War weapons, police gun handed into ACT police

Posted September 13, 2017 06:05:53

A Civil War-era rifle, a Queensland Police gun and a German World War I pistol are just some of the hundreds of guns that have been handed over to ACT police in the past two-and-a-half months.

Canberrans have surrendered 318 firearms as of Tuesday as part of a nationwide amnesty that allows people to hand over weapons without repercussion.

While most are common .22 rifles, shotguns or .303 rifles, a few rare and antique firearms have also appeared.

ACT Policing said many had been passed on through deceased estates, and were no longer wanted.

Those weapons included an 1870 Springfield trapdoor rifle with genuine US government markings, produced a few years after the end of the American Civil War.

An 1874 Queensland Police rifle is now being donated back to the Queensland Police Service for historical purposes.

A 1916 Luger, the standard side-arm of the German Army during the latter part of WWI, has also been handed in.

A few more serious weapons have also appeared, including pistols and semi-automatic rifles.

The amnesty has been running since July 1 and is the first since 1996.

The ACT’s 318 guns is considerably less than the 13,468 that had been submitted across the border in NSW up to September 1, but nearly triple the 122 that had turned up in the Northern Territory up to late August.

‘Grey market’ firearms and unwanted hand-me-downs

Many of the firearms are from what is often called the “grey market” — guns that should have been handed in during the 1996 amnesty.

Others have simply been locked up in garages or back sheds for years, either left with deceased estates or found on properties, left by their previous owners.

While the current amnesty is strictly for firearms, some people have sought to hand over a variety of weapons.

ACT Policing said a number of swords had appeared, along with four cross-bows and two spearguns.

The amnesty ends on September 30.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, act, australia, canberra-2600

Long before selfies, fans sought out autographs

Posted September 12, 2017 14:12:29

Long before selfies with celebrities or following someone famous on Twitter, fans hounded stars for their autographs — often scribbled in a little leather book.

As a Sydney teenager in the 1950s, Lesley Cansdell collected dozens of signatures of her favourite Australian radio and film personalities.

Her autograph book, recently acquired by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), includes more than 90 signatures and handwritten comments from the big names of the day.

They include Chips Rafferty, Ruth Cracknell, John Meillon and Muriel Steinbeck.

“Once Lesley got these signatures she wrote in her lovely handwriting the name of the film or the name of the actor, just in case the signature wasn’t identifiable,” NFSA senior curator Jess Bolton said.

“She also went through magazines like ABC Weekly or Radio Pictorial to find images to match the signatures.”

Entertainment junkie from early on

Ms Cansdell was a self-declared radio serial addict who would listen to the shows while doing her homework.

Later, she attended live performances with her parents at Sydney’s Caltex Theatre and the 2GB auditorium in Phillip Street.

The first autographs she gathered, at the age of 12, were from the cast of the 1954 feature film Kings Of The Coral Sea, starring a young Charles “Bud” Tingwell and Rod Taylor.

Accessibility of stars

Radio serials, including adventure shows, comedies and soap operas were broadcast in Australian homes from the 1930s until the 1970s.

Some of the most popular, such as Tarzan, were aimed at a young audience.

Ms Bolton said the stars were often generous with their time and willing to engage with fans.

“There was that accessibility to performers; you could get their autograph, you could meet them at performances,” she said.

Ms Cansdell would often tell her favourite stars that she was going to become a radio serial actress when she left school.

Though she didn’t pursue this path, she worked in administration at a Sydney radio station — sometimes voicing advertisements — followed by 17 years at Universal Pictures.

Ms Bolton said the autograph book marked the importance of entertainment within the home in the time before television, the popularity of live radio performances and the dedication of fans.

“I think it really captures the impact of radio and film on a young person in the 1950s.”

Topics: radio, film-movies, theatre, 20th-century, people, human-interest, canberra-2600

Security fences installed to keep visitors off Parliament’s iconic grass lawns

Updated September 12, 2017 15:59:56

After months of controversy and debate, new security fences are now being installed on the grassy slopes of Parliament House.

The home of Australian democracy was designed to allow visitors to walk over the top of their politicians at work, but this was reconsidered due to security concerns.

