A photographer and a mission to shed light on Aboriginal life

(Transcript from World News Radio)

An art exhibition in regional New South Wales is bringing a new perspective to Aboriginal mission life as recently as the second half of the 20th century.


Asher Milgate, a non-Indigenous man, has gone back to his home town to learn about the side of life he never really knew — the Aboriginal side.

This report by Lydia Feng and Biwa Kwan.

For Asher Milgate, it started simply as a personal interest.

He wanted to learn more about the Aboriginal community in his home town of Wellington, in central-west New South Wales.

“I had always had Aboriginal friends growing up. As I got older, I realised I actually didn’t know very much about them. The further I delved into my friends’ parents’ and grandparents’ lives, I just realised how little I actually knew and how much I could learn from just sitting down and speaking with the elders.”

Mr Milgate began photographing and recording the untold stories of the Aboriginal elders he interviewed.

Five years later, with the help of government funding, that process has culminated in the art exhibition “Survivors,” now on display at Dubbo’s Western Plains Cultural Centre.

It features a series of black-and-white portraits and recordings of 18 Wiradjuri elders and elders-in-waiting who grew up on Nanima Mission in Wellington.

Established in the early 1800s, Nanima was the first inland Aboriginal mission and Australia’s longest continually operating Aboriginal reserve.

Visitors at the exhibition can put on headphones and listen to the stories of those who lived there, from 95-year-old Uncle Billy Lou.

“Ah, man, I think of those days, I wish everything would start all over again.”

To elder Aunty Joyce Williams, remembering being taught to swim.

“They used to throw us in the river. And we’d be nearly drowning, and they’d pull us out. Scouts’ honour. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”

The fear and displacement experienced at the mission left an indelible mark on elder Denise Kelly.

“As a child, losing a lot of my family members in the Stolen Generation and having my grandmother remove me so that I wasn’t part of it … you know, just being told to get off the mission and not having the choice to live out there on the Common anymore … We were told we had to move, and one family member was told, as a baby, if you weren’t removed from the mission, that the baby would be taken away.”

Even today, Ms Kelly says, deep injustice exists on missions in Australia but remains shrouded in secrecy.

“You still have missions out there where people aren’t allowed to say what’s going on. They still don’t have the freedom of speech. They’re still being dictated to by the hierarchy and the white society.”

Ms Kelly says the prejudice still lingers beyond the missions today, too.

“I’m 56, and there are still some shops that I can walk into and, if there’s a white person in that shop, they will get served before me, regardless of whether I’ve walked in there. And I have walked into shops in town now, and I still have security walk around the shops with me.”

She emphasises the importance of change — but from Aboriginal people, too.

“Like a lot of the younger Aboriginal people don’t like the white people because of how they treated their families back then, but, you know, you’ve got to change. Like here I am working in a Catholic school … I was not allowed in a Catholic church. But if I don’t break down a barrier, then who’s going to break it down?”

By featuring in the art exhibition, Ms Kelly says it enables the Aboriginal community to tell its side of the story.

She says she trusted Asher Milgate.

“I knew that, with him doing it, it would give us a chance to have our own voice, be able to talk out and not be able to get in trouble for doing it, whereas, before, we weren’t allowed to talk out, weren’t allowed to say what was inside.”

Curator Kent Buchanan says “Survivor” is an integral part of Australian history, helping establish a dialogue with the Indigenous community.

“By examining this aspect of New South Wales, we are able to really shed a light on the experience around Australia. And I think many people forget that the Aboriginal people of the east coast of Australia were the first to be colonised.”

Furthermore, Mr Buchanan says, it fills a gap in people’s understanding of practices towards Aboriginal people in Australia’s history.

“I think, for the most part, people aren’t actually aware of the kind of segregationist practices that were a part of setting those missions up, the fact that Aboriginal people living on those reserves were essentially banned from practising culture.”

Interestingly, the Indigenous elders reveal, they found a friend in the Chinese.

