries, there were occasions when she had to seek medical attention.

‘I remember one day he said “I want a roast tonight”… but he was late home from the footy club … by that time the roast was cold and overdone.’

‘He got angry and I ended up in hospital with two fingers nearly cut off.’

The physical violence, emotional trauma, and confusion became so unbearable that at one point, Jansen considered taking her own life.

Family violence affects one in five Victorian women and according to VicHealth, it is more damaging to the health of Victorian women aged 15-44 than high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and other risk factors.

Counsellor Shannos says she fears for her client’s safety sometimes, but she is also gravely concerned for the welfare of children. Ms Shannos admits that the most challenging part of her job is hearing about children being impacted, both physically and mentally.

‘Supporting children is something that’s not done very well.’

Jansen says her children suffered from being around the violence and although most of the physical violence happened after the three of them were in bed, the two older children were aware of the situation.

‘A few times he (husband) threatened to kill me, holding me at gun point. My son witnessed that once.’

The effects on her children have been devastating. One daughter took off overseas to ‘get away’, and her son is a drug addict, unable to hold down a job, despite having been sent to counselling.

On the night when Jansen told her husband she was leaving him, he beat her so much that the older children had to stop him.

Dr Gregory firmly believes that more funding for the support and counselling of children is necessary.

While the prevention of family violence is important, Ms Shannos says it is hard to achieve.

‘Violence is a choice – we can’t prevent a man from choosing violence.’

‘Unless you address it, the attitude isn’t going to change, so then all you’re doing is constantly reacting.’

Working through the aftermath of the ordeal has been important for Jansen. After the divorce, her husband continued to verbally abuse her over the phone but she says she felt like she needed to listen to him like she had been for 30 years.

‘The support groups made me understand what was happening to me and why I was so confused … they helped me learn to hang up the phone on him.’

A hard story to tell, but even nine years after the nightmare has ended, it is one Gerdina Jansen wants to tell.

‘I want to make people aware of how common family violence is.’

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Slick work from Ringwood East scientist

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Fellowship winner: Ringwood East resident Hernan Alonso in the laboratory at Monash University in Clayton.
Picture: Rob Carew

ON any given day, Ringwood East resident Hernan Alonso is usually busy in the lab, peering through the microscopes.

At the end of the year, his microscope lens will focus on a strain of bacteria that is set to benefit the Australian environment.

The research fellow at the microbiology department at Monash University campus in Clayton is one of 22 Victorians awarded a 2012 Churchill Fellowship. It gives him the opportunity to study a specific research project overseas, then share newfound knowledge throughout Australia.

He will spend one month in Japan studying the structure of an oil-degrading protein using cryo-electron microscopy. “My study deals with bacteria that can grow in oil-contaminated environments. Basically, oil spills as a result of human activity,” he said.

Dr Alonso’s research will specifically try to understand how the enzyme proteins inside oil-degrading bacteria can be used to clean up oil spills with cleaner strategies.

“I’m trying to understand how these bacteria degrade and then use oil to find eco-friendly ways to clean up these oil spills.”

Most oil spills at present are tackled with oil dispersants that do not completely remove the oil from the environment. “To understand how this protein works, we need to look at its shape or structure.”

The oil-degrading protein lives in a particular membrane environment in the bacteria, which needs to be preserved to keep it active.

But there are only a few groups in the world able to study the structure of membrane proteins and Japan is a pioneer in developing this technology.

Dr Alonso will learn how to use the equipment and machinery and is looking forward to the trip, although he is slightly nervous. “Lots of time is spent troubleshooting and getting things to work.”

Besides collating data and results, Dr Alonso is keen on learning how to use the equipment and sharing new technical expertise and skills with other Australian researchers.

To study these proteins, Monash University in Clayton is building an experimental centre with the requisite machinery. Dr Alonso expects it to be ready at the end of the year.

“Hopefully, when the new centre is set up, we’ll be able to conduct these experiments in-house.”

This story was written for the Monash Weekly newspaper in July 2012 during an internship. 

 

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Operation Jayde progressing well

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Still smiling: Jayde Stannard with her mother Marian Boyle and sister Rubie at the Community Rehabilitation Service at Angliss Hospital.
Picture: Rob Carew.

GIGGLING with her younger sister and playing a game on an iPad, Jayde Stannard is a picture of content.

But behind the 11-year-old’s cheeky grin lies an unhappy experience

In November 2008, Jayde fell ill with what was thought to be encephalitis – a swelling of the brain often caused by infections.