Visitors will be met with a 2.5-metre-high metal fence installed about three-quarters of the way up the lawns, which will stop people reaching the roof.

Leaving aside the changes, the symbolism and cosmetics — which have been questioned by the Australian Institute of Architects — the fence is one part of a $126.7 million security upgrade.

The fence was formally approved on the same day a group of pro-refugee protestors abseiled down the front of Parliament House, unfurling a banner.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the security improvements, which passed the Upper House with a clear majority, came “in an environment of heightened security”.

“We have always got to make sure the people’s house… is as open and accessible as it can be and we try to get the right balance there,” he said.

When the fence was first announced, the soon-to-be Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defended it, saying politicians needed to trust the advice from security authorities.

But others were not so convinced. Victorian senator Derryn Hinch said putting fences of the green slopes would be like “putting barbed wire on the Sydney Opera House”.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he did not feel vulnerable in the building and three Labor senators raised concerns about measures in the party room late last year.

Tougher security measures were introduced at Parliament House in 2014 after intelligence agencies picked up talk of potential threats to the building and government figures.

Topics: federal-parliament, parliament, government-and-politics, defence-and-national-security, terrorism, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted September 12, 2017 13:33:55

Canberra Is Calling To You: The capital’s unofficial anthem

Posted September 12, 2017 11:29:16

Did you know Canberra has its own song?

The “whispering baritone” Jack Lumsdaine wrote Canberra Is Calling To You in 1938.

“There was a real craze in the 1920s and 1930s about writing songs about places — songs about Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Woolloomooloo,” Thorsten Kaeding, senior sound curator at the National Film and Sound Archive, told ABC Radio Canberra.

“The Road To Gundagai is probably the most famous example of that.”

Having only been declared the national capital in 1913, Canberra was still a small country town when the song was composed.

“There was a real push at the time to get people to come to Canberra,” Mr Kaeding said.

“Certainly Robert Menzies was very big about trying to build Canberra into the nation’s capital by getting more people to come, and this I suspect formed part of that campaign.”

Lumsdaine was a prolific songwriter and performer on both the vaudeville circuit and on radio.

His ode to Canberra was recorded in a Sydney radio studio.

“That was pre-tape so they would have cut that directly to an acetate disc, and that record then would be turned into a stamper from which you then press 78 (RPM) records,” Mr Kaeding said.

On the record’s B side was a song about the nearby New South Wales town of Queanbeyan.

A second song celebrating Canberra came along in 1981, written by Idris Jones (of the Mixtures’ Bicycle Song fame) for Capital 7.

“Song For Canberra was to promote Canberra and a new image for both Canberra and the station,” Mr Kaeding said.

“They actually put it out as a single, on a seven-inch vinyl single, and on December 28, 1981 it actually hit number 94 in the Australian charts.”

Since then, Mr Kaeding said there had been a few songs referencing the bush capital, “but as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been a celebratory song about Canberra”.

When the city celebrated its centenary in 2013, it was Lumsdaine’s Canberra Is Calling To You that was chosen as the festive song.

So after nearly 80 years, it appears Canberra Is Calling To You remains the capital’s unofficial anthem.

Perhaps it is time for a new Canberra song?

Topics: music, history, human-interest, canberra-2600, act, queanbeyan-2620

Measuring leaf moisture from space to help predict bushfire severity

Posted September 12, 2017 06:00:00

As the bulk of eastern and southern Australia braces for elevated fire risk this summer, a satellite monitoring system is being developed to help predict and mitigate their impact.

Australia’s warmest winter on record has combined with the ninth driest winter on record to produce the increased bushfire threat.

Australian National University researcher Dr Marta Yebra is working on a space-based system to predict moisture content in forests.

“Bushfires have been part of Australian landscapes for a long time, but with climate change the fires are getting more severe and frequent,” Dr Yebra said.

“With vegetation getting drier earlier in the season, there’s a greater likelihood of fire.”

From October, Dr Yebra will monitor eucalypts at the National Arboretum in Canberra to determine their moisture content.