“The Aboriginal people in the Wellington Valley, their main ally was the Chinese market gardeners, who had market gardens down by the river. The Chinese who ran those market gardens would provide food to Aboriginal people, they would provide them with jobs, and so there was a very strong connection between essentially these kind of two outsider groups.”

Asher Milgate’s work has been praised as a powerful symbol of reconciliation.

But he says the work behind the exhibition has been a learning experience for him.

“This work is really acknowledging the Aboriginal community, and, myself being non-Indigenous, it’s a great example of two different communities coming together. And if you look at the history of first contact, Aboriginal people have always had to adapt and learn from how to deal with the white people, basically, from back in those early times, and I think it’s probably about time now that the white people start to learn about Aboriginal people.”

Mr Milgate says crafting the exhibition proved cathartic as well as life-changing, an experience he hopes to impart to others.

“What I’d really like for people to get out of the exhibition is to enter another world, enter a world that you’re not familiar with. These images are quite large — a metre on the longer side, and we’ve got 18 — so, when you walk into the gallery space, you have nowhere to hide, you’re in their presence. And they’re opening their hearts and their stories for you to listen, and all you have to do is put the headphones on. And I believe, if one person takes the time to listen to one person speak, that will forever change their life.”



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Karmichael Hunt says scandal a blessing

Karmichael Hunt has described his cocaine scandal as a “blessing in disguise” as he prepares to return from suspension with the Queensland Reds.


The code-hopping star returned to full training with the Super Rugby outfit on Monday but is not available for selection until next week’s clash with the Melbourne Rebels.

Hunt said he would be a “better man” for the experience he has gone through, which included copping a six-week ban from playing and training with his teammates after pleading guilty to four counts of possessing cocaine in September and October last year.

“In a weird way, it was kind of like a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“Everything that’s happened has kind of forced my hand to look at myself and make some harder decisions to correct my behaviour.

“That’s been done now and I’m thankful for it, as much disappointment and hard work it’s caused the organisation, my family, fans, friends – you name it.

“I look forward to learning from it, moving on and being a better man because of it.”

On top of his suspension, Hunt was stripped of the team’s vice-captaincy, fined $30,000 by the Reds and $2500 by the Southport Magistrates Court and was ordered to go through drug counselling.

Hunt said he would continue to see a psychologist to explore exactly what triggered his decision to turn to cocaine as part of an end-of-season celebration after finishing his commitments with the AFL’s Gold Coast Suns last year.

“I thought I looked after myself as good as I could but obviously there’s a part at the end of the year where I’d like to withdraw myself,” Hunt said.

“I have made a pact to my friends and family that I won’t be venturing down that path again.

“Everyone will probably see my situation, what I’ve gone through and maybe take a lesson out of it.”

Meanwhile, Hunt has not completely given up hope of representing Australia at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Hunt revealed he maintained contact with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika throughout his suspension period.

“I don’t want to give too much away but I just sent an e-mail to Cheik saying I want to focus on my return to the Reds and getting some good football under my belt before I get back involved with what he’s trying to do with the Wallabies,” he said.

“It starts today. Next week I can play some football and I look forward to putting some good performances in.

“If I’m there at the end of the year I’m there, but that’s a long way away at the moment.”

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IS claims responsibility for Tunisia museum attack

(Transcript by World News Radio)

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack at Tunisia’s national museum that killed 23 people, including an Australian man.


In an audio message posted online, the group has threatened more attacks, warning what took place in Tunis is just the beginning.

Manny Tsigas reports.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Tunisian officials say one of the two gunmen who stormed the famed Bardo National Museum in an attack aimed at international tourists was known to intelligence agents.

The two have been identified as Hatem al- Khashnawi and Yassin al-Abidi.

No formal links to a particular armed group have been established.

But an audio recording purportedly from the self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility for what it calls “the blessed immersing operation”.

The recording goes on to praise the attackers.

(Arabic, then translated:) “We ask Allah to accept them among the martyrs and to grant them the highest rank of the Gardens of Paradise, and to make us join them both.” (Arabic …)

Tunisian authorities say they have arrested four people directly linked to the attack, along with five others with indirect ties.

