Former Canberra jockey riding Highly Geared in memory Samara Johnson at Rosehill

Samara Johnson loved anything purple, so it’s fitting friend and fellow jockey Rachel Hunt will wear her favourite colour in a touching tribute on Saturday.

Racing NSW have cleared the way for Hunt to wear a purple helmet and silks with Johnson’s named stitched into the leg after the 25-year-old died in a single-vehicle crash on Sunday.

Hunt will be riding with a heavy heart aboard Canberra mare Highly Geared at Rosehill as the racing community rallies to pay respects to Johnson’s life and support trainer Garry Kirkup, who is still in hospital.

There will be a video tribute to Johnson at the course in what will be an emotional moment for her friends and family.

Kirkup was brought out of an induced coma on Tuesday night and will watch the race from Canberra Hospital, where he is battling organ complications but remains in a stable condition.

Canberra trainers have come together to train Kirkup’s horses, including eight-year-old Highly Geared, while he recovers.

Hunt lived next to Kirkup and Johnson when she was completing her jockey apprenticeship in Canberra and is still coming to grips a heartbreaking year.

Hunt moved to Sydney six months ago following the death of her best friend and Canberra track work rider Riharna Thomson – and said the racing community has pulled together during such a tough year.

“The best thing we can all do is be there for each other, it’s already a hard situation but made even harder with Riharna as well, she was one of my best friends,” Hunt said.

“When I first moved to Canberra I lived across the stables from Garry and Samara and they were the first people I got to know and were really good to me.

“Everyone knows each other in Canberra racing, we’re a close-knit family and I feel a huge amount of responsibility to do the best I can and do Garry and Samara proud on Saturday.

“I feel very honoured and blessed to ride for them and happy the horse still gets to run, hopefully I can do them proud because that’s what everyone is trying to do getting the horse ready.”

Kirkup and Johnson shared stables with Doug Gorrell and Johnson rode her last winner aboard Gorrell’s Liabilityadjuster at the Young Cup on October 7.

Gorrell has taken responsibility of Kirkup’s 12 horse this week said it had been a joy working with the pair every day and that he’d miss their morning banter.

“They have a great sense of humour and I used to piss myself laughing at the banter we’d have all morning over our wash bay walls,” Gorrell said.

“She was half his age but they were inseparable in work and play, just two peas in a pod who were madly in love.

“It’s just so sad and really not fair, she was too young and busy to not be with us anymore and I’m worried sick about Kirky, just a horrible thing to lose your partner.

“They’ve been so wonderful to me, they had 75 years of wonderful horse knowledge between them and they’ve helped me no end since I’ve got into the business.

“She was a great jockey and thinking this summer about having a crack at riding professionally, Kirky was convinced she’d make a good jockey and a lot of people thought the same, but unfortunately we’ll never know.”

Canberra jockey Kalina Bone echoed the sentiment ans said her best friend would have made a terrific jockey.

“Samara was a great rider and helped me a lot with my riding when I started doing track work in Canberra, she was amazing horseperson and just really talented,” Bone said.

“If she she could have got her weight down a bit she could have been a good professionally jockey because she rode plenty of winners at the picnics.

“Samara and I were both really close to Riharna and when that happened earlier in the year we were there for each other a lot, that was really hard to deal with and now this has happened.

“It’s such a big loss and is going to be so hard to deal with, she was my best friend and it’s just been such a tough year which has really rocked everyone.

“It’s such a small community and because we’re all so close everyone just came together straight away… it helps so much when you don’t have to have to go through it by yourself.

Gorrell said there had been “countless helpers” getting Highly Geared ready for Rosehill and it would be amazing to see the $34 shot pull off an upset.

“She’s an easy mare to train and keep fresh but it would be a fairytale if she could do something special in honour of Samara and give Kirky a kick along,” Gorrell said.

Highly Geared has won $311,420 since she was bought as an untrained four-year-old for just $12,000 in 2013 and Kirkup’s son Ben is the majority owner.

“Dad came good for about an hour on Wednesday and fortunately I filled him in on Highly Geared and he was happy with the jockey selection and happy we were racing,” Ben said.

“Rachel Hunt was in Canberra and has been riding really well Sydney, she knew Samara and we thought it would be nice to put a connection there with the jockey.