A second opinion revealed that Jayde had in fact developed a brain disease known as DESC/FIRES, a rare epilepsy syndrome.

After having surgery, Jayde started rehabilitation in 2009 through the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service. Later, she was transferred to the VPRS clinic at Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully to make travel easier for the Kilsyth family.

The VPRS provides specialist rehabilitation for children and adolescents aged up to 18 who have suffered an injury, had surgical intervention, or functional impairment.

Needing a lot of rehabilitation, Jayde was unable to return to a normal schooling routine for several months.

“It took her until term three to be able to mentally cope with a full day,” her mother Marian Boyle said.

Jayde’s rehabilitation team ensured all staff at the school were aware of her situation through regular meetings and having epilepsy experts talk about her condition and how to manage risks. The VPRS also educates and counsels families.

“When you have a normal child and then something happens to that child and it’s not the same child, it’s very hard,” Ms Boyle said.

Co-ordinator Renata Winkler said that although Jayde no longer needed rehabilitation, the VPRS would continue to be involved with the family and hold regular assessments. “We touch base with them [patients] on and off across their paediatric life,” Ms Winkler said.

The team at VPRS is also helping Ms Boyle find a suitable high school for Jayde.

Ms Boyle is grateful for all the help Jayde has been given – “we wouldn’t be where we are today without the rehab team”.

Ms Boyle is proud of Jayde’s courage and says she has made a solid recovery. “We’re very lucky with how well she’s come back.”

Although Ms Boyle isn’t sure her daughter will ever completely be her old self, Jayde disagrees. “I’m pretty sure I’ll get back to 100 per cent one day,” she says with a nod and a smile.

This story was written for the Knox Weekly newspaper in July 2012 during an internship.

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What can be forgiven but not be forgotten

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Newborns in a hospital nursery
Photo Credit: Getty Images

‘Nurses tied me to the side of the bed and I had my legs in stirrups, in a running position. That’s how I gave birth. I was 17… I tried to see what was happening but my head was pushed downward. I never saw my baby.’

She tells her own story, yet the experience of Lily Arthur does not stand alone. She is just one of an estimated 150,000 women who were victims of a forced adoption policy in Australia between the late 1940s and 1970s.

‘I was living with my boyfriend, 1967 it was, and one night the police came in and took me away. I spent the night in jail to be interrogated and they found out I was pregnant.’

Because Arthur did not “report” her pregnancy to appropriate authorities, the police tracked her down for questioning.

Women who fell pregnant out of wedlock, often teenagers, were manipulated into giving up their child for adoption.

A Senate inquiry is investigating the Commonwealth’s role in the enactment of this policy. Over 300 submissions have been lodged to the Senate.

Forced adoption was the solution to escaping the shame that would befall an unwed mother. According to research conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), long waiting lists emerged in the forties and fifties. Forced adoption served another purpose; meeting the demand for adoptable babies.

In psychiatrist Dr Geoff Rickarby’s submission, he includes a comprehensive description of the various sedative drugs given to many women in hospital, coercing them to sign adoption papers. According to Rickarby, the use of such drugs “would compromise the capacity of any person to make a decision regarding consent”.

Arthur was one of these women, “drugged-up” for eight days.

Before a legitimate adoption could take place, the law was that women had to be offered:

– Financial assistance
– Foster care for the child until the mother was ready to resume full custody
– Proper counsel of future regret and consequences of surrendering their child

If a woman remained adamant that it was best to give away the child, only then could the adoption papers – with a third party witness – be signed.

According to Arthur, institutions have admitted under oath that such options were not offered and hence women had a limited choice.

A few cases allege that some women were told they had given birth to a stillborn.

Trying to expose forced adoption practices has been difficult. Lily Arthur is also actively involved with Origins (NSW). She says the first inquiry in New South Wales that started in 1998, lasted for two and a half years until the government hid the report and buried evidence. It has taken 10 years to achieve the current inquiry.

A submission by Dian Wellfare who researches at Origins (NSW) Adoption Support Agency, reveals that some women in the sixties and seventies attempted to protest but were dismissed by the courts and adoption agencies.

Origins research revealed that forced adoption was not just a state issue – it was a national one. Arthur is confident this inquiry will be successful.

‘We have more than enough evidence to build a case against the Commonwealth…they knew what was going on,’ she says.