Two family members of one of the gunmen are reportedly among them.

Tunisian prime minister Habib Essid says an investigation is underway — with increased security deployed to major tourist areas.

(Translated) “Honestly speaking, we have very good leads. There have been arrests, but, once the operation is complete, we’ll have all our final results, which we’ll be ready to give you.”

The death toll from the massacre now stands at three Tunisians, including the gunmen, and 20 tourists, including dual Australian-Colombian national Javier Camelo.

Mr Camelo had been celebrating his university graduation by taking a cruise around the Mediterranean with his parents.

After docking in Tunis, the trio decided to visit the Bardo museum.

Mr Camelo was killed along with his mother.

His father survived.

Javier Camelo had also been working as an analyst for American Express in Sydney.

His colleague, Fran Fan, says he will be remembered as a caring, responsible and trustworthy person.

“He loved talking about his family and his parents and brother. Sometimes, we’d joke around, ‘You’re going all over the place, but you still make time to visit your parents.’ It cost a lot of money, but he said, every year, he makes sure he has time to go back to Colombia to visit his family. He was such a young age. I’m sure he had a brilliant future.”

Meanwhile, two Spanish tourists have been found alive after hiding inside the museum for more than 24 hours.

Police and consular officials had spent all night looking for Juan Carlos Sanchez and his pregnant wife, Cristina Rubio.

Mr Sanchez explains they were simply too scared to move — or even use their mobile phones.

(Translated) “We were leaving the museum, and we saw how they were shooting people by the door. When we realised what was happening, we hid in a room where they stored rubbish. We stayed there listening to everything, waiting for it to stop.”

The attack also appeared to be aimed squarely at Tunisia’s economy.

Tourism accounts for 7 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

But since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, militant dissent has been on the rise.

Bochra Belhaj Hmida is a legislator from Nida Tunis, the country’s secular-majority party.

She says the dissent has become so serious that there could be as many as two thousand militants in sleeper cells across the country.

(Translated) “We believe most of them have returned from Iraq or Syria, so these are, more or less, the numbers we’re talking about. There aren’t exact numbers, because there’s no list of everyone who’s gone to places like Syria or Libya. So they can come back and lead these kinds of operations.”

Demonstrators have continued to gather outside the museum in a show of defiance against the militants.

And the Tunisian government says it intends to show it will will not be intimidated by reopening the museum.


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Australian ally killed by Afghan suicide bomb

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that has killed a former warlord who became one of Australia’s most significant allies in Afghanistan.


Matiullah Khan was the police chief of Uruzgan province who had a dark past and, in recent years, a close relationship with Australian forces in Afghanistan.

Greg Dyett reports.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Strongman, warlord, police chief and someone with plenty of enemies in Afghanistan.

And now, those enemies have caught up with him.

Matiullah Khan, police chief of the Uruzgan province where Australian forces were based, has died in a suicide bombing.

He reportedly was attacked after leaving his hotel in the capital Kabul with friends.

Matiullah Khan ran his own private militia, which made him a wealthy man.

The force known as the KAU would charge coalition forces to provide protection while they used the road from Tarin Kowt to Kandahar.

It led some to accuse him of extortion, a charge he denied in an interview with SBS News in 2011.

(Translated:) “No, it’s wrong. We don’t take money illegally from them. We escort them. We keep security for them.”

Some Afghans also accused him of having past links with the Taliban.

But Mattiullah Khan told SBS the Taliban was no ally of his.

(Translated:) “It’s not true. Some people must preach against me. The thing is, I have lost 420 personnel guys this way. If I had any links, I wouldn’t have any casualties.”

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai appointed Matiullah Khan as police chief of Uruzgan province.

At the time, Australia’s Colonel Dave Smith welcomed the appointment.

“We’re looking forward from here to how he can do his job well into the future. And he is certainly a man that, in my time here, has worked very hard to be benevolent and to help people.”

