Richardson man bailed after alleged stabbing of ‘good samaritan’

A Richardson man fronted court on Tuesday accused of stabbing a “good samaritan” who intervened in an argument between him and his girlfriend.

Troy Michael Kennewell, 19, and his girlfriend were at a Kambah house party on Saturday night when they left and fought about allegations of infidelity, court documents suggest.

The argument caught the attention of a passerby, who later told police he had heard a woman scream on Kingsmill Street.

He walked up to the fence and looked over and saw a man push a woman in the chest and the woman fall to the ground.

He approached the man, who police allege was Mr Kennewell, who told him, “she f—en cheated on me”.

The good samaritan said he replied, “so what?”

After that he said he felt three pushes from the man before he ran off.

“He stated that his arm went cold and at first he thought he had been punched,” the documents say.

“He then saw blood on his shoulder and realised he had been stabbed.”

He said he felt like he was going to die and it was not until paramedics arrived he felt he may survive.

Police say when they arrived they found a man with stab wounds to his wrist, and to his shoulder and abdomen which were “bleeding profusely”.

Officers say during an inspection of the crime scene they found a bag with Mr Kennewell’s driver’s licence and a gold flick knife. The knife did not have any visible blood on it.

Mr Kennewell, a student at CIT, later went to the police station and said he had been drunk and blacked out the night of October 21.

He was later arrested.

Prosecutors on Tuesday opposed Mr Kennewell’s release on bail, citing a risk he would fail to appear at court and interfere with evidence and witnesses.

The prosecutor noted the knife apparently used in the alleged attack had not been found.

He said the difficulty in releasing Mr Kennewell was drafting bail conditions that would mitigate the risks posed by the young man.

“We’ve got an angry, drunk and violent young man who responds to a good samaritan by stabbing him in the chest,” the prosecutor said.

But the man’s defence solicitor said this was his man’s first time in custody and he had voluntarily gone to the police station when he was arrested.

She said he had a limited criminal history and no history of breaching bail or failing to attend court.

Magistrate Karen Fryar said she would grant Mr Kennewell bail to live at his mother’s house in Young.

She said given the allegations as set out in the police statement of facts Mr Kennewell was lucky the incident was not more serious than it was.

Ms Fryar imposed bail conditions including that he report three times a week to police and not drink alcohol.

He is also not to contact the alleged victim or witnesses or enter Kambah.

Mr Kennewell is charged with negligent act causing grievous bodily harm and intentional wounding.

He has not entered pleas.

The alleged victim has had surgery and is in a stable condition, the documents say.

The injury to his abdomen was deemed non-life threatening but the man required stitches to the deep cut on his left deltoid.

He will require at least six weeks of physio.

The case is next due in court on November 14.

Louie the Fly added to Sounds of Australia collection

Updated October 24, 2017 15:15:39

From the rubbish tip to the archives, Louie the Fly has made his mark on the National Film and Sound Archive’s iconic Sounds of Australia collection.

Australia’s longest running ad campaign, for pest control product maker Mortein, has landed on the iconic list recognising recordings that have had an impact on Australian culture.

Bad and mean and mighty unclean, Louie landed on our screens, and hearts, 60 years ago.

The song was sung by the late Ross Higgins, also the star of 1980s sitcom Kingswood Country.

“I think he’d be surprised and amazed that an ad like that becomes historically and culturally important, and he’d be very pleased,” Scott Higgins, Ross’s son, told the NFSA.

The blowfly is the embodiment of the Australian character: a larrikin and an underdog, his buzzing wings themselves a sound that reminds Australians of home.

Louie has so endeared himself to the nation that his Facebook page has more likes than Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s.

In fact, when Mortein announced they would be giving Louie the spray a few years ago there was a public campaign to save it.

Now Louie’s legacy is safe for good, with his 1962 jingle joining Slim Dusty, The Easybeats and Gough Whitlam’s dismissal speech as sounds that have changed Australia’s history.

Late George Young also honoured in 2017 list

Love Is In The Air, the 1977 disco number late George Young penned alongside Harry Vanda for John Paul Young, also scored a spot in this year’s collection.