The NSW Government issued a policy in 1982 ordering hospitals to stop the practice. Arthur says that hospitals were so “stuck in their old ways”, that the policy took years to be finalised.

Legislation was reviewed, and by the eighties, more changes occurred. Open adoption, whereby the child can contact their birth parent(s), became mandatory in Australia.

But forced adoption lingered.

It was 1981. Lisa Macdonald was 15 and pregnant.

By law, Macdonald had to go see a social worker. After giving birth, she was pressured by the social worker, Department of Children Services and her doctor to surrender the baby.

‘They said ‘if you want what’s best you should give up your baby.’ They kept telling me I was selfish if I didn’t and I couldn’t do anything for it because I had no job.’

She signed the adoption papers.

Despite all her grief, she understands the reasons why institutions pushed the policy.

‘I don’t think they did it maliciously.

‘They genuinely thought it was best,’ says Macdonald.

The perception was that a single woman without financial independence would struggle to raise a child. It was therefore in the child’s best interest that they be given to a couple who could provide them with a better life.

However, manager of VANISH adoption services, Colleen Clare, believes it is most ideal when a child is with their natural parent. Only extreme circumstances should dictate otherwise.

What Macdonald cannot understand is how the policy was executed. She says she was treated appallingly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that prior to and after giving birth, many women were subjected to harsh treatment.

Macdonald recalls her time in the hospital.

‘I was like a second-class citizen and made to feel ashamed and guilty,’ she says.

After giving birth, Macdonald was prohibited from seeing her son.

This was done often, and intentionally, to prevent the bonding experience. Medical staff did this by placing pillows over stomachs and physically obstructing the mother’s view of her baby.

The Age reported that social historian Professor Shurlee Swain has interviewed former nurses and social workers and says there is evidence that they treated women poorly and pressured them to relinquish their baby.

Jo Fraser works with ARMS (Association of Relinquishing Mothers), running support groups for women struggling to deal with past adoption.

She is also a victim. She compares herself to some women who were sent to Catholic hostels to hide the pregnancy and their ‘shame’, and says that she was ‘one of the lucky ones’.

Many girls in these hostels, including Lily Arthur, were forced to do physical work up until they went into labour.

‘Women have said they were like detention homes,’ Fraser says.

Fraser was halfway through year 12 and pregnant. Her parents made two decisions: her boyfriend was banned from seeing her, and the baby was to be given up for adoption. She thinks the decisions were made to protect her reputation and future.

The mores of the sixties and seventies were vastly different. The stigma of getting pregnant out of wedlock was widespread. But with today’s society being more accepting of single mothers and de-facto relationships, as well as greater access to contraceptives and abortion, it is not surprising adoptions have been declining in recent decades, according to AIFS figures.

‘Today you see couples getting married with their son or daughter at the wedding… being pregnant and unmarried used to be unheard of,’ says Fraser.

With this in mind, she concedes that it is something she has “intellectually accepted”.

A few years ago, Fraser was asked by her parents whether theirs had been the right decision. She did not have the heart to tell them “no”.

‘All I said was, ‘I understand why you did it’.’

Fraser speaks of her experience in a matter-of-fact tone. She has told it many times and heard much more painful stories. Nonetheless, she is still hurting.

‘I’ve cried for 20 years,’ she pauses.
‘I still do sometimes.’

Mothers, families, and children around Australia are also still crying. AIFS research confirms that for most mothers, the sadness, anger and guilt of surrendering their child, has not diminished over the years. The long-term effects of adoption are multifaceted and difficult to accept.

Dr Rickarby’s submission, details the adverse psychological effects of adoption. He says that grief at the loss of a baby is “lifelong”, causing sadness, anger, depression and dissociation from other relationships. Some are conditioned to living with the grief.

A counsellor from ARCS (Adoption Research and Counselling Service) says many of her clients are victims forced adoption. They are dealing with distress, mental health issues, and difficulties in their relationships.

‘They were encouraged to shut down what happened… now they need help to process the trauma, allowing them to come to terms with the anger, grief, and injustice,’ she says.

Victims also experience relationship troubles with subsequent children. They become overly possessive and anxious of losing another child, or unable to bond.

Lily Arthur does not share a close relationship with her daughter and accepts that they have a “dependant” relationship. Lisa Macdonald on the other hand is overprotective. Since the birth of her second child, she has been a “possessive” mother.

‘The first time I was allowed to hold him, I wouldn’t let go,’ she says.