But Afghanistan specialist William Maley, from the Australian National University, says Australia’s decision to work closely with Matiullah Khan was ill-advised.

“The Australians saw him — I’m quoting an Australian general here — as ‘our man in Uruzgan’. The Dutch, who were also deployed in Uruzgan, were much warier of engaging with Matiullah because he had a fairly grisly human-rights record, but Australia promoted him as the individual on whom it could most effectively rely in Uruzgan. And the fact that he’s now dead is a classic illustration of the dangers of that particular approach, because, in the long run, it pays to try to develop institutions rather than simply promote one individual. A bomb can take out one individual very quickly and very effectively.”

William Maley says the death of Matiullah Khan should give Australian military leaders pause for thought.

He warns it could undo much of what Australia did.

“I’m afraid Australia’s approach to Matiullah, certainly on the part of the military over quite a considerable period of time, was profoundly naive. And one hopes that at least some will learn lessons for the future from this particular case, that there’s now a risk that Uruzgan will slide into some kind of internal civil war. And if that’s the case, then a great deal of what Australia forces achieved through very hard work in the province at the grassroots level may well end up being lost.”



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Swami Army swarms across Australia

Returning World Cup cricket champion India is making its presence known on the field, but it’s the noise coming from the stands that is really attracting attention.


The Swami Army, the Indian cricket team’s largest group of supporters, has invaded Australia’s major town centres, following the side around the country.

Almost 10 years ago, the Swarmi Army formed in Melbourne, with a group of eight diehard cricket fans taking the initiative to establish an organised group.

Today, says co-founder Kartik Ayyalasomayajula, the group has nearly five thousand members across the globe.

“We started off just sitting together, a group of eight, a bunch of guys from Melbourne and Sydney, and then we thought, ‘Why don’t we make this something big? There’s so many Indian cricket fans who are out there, let’s make it a formalised group, let’s make it a formalised base.’ And so we’re just growing by the day, growing by the minute.”

Devotion to the game outweighs devotion to their spouses for some fans.

Mohammad Bashir travelled from Chicago for the Cricket World Cup, leaving behind his wife and family.

He says, once the coin is tossed, his phone goes off.

“Ah, now, I’m kicking! I don’t pick up phone. If she calls, I don’t pick up call. (laughter …) Yeah.”

But it is more than just a love of the game that brings them together.

Kartik Ayyalasomayajula says the Swami Army is a family organisation.

He says it gives Indian expats a chance to come together to appreciate each other, as well as cricket.

“Just following Team India wherever they play around Australia, around the world. Just basically trying to create the big carnival atmosphere and get the families and kids involved in it. Really have a Bollywood … a mix between Bollywood and cricket, I guess.”



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Regional security dominates Vietnam-Australia talks

Stability and peace in the Asia Pacific, especially in the South China Sea, have dominated talks between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Vietnamese counterpart.


The pair have met in Canberra, the first visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung since 2008.

Trade and deeper defence ties were also on the agenda.

The two leaders have signed agreements on a working holidaymaker scheme and combating human trafficking, as well as on peacekeeping and war-legacy issues.

Tony Abbott has described the signing of the comprehensive partnership as a historic moment in relations between the two nations.

Mr Abbott says the visit underscores the strength and breadth of the Australia-Vietnam bilateral relationship.

“The relationship is going from strength to strength. The trade relationship is strong and growing stronger all the time, and it will be very much enhanced should the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations be finalised as we hope sometime later this year. The people-to-people relationship is strong and growing stronger all the time. And in the case of Australia, it is seasoned by the presence of some quarter-of-a-million Australians of Vietnamese heritage who make a marvellous contribution to the life of our country.”

Vietnam is Australia’s fastest-growing trade partner within South-East Asia.

And Australian firms have invested in Vietnam in 230 projects collectively valued at more than billion dollars.

They are mainly in industry, construction, services, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Mr Dung says the deepening ties between the two nations bode well for the future of the relationship.