“Samara’s parents and brothers are going to come to the race and it’s such tragic circumstances but a win would certainly put a smile on some people’s faces in what has been a very terrible time.”

Couple feared only one of them would live to see same-sex marriage legalised

Updated December 08, 2017 17:18:52

Glenda and Jennifer Lloyd have endured an on-again-off-again marriage, but that all ends at midnight.

The couple were married for “five days of bliss” under ACT law in 2013 before the High Court ruled the territory was inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act.

A small ceremony in the United States made their marriage official again, but that joyous moment in Baltimore meant their regular trips to the US took on a bittersweet tone.

“Every time we travelled to America the plane would come into land and we’d be like ‘we’re married again!'” Glenda said.

“And then when we took off we’d say ‘ah, now we’re not’, so that was quite difficult.”

But with the law taking effect in Australia in the first seconds of Saturday morning, that odd sensation of only being married when the geography is just right is coming to an end.

“I think we should just stay up … [and] wait until the clock comes around,” Glenda said.

“It’s a bit like waiting for new year.”

Glenda feared Jennifer would not live to see SSM legalised

And as they count down the seconds, it will put to bed one of Glenda’s biggest fears.

The Lloyds — Glenda changed her name to match Jennifer’s by deed poll rather than marriage — have been watching the clock on same-sex marriage perhaps closer than most.

Jennifer has terminal cancer and Glenda said the tears flowed freely after they watched the bill pass the House of Representatives.

“[Jennifer] was saying ‘are you alright?’ and I said ‘I was just so worried that this would happen after you were gone’,” Glenda said.

“It was a genuine fear that I would still be here and Jennifer would be gone and I would be seeing this enacted without her there to celebrate with.”

But now their marriage will be officially recognised by Australia and it is so much more than a symbolic gesture for them.

Gone are questions about next of kin, which are particularly important due to Jennifer’s stints in hospital.

“And even what’s written on the death certificate is different if you’re not actually married, so it’s really good to have that sorted out,” Jennifer said.

“We probably won’t really think about that until afterwards, and then you’ll think ‘oh that’s good that … it’s clear’.

“[There’s] no question about whether it’s marriage or not.”

Topics: marriage, gays-and-lesbians, cancer, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted December 08, 2017 17:14:30

Nothing innocent about visit to sex offender’s home, prosecutors say

Three men accused of trying to break into a sex offender’s home after seeing a video of him molesting a girl were not just stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar, a jury heard on Thursday.

They were not “politely knocking on the door for a chat”, the prosecutor Rebecca Christensen said.

She told the ACT Supreme Court jury the men were there with the intent of harming or threatening the 62-year-old man.

But barristers for the men said the Crown relied on a witness, the alleged victim, whose inconsistent accounts of what happened that morning raised doubts.

The trial has heard that one of the men, Paul Arthur Palmer, 39, had a video on his phone that the sex offender had filmed of himself molesting an underage girl.

Mr Palmer told police that he went to the man’s home only to bang on the door, show the man he had the video and to educate him.

He said police had the video days ago but had not done anything about it.

The Crown says that at about 7am on February 20, Mr Palmer, along with Daniel James Nicholas, 32, and Joshua Darcy Watson, 33, went to the house and, armed with a knife, tried to force entry to hurt or threaten the man.

They have all pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted aggravated burglary.

In her closing address, Ms Christensen said the men were frustrated by what they saw as the police’s lack of action, though detectives were pursuing the case.

She said the Crown did not say the men should not feel upset, angry, or even livid about the sex offender’s acts.

She said that explains why they did what they did.

But no type of vigilante justice was acceptable, the prosecutor said, and when people take the law into their own hands the law says it will not be tolerated.

She described damage to the front door that was consistent with people trying to break in, she said.

The knife police found outside the house had a bend in the tip consistent with being used in the lock, Ms Christensen said.

The alleged victim hid in his room and called triple-o, which was more consistent with people trying to break in, she said.

That the men tried to flee from police revealed their guilty mind, she said.

But barristers for the three men said there were inconsistencies in the victim’s account, and a close look at the evidence would give the jury a doubt.

Barrister for Mr Watson, Beth Morrisroe, said there was no damage to the lock despite allegations one man was using a knife and to try to open it.

She said the man never told the triple-o operator about a knife, but “wouldn’t a weapon be the first thing you’d scream down the line?”