This year’s Sounds of Australia:

  • 1910: Sweet Spirit Hear My Prayer – Marie Narelle
  • 1930: Our Don Bradman – Len Maurice
  • 1940-58: Australia’s Amateur Hour – AWA
  • 1957: ‘Louie the Fly’ Mortein Advertisement – Ross Higgins
  • 1962: I Remember You – Frank Ifield
  • 1966: Play School Theme (There’s a Bear in There) – Various Performers
  • 1977: Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young
  • 1981: Brand New Day (Milliya Rumarra) – Kuckles
  • 1982: Don’t Change – INXS
  • 2001: Not Pretty Enough – Kasey Chambers

George Young, a pioneer of Australian music as a member of The Easybeats and producer for AC/DC, died this week aged 70.

Speaking about the hit’s honourable recognition, John Paul Young said it was the cherry on top of its long-lasting success.

“I can only thank Harry Vanda and George Young for their hard work during my association with them and for giving me a lasting career,” he said in a statement.

Each year since 2007, the Australian public had nominated potential additions to the Sounds of Australia collection, with a panel of industry experts determining final selections.

Other recordings that made the 2017 list include Our Don Bradman by Len Maurice, the Play School Theme and Kasey Chambers’ Not Pretty Enough.

Topics: television-broadcasting, broadcasting, television, information-and-communication, arts-and-entertainment, music-industry, industry, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 24, 2017 13:10:54

Census 2016: Canberra leads the nation for riding to work

Not many people choose the long way home from work.

But as one of a growing number of Canberrans riding a bike everyday, Bella Molloy regularly opts for the scenic route home around Lake Burley Griffin.

“I had been riding since I was a kid and like most Australians I stopped when I was a teenager and started driving a car,” she said.

“In my early 20s I took it up again, originally mountain biking, but then found a passion I forgot I’d had.”

Monday’s release of new 2016 census data showed Canberra leads the nation on riding and walking to work, along with a 5 percentage point increase in the number of people who report driving or being a car passenger.

In 2016, 74.9 per cent of ACT residents reported driving to work, up from 69.3 per cent in 2011.

A further 8.4 per cent said they rode a bike or walked and 7.1 per cent said they used trains or buses.

The proportion of Canberrans riding to work has grown steadily from 2.1 per cent in 2006 and 2.4 per cent in 2011.

As the ACT government promotes active travel options and encourages commuters to look for alternatives to their car, Ms Molloy said Canberra was the best place in Australia to be a cyclist commuter.

A Pedal Power ACT member, she said her commute can be as little as 10 minutes door-to-door, but sometimes she adds a lap of the lake to take advantage of the daylight saving and warmer weather.

“It can be a bit daunting, with people worried about how they’ll get there, what to do once they’re at work, what they’ll wear, what about the rain and the cold.

“But once you get riding, you find it’s so easy and sets you up for the day energising,” she said.

Nationally, driving remains the most popular way to get to work as 6.5 million people or 69 per cent of the working population report driving.

A further 5 per cent or 490,000 people travelled as a passenger on census day.

The cycling advocacy group’s Cycle Works program aims to increase the number of people who ride to work in Canberra and to raise awareness of how healthy and active living can be incorporated into a busy lifestyle.

It starts again next month.

Ms Molloy said riding was good for her physical and mental health and could be quicker than taking her car.

“I find I either solve problems or forget about problems when I’m on my bike,” she said.

“My cycle commute to work gets me ready for the day, my cycle home gets me ready for the evening.”

Census program manager Bindi Kindermann said the latest Census insights were important in helping governments plan services for communities.

“From how people get to work, to what they are studying, what their jobs are and where people are moving to, this census information tells us so much about the lives of people in the ACT,” Ms Kindermann said.

“While car use remained by far the most common, as was the case nationally, it had the lowest percentage increase of 5 per cent.”

Think you’re working longer hours than ever? Census data says you’re wrong

Updated October 23, 2017 14:56:33

Australians are working fewer hours per week than they were in 2011, according to new 2016 Census results released today.

