Archive for August, 2019

Sydney weather: Thunderstorms set to brew each afternoon for the next week

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Lots of stormy afternoons are expected over the coming week. Severe thunderstorms are in prospect for each day until early next week for a wide swathe of the NSW coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning on Monday afternoon for large hailstones, heavy rainfall and damaging winds for a region stretching from Wollongong north to the Queensland border.

However, the bureau later updated the alert to exclude the Sydney region, restricting the warning area to towns such as Lismore, Grafton, Tenterfield, Kyogle, Dorrigo and parts in between. It also dropped the alert for damaging winds.

Hailstones with a diameter of as much as 3 centimetres were reported in the Hawkesbury region during the afternoon storm.

Zach Porter, a duty forecaster for the bureau in Sydney, said any storm activity would will likely decay pretty quickly by sundown. “[These storms] will need the heat of the day to keep energised,” he said.

Mr Porter said the storms are being fed by a large trough lying over the region and drawing warm, moist air southwards from the tropics.

That set-up is slow-moving and may not break down until early next week, he said. Pollen and asthma

According to Weatherzone, the pollen count for Sydney is rated “extreme” on Monday. Other days over the coming week have a high or very high rating.

Concerns about the risk of thunderstorms worsening allergies or other breathing ailments have been heightened by the deaths of six people – and hospitalisation of many more – in the wake of a major storm last week in Melbourne.

Health officials in NSW, though, say they aren’t worried about a spate of so-called thunderstorm asthma occurring in Sydney.

They monitor respiratory admissions and can spot spikes in cases, but the city has not had a thunderstorm asthma event and is not likely to. The threat is higher in the Riverina, in places such as Wagga Wagga, where health authorities monitor conditions closely.

Follow Peter Hannam on Twitter and Facebook.

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Queen of Katwe: The remarkable story of a Kampala corn-seller who became a chess prodigy

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

David Oyelowo (Robert Katende) and Madina Nalwanga (Phiona Mutesi) in Queen of Katwe, the true story of a girl whose life changes when she is introduced to chess. Photo: Edward Echwalu At nine, Phiona Mutesi was selling corn by the roadside in Katwe – the largest slum in Kampala, Uganda. Now 20, she sits in a swanky hotel in Toronto, talking to press about the new Disney movie based on her life.

The Queen of Katwe debuted a day earlier at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I never dreamed of something of this kind … especially the red carpet part,” she says. “I was panicking at first when I saw it; everyone was screaming my name. I had never experienced something of that kind. But then after some time I gained some confidence…”

That word confidence is key to her story. Standing beside her were the film’s A-list stars, David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, the director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay) and the 14-year-old Madina Nalwanga, who plays Phiona. There was also the shy figure of Robert Katende, who started it all by teaching Phiona to play chess in a makeshift Katwe church in 2005. Katende’s chess club has produced a couple of champions, but none like Phiona.

She was illiterate, but quick and aggressive on the board. She beat Coach Katende within a year. Then she beat the privileged kids at Kampala’s most prestigious school. In 2007, she won the first of three consecutive Ugandan women’s junior championships. In 2010, she competed at the Chess Olympiad in Russia – against 1000 players from 149 countries. That tournament was the focus of an article by Tim Crothers in ESPN magazine, in January 2011.

Fast forward one year. The phone rings at Nair’s home in Kampala, where she has lived for 27 years. Tendo Nagenda, a vice-president of production at Disney (whose father is Ugandan) wants to come over for tea.

“We took a walk around my garden and he told me about the ESPN article, about this kid Phiona, who lived 15 minutes away in Katwe and went from a corn-seller to become a chess prodigy … and he asked me to make a film about her,” says Nair. “I met her within a couple of weeks – actually in New York City, where she was playing Kasparov. I had pretty much committed to it in any case, because the story is so remarkable. I have always been drawn to stories of people who are considered marginal to society.”

Nair decided to shoot in Katwe, a major logistical challenge, but she was ready for that. The film school she runs in Kampala has trained a generation of East African film-makers. Nyong’o, who grew up in neighbouring Kenya, is an alumnus of Nair’s Maisha Film Lab, which Disney is now supporting.

Nair brings great joy and colour to the film, without fudging the harshness of life in Katwe. Disney backed her all the way.