Barrister Alyn Doig, for Mr Nicholas, questioned how a door with minor damage could show a serious attempt to enter the premises.

He said the man first told police he heard yelling for him to open the door, and there was a lot more reality in that than his different account months later.

It “doesn’t cut the mustard”, he said.

And the barrister for Mr Palmer, James Sabharwal, suggested the alleged victim may have embellished what happened.

He questioned whether the alleged victim had really heard wire being used in the lock from his second floor bedroom.

“You might think he had bionic hearing,” he said.

The jury retired to consider its verdicts about 1pm Thursday.

They will return on Friday to continue deliberating.

Did you know the Vatican is home to an Indigenous art collection?

Updated December 07, 2017 16:18:55

Alongside the work of Michelangelo and Raphael at the Vatican in Rome is a collection of Indigenous Australian artefacts and artworks.

“Few people know that more than half the works in the Vatican Museums are from outside of Europe,” Father Nicola Mapelli told ABC Radio Canberra.

“There are more than 80,000 objects from all over the world.”

Father Mapelli is the director at the Vatican Ethnological Museum and is in Australia this week to launch a book about the Vatican’s Indigenous Australian collection.

In an effort to learn about the origins of the artefacts, Father Mapelli travelled to the Kimberley region and the Tiwi Islands.

“When we went to reconnect with the communities … we asked the people about their ancestors, about the objects and about their meaning,” he said.

“We have a keen interest in Australian and Aboriginal culture.

“The first permanent exhibition of the Vatican Museum has been dedicated to Aboriginal Australia.”

The collection includes some of the earliest preserved Pukumani funeral poles from the Tiwi Islands, artworks from the Kimberley, and gifts given to popes on their travels.

Vatican officials claim the collection is one of the museum’s most visited exhibitions.

“We have more than 6 million visitors [to the Vatican] every year,” Father Mapelli said.

“More than 30,000 people every day are passing in front of these Pukumani poles or the other objects that came from Aboriginal Australia.

“It’s a way to educate people about Aboriginal culture and spirituality and to engage with the spirituality.”

Gifts of exchange

Father Mapelli said the Ethnological Museum had not been an active collector like other museums.

“Many objects came as a gift of exchange in the 1850s from the Benedictine community of New Norcia in Western Australia,” he said.

“A second group of objects came for a great exhibit that was organised in the Vatican in 1925 from the Kimberley region and the Tiwi Islands.”

The museum catalogue, Australia: The Vatican Museums Indigenous Collection, is being launched in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra.

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, art-history, religion-and-beliefs, library-museum-and-gallery, human-interest, canberra-2600

First posted December 07, 2017 16:13:17

Call for Access Canberra to ‘learn’ from audit of WorkSafe ACT’s Mr Fluffy handling

The ACT’s Auditor-General has urged another audit into WorkSafe ACT’s oversight of the Mr Fluffy asbestos eradication scheme, to ensure action was taken on recommendations on a previous audit.

Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper told a Legislative Assembly committee on Wednesday a government internal audit committee should examine the issue again, to help ensure WorkSafe ACT had taken on her recommendations.

The hearing on Wednesday examined the second of two audits into the Mr Fluffy scheme, released early this year, which had focussed on WorkSafe ACT’s management of the demolition of 1022 affected by the loose-fill asbestos.

It found the scheme marked by poor-record keeping, a lack of an overarching regulatory strategy and “considerable variability” in how the asbestos team actually completed inspections and oversaw demolitions.

Completed at about the halfway mark during the demolition program – when just over 500 homes had been torn down – Dr Cooper said the “hot audit” aimed to improve processes for the remaining half of the program.

But the audit, which examined the period from late 2014 to mid 2015 also coincided with the government’s creation of Access Canberra, which has taken on the vast majority of the government’s regulatory roles.

Dr Cooper said a new audit, which could be completed by the Chief Minister’s directorate’s audit and risk committee, should examine how the work safety regulator has actually taken on the audit’s eight recommendations it agreed to.

But she said it could also provide wider lessons for Access Canberra.

“A regulator is a regulator and Access Canberra has many regulators in different disciplines and given the findings of this audit, [a further audit could ask] has that assisted you in looking at the management of other areas within Access Canberra,” she said.