“We took stock of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries and agreed that the bilateral relations between Vietnam and Australia are growing very well. Both sides place much importance on strengthening the bilateral cooperation and committed to working closely to further push and deepen the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between our two countries.”

Territorial tensions in the South China Sea were high on the meeting’s agenda.

China claims about 90 per cent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a line stretching deep into the maritime heart of South-East Asia.

That includes seas around Vietnam.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters crossed by key global shipping lanes.

Mr Dung says he and Mr Abbott discussed greater cooperation between the two nations’ special forces.

And he says they agreed on the need for maritime security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“We agreed on the importance of the assurance of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation and of flight in the South China Sea, in compliance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (and to) exercise self-restraint and refrain from actions that may escalate the tension in the region, including the use of force to unilaterally change the status quo.”

The South China Sea is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

It is becoming increasingly crowded, so any armed conflict between the countries involved would be a disaster for economies in the region.

Mr Abbott says Australia is committed to peace in the region.

“Anything which disturbs that stability is something that we would mutually deplore and mutually work to ensure didn’t happen. We both support freedom of navigation by air and by sea in the South China Sea. We both deplore any unilateral change to the status quo. We both think that disputes should be resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law.”

The meeting also resolved that Vietnamese military forces will train alongside the Australian military.

In all, 120 Vietnamese military personnel will receive training and be involved in joint exercises in Australia.

A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Parliament House during Mr Dung’s visit to tell him he was not welcome.



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Prince Harry to train in Australia with ADF

(Transcript from World News Radio)

The news of a four week visit to Australia next month by Britain’s Prince Harry has been met with enthusiasm from those in the military and the general public.


The popular Royal figure announced that he will spend a month training with the Australian army in Darwin, Perth and Sydney.

The secondment will precede Prince Harry’s resignation from the military, after a decade in service.

Abby Dinham reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Known as Captain Harry Wales in the British army, Prince Harry is heading to Australia for his last military tour.

Philip Benwell of the Australian Monarchist League says he expects a warm welcome for the fourth in line to the throne.

“A lot of Australians will be delighted to have him with us, proud to have him with us because he is in many ways a war hero and I think Harry likewise will be delighted to be amongst Australians.”

An Apache helicopter pilot, Harry will quit the British armed forces in June following a decade of military service, and two tours in Afghanistan.

Mr Benwell says his post-military career will take some getting used to.

“It will be a bit of a rough transition but I don’t think by any means there will be much sitting around I think he’ll commence a very active life in the civilian world.”

In a statement, the Prince said he’s at a crossroads of his military career, but is fortunate enough to continue to wear the uniform and mix with fellow servicemen and women for the rest of his life.

He also stated that spending time with the Australian Defence Force will be incredible and he expects to learn a lot.

The Australia Defence Association’s Neil James says Prince Harry will be a valuable temporary asset to the ADF.

“His particular skills as an attack helicopter pilot and we don’t have too many of them with combat experience so it’ll be very handy to pass on that knowledge in particular.”

Prince Harry worked in Queensland as a jackeroo during his gap year in 2003, then two years ago he came out to Sydney to mark the centenary of the Australian navy.

This time he’ll be embedded with the army in Darwin, Perth and Sydney.

Mr James says there will be many benefits of his secondment.

“It’ll work on the professional experience exchange it’ll work to broaden his experience in the Australian military and third the young women of Australia will get a kick for a month or so.”

The Australian Defence Force says it’s prepared a challenging program for the prince – with field training exercises and deployments here – giving plenty of opportunity for Royal followers to catch a glimpse of him.

“Obviously a lot of people would like to have him here.//He works in the military a noble thing to do.//He’s very nice.//Loveable rogue really haha.//He’s a very nice young man but I’m not a royalist.”

The Prince is expected to arrive mid-April.




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Call for better services for culturally-diverse aged

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Australia’s largest migrant community group has launched a report, calling for better health and aged care services for an increasingly culturally-diverse society.


The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia says migrants who arrive in the country at an older age often struggle to access basic services because of language and cultural barriers.