Key points:

  • Average working week drops by 30 minutes
  • Employed women twice as likely to do 15+ hours of domestic work than men
  • More Australians than ever have post-school and postgraduate qualifications

Census data from 2016 showed the average paid working week for Australians was 34.6 hours — down from 35.1 hours in 2011.

More extreme working weeks were also down, with 25.7 per cent of Australians reportedly working more than 41 hours per week in 2016, compared to 28.8 per cent in 2011.

According to the data, women worked an average of 30 paid hours per week and men 39 hours.

And there were still noticeable gender differences in occupations — with men making up 84 per cent of technicians and trade workers, while 74 per cent of health professionals were women.

Truck drivers, electricians and carpenters were among popular occupations for men, while nurses, clerks and receptionists were among the most common jobs for women.

Census program manager Bindi Kindermann said female involvement in the workforce was increasing — up from just 34 per cent in 1966 for those over the age of 15, to 56 per cent in 2016.

For men that number is decreasing — 84 per cent of all men were employed in 1966, compared to 65 per cent in 2016.

The largest overall occupation category for Australians was professionals, which accounted for 21 per cent of the nation’s workforce.

Ms Kindermann said some service industries were growing.

“Comparing stats from 2016 to that from 2011 … [shows] a 27 per cent increase in fitness instructors, a 25 per cent rise in the number or beauty therapists and a 23 per cent increase in bar attendants and baristas,” Ms Kindermann said.

Professionals were also on the rise among Indigenous Australians, overtaking labourers as the main occupation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

More Aussies getting post-school qualifications

Australians are upskilling like never before to get their jobs, with 9.6 million people holding a post-school qualification — a 46 per cent increase since 2006.

Though some Australians are going even further than a bachelor degree, with postgraduate qualifications increasing by almost 50 per cent in the past five years.

And Ms Kindermann said education for Indigenous Australians had also improved across the board.

There was a 150 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people holding Cert III and Cert IV level qualifications since 2006.

Women still doing more housework

But despite the rise in qualifications and employment, the division of labour at home remains largely a female responsibility, according to the census, with women in full-time employment being twice as likely as their male counterparts to do at least 15 hours of unpaid domestic work per week.

“[19 per cent] of women working full-time were likely to undertake at least 15 hours of unpaid domestic work a week, compared to 8 per cent of men,” Ms Kindermann said.

“And while 9 per cent of men who were employed part-time were likely to carry out 15 or more hours of unpaid domestic work a week, for women it was 34 per cent.”

Car still the king of the road

Driving remained the dominant method of transport for Australians travelling to work.

Just under 5 million people drove or were a passenger in a car on their way to work on census day, Tuesday August 9, 2016.

Nearly half a million Australians caught a train to work and a further 104,000 people took a combination of trains and buses. About 86,000 used a mixture of driving and trains.

“Unsurprisingly, residents of Sydney were significant users of public transport,” Ms Kindermann said.

“Residents of Adelaide recorded the highest rate of people who drove to work [followed closely by Perth] … while Canberra recorded the highest rate of people walking or cycling to work.”

Melbournians were second most likely to catch public transport to work and second least likely to drive.

While Hobart residents were the least likely to catch public transport, just under 5 per cent of commuters in Brisbane chose to walk or cycle to work.

Darwin had a mixture of people driving or catching public transport, though residents were also the third most likely to walk or cycle to work.

How does your city get to work?

CityCar (as driver)Public transportWalking or cycling

Topics: population-and-demographics, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 23, 2017 10:39:36

Have you seen missing 13-year-old Tyeesha DeVere?

Police are looking for a missing 13-year-old, Tyeesha DeVere.

They said a family member last saw Tyeesha near the Dickson Shops, about 5pm on Friday.

“Tyeesha can be described as having an olive complexion, between 155cm (5’1″) and 160cm (5’3″) in height with a medium build, brown eyes and dark brown shoulder length hair,” they said in a statement. 