“We’ll send the leaves to the lab to analyse their chemical composition,” she said.

“Better information about the live fuel moisture content will help fire managers to better prepare for the bushfire season.”

Dr Yebra said her research would improve emergency services’ ability to plan ahead.

“The current monitoring system is based on very old science that was developed in the ’60s,” she said.

“I’m creating a model that calibrates how much light the leaves reflect.

“We then compare the observations from the satellites to work out how much water and other biochemical elements a leaf has.

“This tells us how dry the fuel is and how likely it is that the fuel will be ignited.”

Dr Yebra said the space-based monitoring system had successfully helped with bushfire management in parts of Europe.

“The existing models for estimating fuel moisture content were developed for Spain, based around research of European species like oaks and pines.

“I have tried the models in Australia, and while they work fairly well, I can improve the accuracy by collecting data from a eucalypt forest.

“This way I will be able to calibrate a satellite model specifically for the Australian landscape.”

Topics: bushfire, emergency-planning, research, forests, climate-change, weather, canberra-2600

Shooter in driveway attack to serve sentence in Canberra community

Posted September 11, 2017 17:43:03

A shooter who was chased from a Wanniassa driveway by his victim has been sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court to serve an intensive corrections order outside of jail.

The victim suffered a serious leg injury which was so deep it exposed muscle and the shin bone on his right leg.

Court documents revealed Ernest Bruce Jacky, 34, was hiding in the garden of a house, waiting for his victim, before the incident two years ago.

It is thought a dispute was sparked by allegations of burglaries at the homes of Jacky’s friends.

Jacky told police someone who looked like the victim was seen in footage of one of the break-ins, but initially denied doing the man any harm.

In response, police said Jacky’s friends took the victim’s car and drove it away.

Days later, after discussions about retrieving his car, the victim was met at a home where Jacky and another man were hiding.

He said Jacky pulled an item, about two foot long, from the back of his pants, pointed it at the victim’s body and demanded he get on the ground.

The man said he told Jacky to “get f*****”, before Jacky cocked the gun and shot him in the leg.

The victim said he was knocked down but got up and tried to run after Jacky.

He told police he knew it was Jacky “110 per cent”.

Jacky was released after his initial arrest, but was later charged with the crime after new evidence from telephone intercepts.

He pleaded guilty to the shooting and to threatening to shoot a witness if she talked to police.

“The conduct was planned,” Justice David Mossop said, adding the threats were also made in circumstances where they represented a real threat.

Jacky will serve two years and nine months on the intensive corrections order, under strict supervision.

But he will remain behind bars for the moment, as he is still to get bail from the ACT Magistrates Court for another crime.

That application will be heard tomorrow.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, crime, canberra-2600, act, australia

Painting by murder-accused will not be removed from National Portrait Gallery

Posted September 11, 2017 16:04:01

The National Portrait Gallery will not remove a portrait on permanent display by an artist now accused of murder, its director has said.

Angus Trumble told ABC Radio Canberra that nothing would be done while the matter was before the courts, but said that it was rare for public controversy to affect the gallery’s decision-making.

Archibald prize finalist and Canberra-based artist Melissa Beowulf was one of three people charged with the murder of her mother-in-law in August.

Her 2001 portrait of war heroine Nancy Wake is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.

But Mr Trumble said even if an artist was convicted of a crime, the gallery may not remove their works from display.

“The problem for us is one of placing the line between current passions and issues of the day, and the more measured verdict of history,” Mr Trumble said.

“It is simply about what makes a series of stories illustrative of the national life.”

The director said in his four-year tenure, he had only ever taken down a picture due to public controversy once.

That work was a photographic portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, which was temporarily taken down the morning after the execution of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

“I took the view and I made a judgement that public sentiment was so strong, and we had actually received a threat against the work of art, and in the interest of the safety of my staff and of our visitors, I took the view that it was necessary to take it down,” Mr Trumble said.

‘No decision necessary’ on Rolf Harris paintings

The National Portrait Gallery also has in its collection a number of portraits of and by convicted sex offender Rolf Harris.

But Mr Trumble said the gallery never had to make a decision about those, because those works were already out of display when Harris was charged.