“I think the utility of both the audit and what WorkSafe are doing is looking at it in terms of better practices that might then be conveyed across all regulators in terms of setting the benchmark for what’S expected in the territory.”

Dr Cooper said one of the key difficulties the audit office faced in its investigation was the lack of a formal strategy and documentation hampering its ability to actually measure the “effectiveness” of WorkSafe’s oversight of the demolitions.

“The critical issue is how well have they implemented those recommendations, which were all agreed to, and potentially in order to answer the effectiveness question, it would be appropriate for an audit to be undertaken,” she said.

As it happened: Australia goes 2-0 up in Ashes series with Adelaide victory

Updated December 06, 2017 16:34:26

Australia beats England by 120 runs in the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval to set up a 2-0 series lead.

Look back at how the action unfolded in our live blog.

Topics: ashes, cricket, sport, adelaide-5000, canberra-2600, brisbane-4000, sydney-2000, perth-6000, melbourne-3000, hobart-7000, darwin-0800, australia, england

First posted December 06, 2017 13:43:50

ACT slides backwards in Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

Canberra was the only Australian jurisdiction to slip backwards in an international study of reading literacy, with a new report revealing the ACT has lost top spot to Victoria and recorded a greater number of students below the proficiency standard than in the same test five years ago.

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed that although 20 per cent of ACT year four students reached the advanced benchmark – the highest rate in the country – a further 18 per cent were ranked low or below low standard.

And despite being an entirely metropolitan area with higher per capita education spending, the ACT slipped behind Victoria on average test scores, losing six points on the 2011 study.

The territory was on par with Bulgaria for its reading literacy results.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said improvements in other jurisdictions’ school systems “have in some way brought them in line with ours”.

“That said, the ACT performance remains the equal highest in Australia and shows ACT schools teaching literacy and a love of reading across a very diverse group of students,” she said.

“As parents, teachers, school principals and the education leaders contributing to the Future of Education process consistently tell me, there’s more to measuring the quality of school education than a school’s performance on a test at a point in time, so the government’s approach to continuous improvement in these areas is deliberately holistic.

“School culture, parental engagement and empowered teachers catering to different student needs are also vital in this mix.”

Australian Council for Educational Research deputy chief executive Sue Thomson acknowledged the number of ACT students reaching the intermediate benchmark had decreased between 2011 and 2016, but emphasised that the territory had the highest rate of students meeting the advanced standard.

“Education policymakers in the ACT, as elsewhere, need to ensure that every student in primary school has quality teachers with the resources necessary for literacy development, especially for students who start school with few literacy skills,” she said.

Almost 620 year four students from 30 ACT schools participated in the 2016 test. Girls recorded slightly better average scores than their male counterparts.

The number of Canberra children recording below low scores increased from 2 per cent in 2011 to 7 per cent in 2016. Every other jurisdiction except South Australia improved on that measure.

Overall, Australia showed marked improvement in reading literacy, with 81 per cent of students reaching the intermediate international benchmark compared to 76 per cent in 2011.

Just 57 per cent of Indigenous Australian students reached the intermediate benchmark compared to 83 per cent of non-Indigenous students.

The nation ranked 21st out of 50 countries and was significantly out-performed by 13, including the top-ranking Russia and Singapore.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham heralded the results as “[highlighting] the strength of Australia’s education system”.

“This is an encouraging report card but it’s also clear there’s no room for complacency,” he said.

“Australian educators and policymakers must keep focused on what needs to be done to further boost student outcomes.”

Magistrate confused by prosecution’s request in murder trial of Archibald Prize finalist

Updated December 05, 2017 16:13:47

An Archibald Prize finalist and two of her sons, charged over the murder of an 81-year-old Canberra woman, are facing delays in their case as lawyers clashed over the case in the ACT Magistrates Court.

Melissa Beowulf, 60, and her sons Thorsten, 31, and Bjorn, 29, are accused of killing Katherine Panin in 2015.

Ms Panin, who was Ms Beowulf’s mother-in-law and the grandmother of her sons, was found injured at the base of some stairs and later died.

The three have been in jail since August.

But today prosecutors refused to agree to commit them to trial in the ACT Supreme Court, saying they needed more time and asking for a date in January.

Lawyers for the trio objected, and Magistrate Robert Cook queried why the case could not proceed.

“The question is why someone is in custody for five months and then not even committed,” he said.