Lily Arthur, Lisa Macdonald, and Jo Fraser, have all reunited with the children they wanted to keep. Each has a positive relationship.

So where to from here?

Lily Arthur says the inquiry is seeking acknowledgement, accountability and redress.

Catholic Health Australia has said sorry on behalf of those catholic organisations involved, while the Western Australian Government is the only state to have apologised.

Arthur maintains that someone must be held responsible for what happened.

‘I’ve known too many women who have committed suicide over this. Their blood has to be on someone’s hands,’ says Arthur.

Redress is necessary as many legal issues require attention. Anyone who has had a crime committed against them has a right to compensation, says Arthur. Dian Wellfare labels forced adoption a ‘civil rights’ crime.

VANISH want professional services, managed by those who fully understand the complexities of the adoptive experience, to be accessible to victims.

A submission by professors from Monash University outlines the possibility of the Commonwealth developing a national framework to assist states in addressing the consequences that this practice had for mothers, families and children.

But closure may never triumph.

‘They can’t give me back those 26 years. What I lost. What they took. I’ve just learnt to cope,’ says MacDonald.

Arthur believes that if the inquiry achieves its goals, the pain remaining because of forced adoption practice can be properly addressed.

‘Once you have justice, you can move forward and heal.’

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Lily Arthur
Photo Credit: Google Images

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Illegal hostels – endangering lives and the economy

A pleasant street in Caulfield South, lined with autumn leaves and quaint houses, did not look to be the sort of street that was home to an illegally run backpackers hostel.

'Packed to the rafters': the Marriott street property was housing 20 backpackers up until a few weeks ago

An elderly couple pointed out the property. Number 30 Marriott Street looked like your ordinary, two-storey dwelling. But next door, a resident who would prefer to remain anonymous, revealed that during the month of March and part of April, she experienced an out of the ordinary neighbour!

The neighbour revealed the location of the illegal hostel identified by the Glen Eira Leader, in Caulfield North. It is located on Kinross avenue, a few doors down from where her sister lives. Illegal activity there is even more serious.

“Drug deals have happened on premises…my sister has seen pimps in their fancy cars regularly stop by the property,” says the neighbour.

Backpacking across a country has long been a part of traveling adventures. It is a low-cost, portable, easy travel option for tourists, particularly young tourists, worldwide. The Australian economy thrives on the backpacking industry. Backpackers annually contribute $2.3 million to the economy according to the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC).

 **‘International Visitors in Australia’; December 2010; Quarterly results of the International Visitor survey; Australian Government: Dept of Resources, Energy and Tourism Tourism Research Australian; All results are from visitors all aged 15 years and over; Results are specific to the beginning of 2006 until December 31 of 2010

There are around 80 to 100 registered hostels in Victoria, according to VTIC CEO, Todd Blake. Backpacker accommodation in Melbourne is in high demand. Homeowners in the municipality of Glen Eira are exploiting this: reports indicate there are an alleged thirty illegal hostels which the council is due to investigate.

Consumer Affairs Victoria uses a document, entitled ‘Rooming houses: An Operators Guide.’ Rooming houses have the same features as an illegal hostels – except they are legal! A rooming house is registered with the local council, which is exactly what the illegal hostel operators require before they try to accommodate others. Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RT Act), a rooming house has one or more rooms available for rent, with four or more occupying these rooms and sharing “communal facilities.” The document explains regulations for houses contain more or less than a certain number of people.

The Marriott street property housed about twenty backpackers The owners complied with the council and the backpackers have gone. “The owners of the Marriott street premises will face charges,” confirms Glen Eira Council spokesman, Paul Burke.

“The illegal hostels cram people in far beyond what the buildings are designed for…the buildings have no fire suppression systems, illegal electrical wiring, unhygienic bathroom and kitchen facilities…they are death traps,” says Mr Burke.

The Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire of 2000 killed 15 due to defective smoke alarms. Following the fire, changes were introduced to the Building Act 1975, the Fire and Rescue Service Act 1990 and the Local Government Act 1993, states the Queensland Government Department of Emergency Services. A backpacking hostel (legal or not) is classified as a type of budget accommodation. Owners of budget accommodation are “legally obligated to comply with the new fire safety legislation,” according to the QLD government.

“There is no one agency with primary responsibility for overseeing these type of institutions,” says Mr Burke. The Building Code of Australia, Building Act 1993, Building Regulations 2006, Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958, Country Fire Authority Act 1958 and Health Regulations 2001, are all involved in regulating hostels, according to the ‘Rooming houses’ document.