“They never, not once, asked me to sanitise the film,” she says. “They actually embraced the truth I was giving them.

“For me it was vital to present a prismatic view of the world. There is not just one person alone – “I’m gonna make it baby” – that sort of American individualism. It is not that … I see that everyday dignity, that abject struggle and the embrace of life around me in Kampala and I have never seen that on a screen. So it was the beauty of that challenge to consolidate what I know about our way of life and living, and culture and streets, and fashion and style, and slang and humour. And distil it into this remarkable true story of Phiona who refused to accept that she should remain in the little place she was born into.”

Nyong’o plays Phiona’s fiercely independent mother Harriet, who struggles to feed her four surviving children after the death of her husband. Harriet does not understand chess or the world it opens up for Phiona. She sees only a distraction from the daily struggle for food, and a man (Robert Katende) she does not trust.

Nair cast 13-year old Ugandan Madina Nalwanga as Phiona after seeing 700 girls in Britain, South Africa and all of the countries of East Africa. Nalwanga had never acted. Nyong’o says she learned fast.

“Madina is a dancer so she has this discipline of rehearsing – and she was very curious and absorbent and eager to learn. She would see me warming up and ask me what I was doing and then before you know it, she was doing it as well.”

Oyelowo, who lived in Nigeria from age six to 14 with his Nigerian parents, liked that this would be an African film with a largely African-based crew and director. Too many films by Westerners show a limited awareness of the continent.

“Queen of Katwe is a film the likes of which I have been longing to see as an audience member for years,” he says. “It feels radical because we haven’t really seen a balanced view of what life is like in Africa.”

Queen of Katwe opens December 1.

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NSW government announces long-awaited $550 million upgrade to Nepean Hospital

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

An artist’s impression of the Nepean Hospital redevelopment, due to be operational by 2021. Photo: SuppliedThe Baird government has announced a $576 million upgrade to Nepean Hospital, including a new emergency department and more than 200 additional beds.

The beleaguered western Sydney hospital will get an additional 10 birthing suites, 12 operating theatres and double the number of chemotherapy chairs from 15 to 30, under the crucial redevelopment set to be completed in 2021.

Work will commence immediately a new and bigger emergency department, Premier Mike Baird and Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced on Monday.

Nepean’s ED is currently one of the busiest in the state and worst performing in terms of wait times for patients in need of emergency treatment. Its elective surgery wait times were also the worst in the state.

The government has faced sustained pressure from doctors and the Labor party to fund an extensive upgrade of the dated facilities at the major teaching hospital.

Clinicians warned the hospital was in crisis mode, with staff pushed to breaking point by high volumes of patients struggling to access timely clinical care.

Mr Baird said the upgrade was long overdue after “a long fought campaign”.

“We will be delivering a world-class hospital right here in Nepean that will continue to serve the catchment across western Sydney,” Mr Baird said.

“The population of Western Sydney is due to rise significantly in the next 20 years and our major investment will ensure we meet the healthcare needs of the region.”

The redevelopment will also include a new neonatal intensive care unit and helipad, a new MRI, and a community health service.

The build will be entirely publicly funded.

Intensive care doctor and the chair of Nepean hospital’s medical staff council Dr Nhi Nguyen said the announcement was a great first step towards ensuring the hospital could meet the needs of the growing population of western Sydney presenting with complex clinical needs.

“This is a result of a very strong and consistent voice from doctors, nurses and [other] staff at Nepean Hospital. We have really worked under a huge amount of pressure,” Dr Nguyen said.

“We are very happy that the minister and the premier have come out to see the hospital and acknowledged that we were in desperate need of a build.

“What’s going to be really fantastic for patients is they will not need to go further east [for treatment]. They’ll be able to get the comprehensive services at Nepean Hospital that have been long overdue.”

The Australian Medical Association NSW president Professor Brad Frankum welcomed the “substantial boost” to the hospital’s ability to cope with rising pressure on its medical services.

“Western Sydney’s fast-growing population and larger numbers of sicker patients have been straining the system,” Professor Frankum said.

“This Government has been very good at keeping its promises on building health infrastructure.”

But he said funding also needed to guarantee appropriate staffing numbers in the upgraded facilities.

“We must build hospital capacity at Nepean and throughout the state to ensure we can continue to offer the care that our population needs,” Prof Frankum said.