“She was last seen wearing black ripped jeans, green camouflage ‘hoodie’ jumper and black sneakers.”

Police ask anyone who has seen Tyeesha or with any information about her whereabouts to call police immediately on 131 444, quoting reference number 6116841.

Gun fired as part of residential post office robbery in Canberra

Updated October 22, 2017 15:02:07

A Canberra postmaster has described the moment a gunman dressed in industrial coveralls pointed the weapon towards his head, punched him in the face and fired a bullet into the air in the latest of a number of armed robberies.

Security footage shows Manni Singh discussing the day’s newspapers with a customer at the Rivett Post Office in Woden on Saturday, when the offender burst through the front door before calmly walking around to the back of the counter.

“I really thought it was a prank. I thought ‘are you kidding me?’ and he said ‘nah tell me where your till is,” Mr Singh recounted.

Mr Singh said the man “held the gun to [his] head” before demanding cash.

“I said ‘you’re joking right?’ and then suddenly he moved his gun from his right hand to his left hand and he punched me in the head,” he said.

Concerned for the welfare of the customer in his store, Mr Singh opened the cash register and the gunman stuffed about $1,500 into a green plastic bag he was carrying.

“On the way out he said ‘thank you’,” Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh and a few other witnesses followed the offender out of the shop and watched as he crossed the road and ran up a grass path.

“He fired a shot into the air,” Mr Singh said.

The ABC understands a car may have been waiting for the offender, suggesting at least one other person was involved in the crime.

Police said they were searching for a young Caucasian man with brown eyes, a slim build and between 165 and 175 centimetres in height.

“An aggravated robbery is always a concern and something the police take very seriously. Particularly when a firearm is used the potential for serious injury or worse is escalated,” Detective Leading Constable Daniel Shaw said.

Sharp increase in armed robberies in ACT

Police statistics released this week revealed there were 121 armed robberies in the ACT last financial year — an increase of 27.4 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.

The number of unarmed robberies almost doubled from 57 to 112.

ACT Policing has recently set up a special taskforce to investigate the crimes.

Mr Singh’s shop was burgled earlier this year and the latest incident has convinced him to upgrade the security of the small shop.

“I’m going to move the counter to the very far corner of the shop [so I can see people coming],” Mr Singh said.

“Secondly I’m thinking of getting a glass panel around the counter so people can only pass their letters and bills through the little slide thing.”

After recently moving from New Zealand, Mr Singh said he no longer felt safe in Canberra.

“If you’re not safe at 9:00am with 20 people around you, where are you safe? Nowhere. Not in your car, not in your office,” he said.

Topics: armed-robbery, crime, rivett-2611, canberra-2600, act

First posted October 22, 2017 14:24:38

The ambidextrous cricketer trying to turn the game upside down

Posted October 21, 2017 10:51:33

Blake Dean is a cricketer with a special ability — and he thinks there are more out there with it, that do not even know it.

He has trained himself to bat, bowl, catch and throw almost equally well with both his left and right hand.

But that is not the unusual part.

What has opposing teams and umpires perplexed is when Dean swaps hands mid-game, or even mid-over.

The former Big Bash cricketer has introduced his unique style in Canberra’s first-grade cricket competition — and admits the reception was not all positive.

“I don’t think the reaction was great at the start, I think everyone thought I was taking the mickey a little bit,” he said.

Dean has set out to prove the ambidextrous style can work in top-level cricket and even wants to take it all the way to the Big Bash.

From a broken shoulder comes a new passion

Dean cracked the Big Bash as a right-handed all-rounder — a player who bats and bowls — in 2013, but suffered a potentially career-ending broken shoulder.

He decided to turn the injury into opportunity.

“The idea was to start playing left-handed from scratch, and sort of see how far I’d get with cricket,” he said.

He got stuck into retraining himself as a cricketer and started at the very bottom in lower-grade cricket in Canberra.

“Last year was a bit rough, having to start all over again and work my way up through the grades,” he said.

“I’ve been playing cricket in Canberra for about 10 years now, and to go back to second grade, third grade and work my way back — that was an interesting feeling.”