And as Michael Kenny reports, FECCA has called for the recruitment of more interpreters and bilingual health and aged care workers.

The FECCA study was funded by the federal government, with the research undertaken by the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.

It draws upon figures from the last census in 2011, when there were 1.3 million Australians aged over 50 from a non English speaking background.

And it forecasts that the number of older Australians from a non English speaking background is expected to grow significantly over coming decades.

The report found some older migrants, especially those with poorer English skills, tend to have poorer health outcomes than other Australians.

The FECCA report also found that many aged care facilities are failing to provide culturally-appropriate care with many failing to provide homeland food or traditional medicine.

FECCA’s Chairman Joe Caputo says aged care needs to be far more responsive to the nation’s cultural diversity.

“Different communities have got different traditions and different ways of going about and caring for older people. So I think the system has to be flexible enough and understanding of the diversity of the communities that are getting older in Australia.”

Joe Caputo says it’s clear from the report that some older Australians from migrant communities prefer to be cared for by family members than in aged care facilities.

He says this is particularly true for migrants from Greece and Italy, but also for those born in countries like China.

“I think that most people would like to stay at home for as long as possible and they would like to have family members assisting them as they are getting older or getting frail and I think policy-makers can ensure that we put more resources into ensuring that people can stay at home, either looking after themselves or assisting family members who are looking after older people.”

FECCA says one of the greatest health challenges confronting many older Australians from a non English speaking background is dementia.

The report forecasts that the number of migrant dementia sufferers is set to grow from 35,000 in 2010 to 120,000 by 2050.

Pino Migliorino is the Chairman of the National Cross Cultural Dementia Network for Alzheimers Australia.

He says many dementia sufferers from a non English speaking background revert back to their first language, and often need extra support from bilingual health workers or interpreters.

Mr Migliorino says it is also critical for policy-makers to work alongside migrant communities to overcome some cultural stigma around dementia.

“It is an issue for them because what happens is the phenomena tends to be that it’s hidden. It tends to not be presented or people aren’t presenting with dementia until far later in the dementia course and at that point, services are far harder to actually access. There’s also the sense of community shame and sensitivity. So we really do need to work with the communities around dementia.”

The FECCA report also highlights the changing cultural make-up of Australia’s older population.

It predicts that older migrants from China, Vietnam and India are likely to outnumber those from Greece and Italy over coming decades.

Adelaide-based Rosa Colanero is the Chief Executive Officer of Multicultural Aged Care.

She believes the current aged care system is not keeping pace with the changing cultural-make up of the population and is failing to provide enough bilingual workers.

“The Vietnamese, the Chinese and the Indians of the future- they are the emerging communities, particularly the Chinese and the Indians and we will need an aged care service or aged care services that are able to deliver culturally appropriate care to them.”


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Aid effort for Vanuatu intensifies

(Transcript from World News Australia)

Australia has stepped up its aid mission to Vanuatu – with dozens of emergency services personnel flying to Port Vila this afternoon.


Government and humanitarian agencies are working to assess the full extent of the damage – so a longer-term strategy to deal with the disaster can be put in place.

Helen Isbister reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

On a mission to assist in cyclone ravaged Vanuatu, a 54-strong taskforce, comprising fire and police officers, paramedics, doctors and engineers, flew out of Richmond Air base in Sydney today.

Greg Mullins is the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue New South Wales

“The bulk of the team – fire and rescue officers of whom have had experience in Japan, Christchurch Indonesia and Solomon Islands, so they’re very experienced rescue personnel.”

They’ll focus on repairing critical infrastructure, like the severely-damaged old Port Vila Hospital.

With several tonnes of equipment, including tents, drinking water, food and generators, the team can be self sufficient for up to two weeks.

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop says their focus will be on providing immediate aid to the ravaged region.

“Our urban search and rescue teams are highly experienced – tragically they have had a lot of experience in this type of work. Our interest is in ensuring the immediate humanitarian needs are met – that life saving measures are put in place and at the same time, we’re then focussing on the clean-up effort.”