“I do not understand.”

Prosecutor Margaret Jones told the court more time was needed to gather financial documents.

But a lawyer for Ms Beowulf, Rachel Bird, objected and told the court there had already been a 15-month investigation that included a search of the family home for financial documents.

Lawyer for the two sons, Louise Taylor, also complained, saying: “It’s appropriate some pressure be brought to bear on the director’s office.”

Mr Cook refused to list the case in January, but has set the matter down for later this month, when he said there would be a potential committal.

In the meantime, he has urged both sides to keep the discussion going.

Topics: murder-and-manslaughter, courts-and-trials, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted December 05, 2017 15:39:29

Frustrations after girl, 11, charged with assault a third time in three weeks

Canberra’s chief magistrate expressed frustration over a lack of options on Monday after an 11-year-old girl was arrested three times in less than three weeks for alleged violence against her carers.

The girl, who cannot be named because of her age, was last arrested on Friday and spent the weekend in detention before appearing in the ACT Children’s Court.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker acknowledged the choice was between releasing the girl, who had demonstrated mental health problems, into the community where there was the risk of further violence, or sending her to Bimberi.

She said while Canberra’s children and young people laws referred to a “therapeutic place”, no such place existed.

The magistrate said if the “promise” of the law was fulfilled, there would be a place to send the girl that was both safe for her and those who cared for her.

The girl, who is under care and protection, has also expressed an intention to self-harm, the court heard.

The girl’s arrest on Friday over an alleged assault on a carer marked the third in less than three weeks.

She was first arrested on November 15, but the charge was dismissed.

She was arrested again on November 28.

Ms Walker sent the girl to hospital for a mental health assessment. But she returned to court the next day and the magistrate said it was prudent to again dismiss the charge.

On Friday, the girl was arrested again for an alleged assault against her carers and spent the weekend in custody.

She appeared in court on Monday, where the magistrate once again considered the utility of the charge proceeding.

She said even if the case went to hearing or the girl pleaded guilty, it was likely no conviction would be recorded because of her youth and personal circumstances.

Her Legal Aid solicitor said if the assault charge did go ahead there were questions around not only the girl’s capacity to plead to the offence, but also her fitness to plead under mental health laws.

The process of seeking the necessary medical reports would take weeks, the court heard, and the solicitor said the girl would seek bail in the meantime.

If bail was refused on Monday, the girl would spent months in detention only to end up in the same place and released back to her carers, Ms Walker said.

And the magistrate said despite the real risk of further violence, the law also says keeping children in custody is a last resort.

The girl would likely end up with her carers.

Ms Walker said the choice was stark but there was no utility in the current charge going ahead.

She dismissed the assault charge and told the girl she was free to go.

The girl’s case has exposed the lack of a “therapeutic place” for children that is already included in ACT law.

It was only November last year that the ACT government opened Dhulwa, a secure mental health facility for adults, after years of lobbying from magistrates, lawyers and mental health advocates.

Before the facility was built, mentally ill adults who became involved in the criminal justice system were housed in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The much-needed facility closed a gap between the criminal justice system and Canberra’s mental health system.

Frustrated magistrate frees 11-year-old girl charged with three assaults

Posted December 04, 2017 18:12:16

A magistrate has vented frustration over limited options after an 11-year-old Canberra girl was brought before the courts on assault charges three times in less than three weeks.

The girl had been detained over the weekend after an alleged incident on Friday with a carer.

She was freed today after ACT’s Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said she was faced with a stark choice between detention and letting the girl back into the community, when she had significant concerns about her mental health.

She said that included threats to harm herself.

The ACT Children and Young People Act provides for a therapeutic place to be established, but so far nothing has been provided.

“If the purpose of our legislation were fulfilled there’d be a therapeutic place,” Ms Walker said.

“But despite its inclusion in the legislation there isn’t one.”

The court was told if the charges went ahead there would have to be a report prepared for the child, assessing whether she was fit to plead.

Her lawyer Hugh Jorgenson said it would elongate the process.

“That would maybe take up to six weeks,” Mr Jorgenson said.

Ms Walker also noted it was a significant problem in assessing how to treat the girl.

“So we’d be back in the same position in which we were looking for somewhere safe for [her] to be accommodated.”

She found there was no utility in proceeding with the charge and released the girl to her carers.

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