Good morning everyone!
We’ve got news from Ballarat and beyond…
Kylie McNeill is looking for answers after being involved in a car crash last Thursday. She was travelling from Ballarat towards Ararat on the Western Freeway near Trawalla about 2am when it is believed her vehicle was hit from behind by another vehicle. More here.
A 49-year-old Ararat man who was found with guns and drugs has been warned he is getting too old to start getting involved in crime. More here.
More than 43,350 students start their Victorian Certificate of Education exams today. More here.
Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal will be subject to a new planning scheme amendment designed to open up surrounding land to related businesses. More here.
For nearly a decade, Sharni Edwards didn’t realise what she suffered from her then-partner was financial abuse. More here.
A sleeping Wodonga resident was left shocked after being woken by an intruder inside his home. A Border teenager has fronted court following the incident in the early hours of July 15. More here.
Bendigo council is in talks with airline companies to start a passenger flight service which could connect Bendigo to Adelaide and Sydney next year. More here.
A Harcourt man has faced court on sexual assault charges following an alleged home invasion in Epsom earlier this month. More here.
Need a national news snapshot first thing – well, we have you covered.
► GOLD COAST: The horror theme park accident that killed four people at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast was caught on CCTV, police have confirmed as investigations into the tragedy began in earnest.
Gold Coast Inspector Tod Reid said police would remain on site for a significant amount of time to assist in both the investigation and the recovery of the four bodies.
The four victims were on board the Thunder River Rapids ride, which involved six-person circular rafts riding a heavy man-made current.
► PORT MACQUARIE: Stock theft, bio-security and illegal hunting are among the issues up for discussion at the annual Rural Crime Investigators Conference that kicks off in Port Macquarie on Tuesday.
The two-day conference that begins Tuesday, October 25 provides a rare opportunity for NSW Police’s 34 specially-trained Rural Crime Investigators (RCIs) to meet and discuss crime trends and subsequent strategies specific to rural and regional NSW.
Other agenda items at the conference include trespassing on rural properties, the growth of the illicit poppies industry, and the use of GPS and other spatial technologies.
► TAS: Labor will demand for a reclassification of rape under the Criminal Code through a bill to be introduced in Parliament on Wednesday.
Opposition justice spokeswoman Lara Giddings said the new legislation would bring Tasmania into line with other states and increase penalties for sexual violations.
“If you are a woman who is raped by means other than penile penetration, that is still a serious and traumatic violation yet it is not considered rape under the Tasmanian Criminal Code,” she said.
At present, such a crime would be classed as an aggravated sexual assault, which carries a lesser penalty than rape.
► ALBURY-WODONGA: Pauline Blake will never have to repay the thousands and thousands of dollars she ripped-off the community.
It has been estimated she spent up to $25,000 collected for a bogus cancer charity on herself and her partner-in-crime, husband Dylan Blake.
But no compensation has been sought in the case, simply because there was no paper trail detailing who donated to the heartless fraudster.
The only punishment she has is a 12-month jail term that she will get to serve in her Lavington home.
► BUNBURY: A young Bunbury couple attacked outside their home on Monday by a stranger allegedly suffering a drug psychosis have spoken about their terrifying ordeal.
Mother-of-one Stephanie Skilbeck told Radio 6PR she feared for her life after a 41-year-old man allegedly jumped their fence and stole a shovel from their backyard before attacking her partner, Lee Walker.
"It was about 7.30am in the morning and my partner's car wouldn't start, thank goodness, otherwise I would have been there by myself," she said.
"We were out the front trying to start it and our neighbour came over and said someone's just jumped your fence.
► BELLINGEN: Bellinger River Snapping Turtles have been observed mating in their new home at Taronga Zoo, giving hope to researchers working to save the critically endangered species from extinction.
A group of 16 turtles has been relocated to Taronga to establish a breeding program for the species, after a newly discovered disease wiped out up to 90 per cent of the local population on the NSW mid-north coast last year.
“There are very few mature turtles remaining in the wild, so this group at Taronga has a vital role to play in rebuilding the population,” said zoo keeper, Adam Skidmore.
► HERITAGE: A large Aboriginal site in bushland near Belrose, northern Sydney, has been declared a significant Aboriginal Place, NSW Heritage Minister Mark Speakman announced on Wednesday.
"Moon Rock" in high bushland with views to the ocean has about 50 engravings depicting Aboriginal astronomical knowledge, lunar phases and Baiame the creator-spirit.
The site also shows local totems, food and weapons used in the area by the Garigal clan, part of the Eora nation that lived for millennia in the Sydney basin before European colonisation.
► COURT: It is not often that a magistrate uses the phrase "you f---ing beauty" in a judgment, or reflects on whether the word "f---" is part of a child's vocabulary.
On Tuesday Sydney magistrate Geoffrey Bradd had cause to do both in dismissing charges against a group of protesters hauled before the Local Court for saying "f--k Fred Nile" and calling opponents "f---ers" at a rally in support of same sex marriage.
In a decision touted as a win for free speech, Magistrate Bradd threw out offensive language charges against the group, saying the words were used "to dismiss the argument against marriage equality" rather than to cause offence.
► ENVIRONMENT: Fresh surveys of the Great Barrier Reef six months on from a mass coral bleaching have found large-scale damage north of Cairns, where a growing coral death rate due to heat stress is being exacerbated by disease and predators, scientists say.
Researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have released a map with new pictures and videothat show the aftermath of the extreme underwater heatwave last summer.
The southern half of the reef is in good condition, but the scientists say ongoing surveys at the top end - stretching north of Cairns to Papua New Guinea - confirm it was the worst bleaching episode recorded.
► BALI: Australian paedophile Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis has been sentenced to 15 years' jail after being found guilty of persuading children to commit an indecent act.
The 70-year-old Victorian last week insisted he did not deserve to be imprisoned because his crime was "not a serious thing" and he "paid them generously".
Ellis, who sexually abused 11 girls aged under 18 between 2014 and 2015, requested a brief moment to pray before his sentencing started on Tuesday.
► INDONESIA: Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is pushing for negotiations over a proposed new rule disrupting the live cattle trade to Indonesia to be resolved as quickly as possible, warning any interruption to trade will hurt exporters, importers and Indonesian consumers.
No cattle were exported to Indonesia in September due to permit delays amid negotiations over a proposed new policy requiring importers to bring in one cow for breeding for every five cows to be fattened for slaughter.
The previous month 71,458 cattle were imported to Indonesia, while 51,255 were imported in July.
The unexpected new rule shocked the beef industry and led to cattle being stockpiled in feedlots in Australia and exporters having to absorb the massive costs of ships sitting idle in Australian ports.
► 1984: "Baby Fae" receives a heart transplant from a baboon.
► 1985: The Australian government returns ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines.
► 1992: The London Ambulance Service is thrown into chaos after the implementation of a new CAD, or Computer Aided Dispatch, system which failed.
► 2003: The Cedar Fire, the second-largest fire in California history, kills 15 people, consumes 250,000 acres (1,000 km2), and destroys 2,200 homes around San Diego.
At the tender age of 20, Sharn Campbell has seen more tragedy over the past two years than most people would dread to see over a lifetime.
Since 2015 he has lost two friends and his stepfather and he blames one thing, methamphetamine.
“I’ve just recently lost another mate a week ago to suicide and that’s drug related as well and that was a year after another one of my friends in Esperance did the same thing,” Mr Campbell said.
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