As his shoulder recovered, he began experimenting — bowling left or right-handed, or batting left or right-handed, wherever and whenever it suited him during a match.

His aim is to eventually get it into the cricketing mainstream.

“Like baseball — where you can choose which side you can bat on, choose which side you want to bowl on which best suits you in the game,” he said.

This season Dean has helped guide his club, Weston Creek Molonglo, to a Twenty20 grand final.

His team’s captain, John Rogers, said it had caused opposition sides plenty of confusion.

“I feel for the captain that’s trying to set fields and determine where to bowl,” he said.

“It adds another element of confusion, in a game that is confusing at the best of times.

“It’s good to be on his side.”

A campaign to change and relaunch a career

Dean’s great hope is to break back into the Big Bash and demonstrate the ambidextrous style on a national stage.

“It takes hard work, and just because it’s a different style, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a success,” he said.

“But I think over time, I like to think I can get close.”

Documentary makers are capturing his progress and success for The Southpaw Project.

Dean said that either with or without him, change was coming to cricket.

“Whether it’s me, or whether it’s five years down the track with someone else, I think somewhere along the line there’s going to be bit of this ambidextrous cricket floating around,” he said.

Topics: cricket, sport, human-interest, canberra-2600, act, australia

A year after the ACT election, Andrew Barr governs without inspiration

Here lies the state of ACT politics a year after the 2016 election: an entrenched minority government coasting on victory, an opposition yet to find its feet and more local politicians than ever before.

The big Labor pledges – and the crux of Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s agenda – of light-rail stage one, health investments and “city renewal” are under way. There is no clearer indicator than the trees lost on Northbourne Avenue.

And yet, one year in, the community awaits a wider agenda beyond those promises. Incumbency can breed complacency. Even among the promises made, some will not be completed this term, and others are an experiment in grinding incrementalism.

People want their leaders to inspire them but it seems inspiration – that most intangible of political attributes – is lacking in the ACT.

Put aside the (now nixed) pill-testing trial at the Spilt Milk music festival, which is an obvious exception. The needle-exchange program at the prison is all but cremated, and several other fresh policy ideas are off the agenda for the time being.

From the state of youth detention at Bimberi, throughthe Canberra Hospital’s mental-health ward, the rising number of children in-out-of home care to increased bikie-related shootings – this year has been marked by what Winston Churchill once called “events”, and the government, on each occasion, seems to have been reactive rather than proactive.

Rattled by last year’s tough election campaign and vocal criticism during the last term in office, the Barr government embarked on an unusual year of lengthy consultation. But many business and community leaders worry that such talks are not not genuine and that the government may be using “consultation” as an excuse to kick the can down the road.

In talking to the community – citizen juries and deliberative democracy are the current buzzwords – there seems to be a mismatch between the time given to substantial issues and those some consider of lesser import. Take the three-week public consultation on the substantive election promise of a drug court for the ACT, compared with seven weeks accepting submissions on parks and playground equipment.

While the government maintains it will meet its election pledges, as well those made in Labor’s parliamentary agreement with the Greens, housing policy epitomises how ACT politics has changed.

The 11 separate items under the agreement’s “social housing and housing affordability” measures have morphed into a seven-week consultation, and a lacklustre summit, after which no deadlines seem to apply for when the rubber will hit the road. Indeed, the original promise for a “homelessness summit” morphed from a focussed discussion about people living on Canberra’s streets into one taking in the views of powerful property developers.

Asked repeatedly for an interview for this story, Barr referred the requests to Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris.

Fitzharris says Housing Minister Yvette Berry is passionate and determined to make an impact, including by delivering a second “common ground” housing development before 2020. Berry, for her part, pledged this week a $1 million “innovation fund” for new housing ideas and about 240 extra public housing dwellings, ideas that ignore repeated calls for a substantive $100 million public housing fund.

There is ever-present speculation about Barr’s future.