“VTIC needs to have more clearly defined powers in policing these illegal hostels,” says Mr Blake.

Glen Eira Council does not have the authority to shut down an illegal hostel. They can inspect a property, but need to give owners 24 hours notice and go through several procedures to just be granted access to a property, says Mr Burke. After inspection, the council can order backpackers to leave or order the owner obtain a permit. If the owner refuses to do either, criminal charges are laid. “In a democracy, there are processes that need to be followed… those charged will be heard by a court and have the opportunity to put their case to a Magistrate,” says Mr Burke.

The council only grants this permit or licence if it is “satisfied that the premises has a development permit under the Integrated Planning Act 1997,” according to the Regulation and Risks of Illegal Backpacker Accommodation in Queensland. Accommodation has to be provided without risking health and safety, according to Section 7 of the Act. Section 9 outlines that council authority can impose conditions on the license, including limiting the number of persons for whom accommodation can be provided. This information is from the Queensland Government. Glen Eira Voice could not locate an equivalent document for Victoria.

Adam Carey, an Age journalist, investigated the Marriott street property by posing as a backpacker for a week. He described the squalid conditions; one toilet, one bathroom and enough bunk beds to accommodate up to thirty people.

The transient nature of backpackers’ stay is certainly a limitation on the enforcement of process and progression of complaints according to the RT Act. Nonetheless, the longer these places go unnoticed, the worse the increase. The police, the local council, along with both the state and federal government, must work to establish a transparent protocol relating specifically to illegal hostels. Our economy can survive the dangers caused by these hostels, but human life cannot.

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Management of Caulfield Racecourse remains off-track

After almost six years, Glen Eira Council and the Melbourne Racing Club still disagree over the shared use of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. 

Horsing around: Training at the reserve, as negotiations also go around in circles

Glen Eira Council and the Melbourne Racing Club are continuing negotiations, regarding the fair use of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for both the public and the racing industry. Both parties are hoping that a resolution will occur within months.

The reserve was deemed publicly owned Crown land in 1885 when Queen Victoria established the ‘Crown Grant’, permanently reserving the land for the joint purposes of a “racecourse, public recreation ground and Public Park” for Caulfield citizens.

The council wants maximum active and passive activities to be facilitated at all times, reveals Glen Eira Councillor, Cheryl Forge. This includes providing a playground, barbecue area, garden beds, jogging paths and at least one sports oval. The council’s submission to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council included a document entitled ‘Getting the Balance Right’, stipulating other requests for the reserve. 

The MRC is happy for the reserve to be used for passive recreation, according to a source from the MRC who would prefer to remain anonymous. However, the MRC believe active recreation will clash with horse training, and potentially be very dangerous. 

If an oval is allowed in the middle of the reserve, the MRC expect the council will gain too much control over the land, obliterating the racing industry altogether.

“Our racing product will deteriorate,” says the MRC source. Furthermore, “the council has actually been profiting off selling lots of Caulfield land over the past ten years. Now they want to keep the racecourse for free,” says the MRC source.

The Government should ensure that “the Board of Trustees operates in an open and transparent manner … in accordance with the terms of the Grant,” states a recommendation from the Upper House Select Committee on Public Lands.

The council claims the MRC has always been the beneficiary of the land, using it as a racecourse, for horse training, and commercial events. “The club have been self-centred,” says Cr Forge. Furthermore, several horse training tracks block people from walking across the reserve, according to council.

The council believes the racing industry limits the amount of public use of the reserve. “The public have been pushed out by the dominating industry and have still not established the right to use the land,” Cr Forge maintains. However, the provision of public access to the reserve is more than adequate, according to MRC source.

If an agreement isn’t reached, the Minister for Planning will make the decision. “Ultimately, it’s a matter for the state,” says the Public Land Consultancy founder, David Gabriel-Jones.

The council has consulted the community, and generally, residents are content with how Caulfield Racecourse Reserve is used, says the MRC source. The club wants the community to be a part decision-making. “We do not want to be the bully,” maintains the MRC source.

A survey of 42 respondents to help determine the popularity of public space

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Respondents are from various suburbs in the Eastern suburbs, Melbourne, Victoria.   

*Respondents are aged between 14-40          

*Answer relating to public parks as well as ovals, in the suburban location of the respondent

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