“In that case … it seems to us appropriate for his works and his image to remain off display for the time being,” he said.

“There will be a time I think when Rolf Harris has something to say about the character of fame and of celebrity in the second half of the 20th century, but that time is not now.”

Mr Trumble said the crucial issue was finding the line “that separates the detached verdict of history from current passion”.

“It would have been inconceivable for a portrait of Ned Kelly to enter an Australian public art museum even 30 years after his execution,” he said.

“Today … he’s the same man, but he now forms part of the extremely important and contested, still contested story of the Irish in Australia.”

Melissa Beowulf, Bjorn Beowulf and Thorsten Beowulf plan to fight the charges over the alleged murder of 81-year-old Katherine Panin.

They are expected to appear again in December.

Topics: library-museum-and-gallery, courts-and-trials, canberra-2600, act

Mystery over shots fired at Canberra townhouse

Updated September 11, 2017 13:44:54

ACT police are investigating the latest in a spate of shootings in Canberra, this time at a Tuggeranong townhouse in broad daylight.

Neighbours on Burgoyne Street heard at least four shots fired into the home about 11:00am on Sunday.

Bullets struck the rear of the property, with holes and markings visible on the back fence, a water heater, doorframe, and wall.

Investigators said they were yet to determine the motive of the attack.

While Canberra has experienced a spate of bikie shootings in recent months, police said the latest incident did not appear to be related to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

No-one was hurt in the shooting but emergency services swarmed on the scene after the first triple-0 call was made.

“AFP Forensics and the Firearms Identification and Armory Team attended and conducted an examination of the scene,” police said.

The home is part of a complex of about 15 townhouses, some of which house children.

Police said the occupants of the house were cooperating with their investigation.

Topics: crime, law-crime-and-justice, bonython-2905, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted September 11, 2017 13:17:24

Has Braydn Dillon’s murder changed the way kids in care are protected?

Posted September 11, 2017 06:58:24

The death of Canberra boy Bradyn Dillon sparked an examination into how children in care have been treated in the ACT, and while some things have changed, there are still calls for more to be done.

The nine-year-old died in hospital in February 2016.

It was recently revealed months of abuse at the hands of his father led to his death.

In an ABC documentary last year, Bradyn’s heartbroken mother Rachel Jones slammed ACT authorities for ignoring her desperate calls for help.

“I spoke with the police, with child … protection. Every card that was offered to me, I rang them on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. I was going into the police station,” Ms Jones said.

She pleaded for things to change.

“It’s in the news one day but then the next day everyone forgets about it. I pray that something happens about this,” she said.

So is the system that cares for our most vulnerable children any better off today?

More money has been given to the sector

A major review was launched soon after Bradyn’s death into the ACT Government’s response to family violence.

The Glanfield Inquiry called for decision-making and improved oversight to catch kids like Bradyn before they fall through the cracks.

It laid out 31 recommendations which were all accepted by the Government, and the 2017/18 budget earmarked more money for the sector, including $10 million to provide two extra case work teams.

Rachel Stephen-Smith, the Minister for Children and Youth, said the Government pledged $44 million for the child protection system in the ACT Budget, on top of measures previously announced.

“As part of the safer families package it included $2.5 million to do two quite specific things. To establish a case analysis team that provides independent oversight of individual cases at key decision points,” she said.

“And also a higher level child and youth protection quality assurance and improvement committee.”

‘If numbers are still going up, I don’t think we have got it right’

The Government also provided money for an extra person to handle complaints about the system — something Children and Young People Commissioner Jodie Griffiths-Cook said doubled the existing workforce.

While she welcomed the move, she said more help was needed.

“In the previous two years the difference between our figures was a 40 per cent increase in children and young people that were brought to the attention of my office and we have seen that as a steady increase over time,” she said.

“If the numbers are still going up then I don’t think we have got it right.

“If we were to do everything we are legislatively responsible for I would suggest that would take more than that one position.”

Jacqui Reed from the Create Foundation, which advocates for children in care, said some programs, including the Government’s new care model, A Step Up For Our Kids, remained under-resourced.