While the community sector and developers publicly welcome the “engagement”, many privately question the seriousness of the government’s commitment to housing affordability for those who don’t take home a politician’s salary. Some businesspeople also ask whether Barr’s plan to return a budget surplus next year – and controversies surrounding the unsolicited bid to redevelop Manuka, the Land Development Agency and the tax waiver for the Brumbies – have led to an overly cautious approach beyond the prism of specific election commitments.

It remains unclear whether “the chief” – who has been Treasurer since July 2011 – will actually deliver that surplus before the likely handover of the economics portfolio within the year following the 2018 budget. There is ever-present speculation about Barr’s future, though he quickly rejected the idea of nominating for Canberra’s new third federal seat. Yet federal politics must remain an attractive option, even if it challenges his desire to leave a “legacy” of a redeveloped city and and a balanced budget.

Fitzharris says Labor’s 2016 election wins was one of the most “comprehensive” seen in the ACT, but says that, given Barr’s budget agenda, all ministers needed “a pretty sharp focus on prudently managing the budget”. Despite rising concerns about a lack of energy or new ideas emerging from cabinet, she says each minister has “strong ideas” but, one year in, they are still “setting the groundwork” for them.

Fitzharris says the government has built a “strong footing” in the past 12 months to execute its agenda, though it will take time to deliver outcomes. Indeed, in her own portfolio, the $500 million SPIRE health centre is unlikely to be completed until 2022, though she rejects any suggestion it will not be delivered, saying the lengthy time frame is simply a function of budgeting.

Across government, she says the community can expect continued work on “the clear vision the chief and Labor set out for the city as it grows”, and that the government believes “achieving everything would be hugely significant for the city”.

For the opposition, a leadership change and a period of navel-gazing are always expected after an election loss, but some of the Canberra Liberals’ closest stakeholders are waiting for a sign of a genuine vision for the city.

Leader Alistair Coe, for his part, acknowledges the “light-rail debate has been had”. The opposition’s questions now centre on the detail of implementing and integrating it with other transport. But he points to the opposition’s success on “revenge porn”, anti-consorting law proposals and government integrity, with constant concerns that the ACT’s two new land agencies could suffer similar ailments to the now-defunct Land Development Agency.

While Coe notes the opposition does not have a “full suite of policies”, he is focussed on “fighting battles we can win” and promising more on an “economic vision” in coming months. The expectation remains that, next year, his opposition will give the community a better idea of what the party may look like in government.

One indicator, perhaps, of a renewed opposition, and possibly of the enlarged Legislative Assembly, is the 770 questions on notice – many of which are detailed, multi-part questions – posed in the past 12 months. While in the sixth and seventh assemblies, 2441 and 2216 such questions were posed respectively, just 791 such queries were filed in the entirety of the eighth Assembly, when Zed Seselja and then Jeremy Hanson were opposition leaders.

A steady hand has brought some stability to the opposition, though not enough to dispel continued talk of a less-conservative leader returning.

Coe’s focus for the next 12 months will be on three key issues: cost of living, government integrity and “fairness”. He says he is “concentrating on the real issues rather than trying to position ourselves on some philosophical spectrum”.

For the Greens, leader Shane Rattenbury is keen to talk up his party’s power. While he sits in cabinet, the other Greens member, Caroline Le Couteur, has the freedom to loudly voice the party’s wider agenda.

There have been few Greens amendments to government legislation rejected in the Assembly, indicating that agreements are reached well before public debate begins. Indeed, the minor party has backed the government on almost all substantive motions – not just those required under the official agreement to maintain stable government.

It shows either the political reality of the two coalition partners’ interdependence, a lack of independence from the minor party, or perhaps a measure of both.

Both Fitzharris and Rattenbury speak of “a partnership”, though Rattenbury says it is a “two-party government”, despite Labor’s cabinet dominance, that the Greens “bring a different flavour to”. He says there were times when both parties persuaded each other of “a different course of action” but the public doesn’t get to see that happens “in cabinet or informal discussions”.

Rattenbury says many ideas the Greens took to the last election have “come to fruition or are under way”, such as light rail and renewable energy, and that the party’s principles of “sustainability and social justice” are now also felt in the government’s agenda.