Health Minister Susan Ley gave details of an additional medical assistance team of 20 personnel, who are scheduled to arrive in Port Vila tomorrow.

“This team is made of doctors, nurses, paramedics, a radiographer, pharmacist – and all together will take our total health deployment to 27. The team will work within the new wing of the existing hospital and with local staff to provide general practise and emergency care shifts.

At Amberley Airforce base in Brisbane today two more military aircraft took off, packed with personnel and supplies.

Aside from delivering immediate aid – a more complex operation is underway to assess how the disaster should be tackled in the medium to longer future.

It’s a collaborative effort involving the government and humanitarian organisations.

Peter Walton is the head of the international program at the Australian Red Cross.

“We’re in the very early stages and it’s going to cost many millions of dollars to actually assist vanuatu in rebuilding their economy, in rebuilding their society. It’s important to also realised that many other countries in the Pacific are dealing with quite extreme weather at the moment and we need to be taking a long-term view.”

Some of Vanuatu’s neighbours also rallying to help.

At UNICEF’s Pacific regional warehouse in Fiji’s capital, Suva, volunteers worked through the night, packing thousands of items for immediate health and education needs.

Soap, zinc tablets, de-worming tablets, collapsible water tanks, backpacks and stationary supplies were among the kits flown out to Vanuatu today.

Australians continued to stream back home today.

Relieved to be back with loved ones, but thoughts very much with those left behind.

“If anyone has any time for them, or money, time to go over there – then they should do that … because it’s practically no longer.”….”We are just urging everyone over here to just try and donate, to get like – the destruction around our hotel was intese. You know, massive trees uprooted. It’s crazy.”

The Royal Australian Air Force evacuated 199 from Vanuatu to Brisbane late yesterday

Commercial flights are now operating again – but military planes remain on standby to assist in evacutions as required.



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Eagle Lamb in line for early AFL debut

West Coast young gun Tom Lamb is firming for a round-one AFL debut as the Eagles sweat on the fitness of Mitch Brown and Will Schofield heading into their season opener against the Western Bulldogs.


Lamb, the No.32 pick from last year’s national draft, has played all four matches during the pre-season, with his speed and silky touch at ground level impressing coaching staff.

The 193cm forward tallied 13 possessions and a goal in Sunday’s 19-point loss to Fremantle, and the early-season absence of Jack Darling provides Lamb with the perfect opportunity to nail down a spot in the attacking half.

Coach Adam Simpson said he’s yet to decide whether to hand the Dyson Heppell lookalike a debut for the April 4 clash with the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

“The early signs are pretty good. He seems to have adapted pretty well to the intensity,” Simpson said.

“He’s still going to make some errors, but we’ve got to have a bit of patience.

“We also don’t want to rush him straight in. There’s another level to go to for round one. But we’ll review the game and see how he worked off the ball.”

Key defenders Brown (hamstring) and Schofield (ankle) were rested from Sunday’s match as a precaution, leaving Elliot Yeo to man Matthew Pavlich for most of the contest.

Yeo did an admirable job against the Fremantle skipper, while Jeremy McGovern also relished the extra responsibility in defence.

But with Eric Mackenzie (knee) out for the season, the Eagles desperately need Schofield and Brown back to bolster the defence.

Simpson is optimistic both will return against the Bulldogs, although he admits their injury-hit pre-seasons aren’t ideal.

“We’ve had to work on some issues with our back half,” Simpson said in reference to the injury toll.

“So in that sense we haven’t quite nailed that yet.

“Overall the health of our list is the most important thing. We think we’re in a pretty good space.”

Simpson said there was a chance both Schofield and Brown would feature in the WAFL this week.

Ruckman Nic Naitanui is ready to go for round one after producing a solid display against Fremantle in his first match of the pre-season.

Naitanui, who battled back tightness last month, tallied 12 possessions and 13 hit-outs, while Scott Selwood collected 24 disposals in a strong return from an ankle injury.

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