“I don’t think it is worse off but I don’t think we are seeing the dividends we would have liked to have seen for such a massive investment of time and energy,” she said.

“I think there is a general consensus across the whole community that the resources are not matching the expectations.”

Is a formal review body the answer?

In response to continuing concerns, the ACT Opposition is pushing for an external body to review decisions made about children.

Opposition spokeswoman Elizabeth Kikkert said for many decisions made about individual cases there was no formal review or appeal avenue.

She said an external body needed to have that access to case files to analyse child protection decisions.

“My greatest fear is that we’re going to have another case like Braydn Dillon,” she said.

The Government insists there were plenty of places for concerned families to go, but was reviewing whether more decisions about children should be examined externally.

Topics: community-and-society, child-abuse, government-and-politics, canberra-2600, act, australia

Where are Canberra’s flags kept and who looks after them?

There are hundreds of flag poles in the nation’s capital, and thousands of flags. Meet the Canberrans who look after them.

Faye Powell sent in a question about the city’s flags, which often change overnight, signalling the arrival of a foreign dignitary.

“I’ve driven down Commonwealth Avenue many, many times, and noticed all the different flags that come up and go down,” she said.

Faye imagined a “huge storage area”, located somewhere in Canberra, and was hoping for a sticky beak.

When Curious Canberra wrangled an invitation to the ACT Government’s flag store, in the industrial suburb of Fyshwick, she jumped at the chance to come along.

Flying the flags

Three Canberrans manage most of the flags that are flown in the city.

Michael Arioli has been raising and lowering flags for 15 years, as an ACT Government employee.

I joined him one morning at a set of flag poles on the Commonwealth Avenue bridge, ahead of a visit from the President of Croatia.

“You’ve just got to make sure you put them up the right way for starters, and they obviously go in order,” Michael explained.

“Australian’s always first, then the next country, then it’s an Australian [flag] … whichever direction the traffic’s going, you must always have the Australian [flag] first.”

It’s common for Michael and his colleagues Marc Hirzel and Rhys Husselbee to start work before sunrise, owing to strict Australian flag protocols.

It states that flags can be raised at first light, at the earliest, and should not be lowered later than dusk.

There are other rules too, which keep the team busy when a foreign official is in town.

“You’re not allowed to fly any flag really in the dark, so we take the ones that aren’t lit down, and then redo it again in the morning, and redo it again in the afternoon, until that certain day when the dignitaries leave.”

The work doesn’t end once the flags come down.

“They end up with a lot of poo on them, so we wash them straight away just to get those marks off them.”

Inside the flag store

To help with that job, there’s an industrial washing machine inside the flag store, and rows of washing line too.

But that’s not what Faye had come to see.

During our visit, Michael took her through the most impressive feature of the store – the shelves and shelves of boxed up flags.

“We … store indoor flags, outdoor flags, ceremonial flags … not just for dignitaries, we hold a lot of events in the ACT as well, like Floriade, the World Cup rugby.”

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet owns the international flags in the store.

They’re frequently audited and organised by country, then fabric type, and stored in plastic boxes.

When an official foreign visit is scheduled, the department contacts the team, via administrative officer Carol Miller.

Michael and Marc then ready the flags, ahead of their installation along Canberra’s main arterial roads.

As to how many countries are represented in the store, Michael said it’s “pretty well every single one, other than just a couple.”

On leaving the flag store, Faye confirmed that her question was well and truly answered.

“It was … great to meet the guys because they had some interesting stories to tell, and the work they do, the hours they work – it’s something you don’t realise when you see the flags,” she said.

And next time she notices new flags as she drives through the city…

“I’ll be thinking of those two guys out there putting flags up at 3.30 in the morning!”

Who asked the question?

Faye Powell came to Canberra for work 22 years ago, and recently retired.

Having worked in IT, she’s often thought about the enduring power of flags.

“They haven’t been replaced by tech, even now at the Olympics, you see real flags, you don’t see banks of screens with flags on them,” she said.

“They evoke such emotions, whether they’re national flags … ISIS flags, or rainbow flags … they really bring people together.”