Others question whether, now in a third successive term of minority government and given its numbers, the minor party is flexing its muscle or is merely content to continue to ride on Labor’s coat-tails.

Daniel Burdon reports on ACT politics for The Canberra Times.

Low pressure trough leads to warmer, humid nights this week in Canberra

If you’ve been sweating through the last couple of nights you should be in for some relief on Friday night.

Canberra has seen unseasonably warm nights this week, well above the 6 degree average for this time of year.

Wednesday night saw a minimum of 9.2 degrees while on Thursday night temperatures didn’t drop below 14 degrees.

And temperatures have been even warmer right about bed time, possibly explaining why you were tossing and turning about 11pm.

Canberra was still at a balmy 17.3 degrees about 11pm last night, while on Wednesday night it was 16.6 degrees.

Weatherzone meteorologist Tom Hough said the warmer, humid conditions came from a low pressure trough over NSW extending down from the NT and Queensland into NSW, drawing warmer air from the interior.

“Overnight last night humidity was in 80s and 90s and when we had some rain up to 100 per cent humidity,” he said.

Mr Hough said there should be cooler conditions from tonight with temperatures returning to about average.

“We’ll see some slight warmth back again towards the end of week,” he said.

Euthanasia debate rages on 21 years after country’s first assisted dying case

Updated October 20, 2017 11:20:12

It’s 21 years since I was woken from a deep sleep by a call from work: “You have to come in … somebody’s used it.”

That’s how history works, it doesn’t always unfold in business hours.

I was the Northern Territory political reporter for the ABC and my colleague Lorraine Davies needed me immediately.

Bob Dent, 66, had become the first person to use the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

I’ve been thinking about that moment while the Victorian Parliament debated into the night on its own bill.

It’s a story that consumed my life for years, and to my surprise led almost back to my own front door.

Bob Dent, you see, lived over my back fence.

I didn’t know him, but did meet his wife Judy several times later.

So much of that time is etched into my mind, including the run up the back stairs to the Northern Territory Parliament’s press gallery to file the story the bill had passed about 3:30 in the morning.

The law was the idea of then-Northern Territory chief minister Marshall Perron, a deeply conservative man with a radical idea.

He was a consummate politician and I doubt anyone else could have pulled it off.

And he forged an unusual alliance with the decidedly activist Dr Philip Nitschke who continues to pursue the case.

At the time many wondered if anyone would be able to use it because the rules were so strict.

In the end it was a Melbourne paper that broke the story … I think they had a mate in the chief minister’s office.

In reality, no-one may ever have found out, but Bob Dent wanted to be cremated and not buried, and there was a problem with the Cemeteries Act.

His wife needed to ask the coroner, and from there, via the Melbourne paper, the news filtered out.

‘Ham sandwiches and a death machine’

The law was erased by the Federal Parliament in 1997, after then-backbencher Kevin Andrews’ private members bill banning the territories from legislating on euthanasia passed both houses.

But the law was in place long enough for four people to use it.

Not much is known about two of them, but I did meet a woman called Janet Mills who used the law to end her own life in 1997.

She was only 52, but had suffered a rare and debilitating disease for many years.

Despite her frailty, she held a press conference at Judy Dent’s house, she was so determined to promote the law.

I’ve never felt comfortable about that — seeing someone so sick surrounded by a hungry media pack.

But it also brought out the best in us like Gay Alcorn, then from The Age, who was based in Darwin.

I still remember her story about the day Bob Dent died.

The dying man, she reported, shared a ham sandwich and a bottle of stout with his wife and Dr Nitschke, before he pushed the buttons on the so-called death machine.

When the law was scuttled by the Kevin Andrews’ bill I came to believe there would never be legal voluntary euthanasia in Australia unless one of the states took it on.

There have been many attempts, and it remains to be seen whether the Victorian result will be any different.

Topics: euthanasia, community-and-society, darwin-0800, nt, australia, melbourne-3000, vic, canberra-2600, act

First posted October 20, 2017 11:15:57