Labor health spokesman Walt Secord said the Baird government had been “dragged kicking and screaming” by the opposition and medical staff to commit the the redevelopment and promised to monitor progress.

“We will be making sure the Baird Government sticks to its timetable and actually delivers,” Mr Secord said.

Major construction on the clinical services block will begin in 2018.

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ANU School of Music still searching for a head

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Professor Malcolm Gillies will remain as the interim head of the ANU School of Music. Photo: Stuart Hay, ANU The ANU School of Music is still struggling in its search for a new head after the latest candidate, Alan Lourens, the head of the University of Western Australia School of Music, declined the job.

Dr Lourens confirmed he was offered the position but he has informed his staff he will be staying in Perth.

An ANU spokesman said the search for a new head of the ANU School of Music was still in progress and the university could not comment further until the selection process was concluded.

The university confirmed Professor Malcolm Gillies would remain as the interim Head of School until the new head has been appointed.

The School of Music has now been without a permanent head since August 2015 when Professor Peter Tregear left suddenly. With 18 months left on his contract, the university was embarrassed by an unauthorised advertisement which appeared to be seeking his replacement. The job was widely referred to as a poisoned chalice.

Professor Tregear was brought in in 2012 to reinvigorate the school which had been devastated by a $1.5 million budget cut and the axing of 14 staff under Vice-Chancellor Ian Young.

It is understood Professor Tregear was forced out following six months of increasingly tense relations with senior management over his calls for more staff positions to be filled and greater administrative support for the school.

In March, another leading candidate declined the position after months of negotiations.

ANU Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt has acknowledged deep levels of unhappiness at the school. He said earlier this year that restoring stability to, and community confidence in, the school was a first order of business under his leadership of the university.

In February Professor Schmidt appointed former Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger to review the School of Music.

The six-month consultation project found the school was plagued by a legacy of distrust, emotional stress, years of poor management and behaviour, sliding academic standards and financial pressures.

It called for a complete overhaul of governance, funding, academic direction, enrolments, staff culture and community engagement.

The report was welcomed by Professor Schmidt who announced a $12.5 million investment over five years to rebuild the school’s academic and performance programs and improve workplace culture.

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Canberra’s Year 10 graduates recognised for excellence

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Shaylah McClymont isn’t one to shy away from extra curricular activities. During her time at Canberra High School she’s worked as an ambassador on the Youth Advisory Council, as a member of the ACT Youth Coalition and as a supporter of Canteen. She’s been on student representative committees, helped to organise formals and yearbooks and found time to perform in plays.

So it’s refreshing to hear she has no idea what she wants to do when she leaves school and that one thing she’s glad she’s learned as she completes her four years of high school is to have fun.

“That’s something we tend to forget,” says the vibrant 16-year-old. “If you’re not having fun what’s the point?”

Ms McClymont is one of 2750 ACT public school students who will graduate from Year 10 in the next week, and was one of 73 recognised on Monday at the Year 10 Excellence Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the High School Years.

Ms McClymont received an award for being an active and informed citizen.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself during my time at high school, the way I learn, how I interact with other people,” she says.

“The biggest challenge has been time management, I do a lot of extra curricular bits and pieces and having to juggle that and make sure I’m completing my assignments has been a little bit difficult.”

Ms McClymont will attend Gungahlin College for Year 11 and 12.

Matthew Sutton, 16, of University of Canberra Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra, has worked hard on his time management skills. As the goalkeeper for the Australian Under 17 soccer team he has had to combine study and sport at the highest level.

Mr Sutton moved to Canberra from Sydney at the end of 2015 to take up a Football Federation Australia scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport to further his soccer career.

He said the communication between the sports program and school has enabled him to combine the two with relative ease.

“The way the AIS works in collaboration with school has made it much easier than I thought it would be,” he says.

Mr Sutton received an award for being a successful learner. He will remain at Lake Ginninderra.

Hayley Steel, 16, of University of Canberra High School Kaleen, received her award for being a confident and creative individual. The talented young artist is a hard-working student who excels across a number of disciplines. As well as being in the school rock band program, she paints and draws in a number of mediums and won the portrait competition at the 2016 Canberra Show. She hopes to enter the Young Archibald competition next year.

“I have really loved that school has provided a lot of opportunities,” she says.

“I’ve been able to set up my own art business as a school project and have been teaching art classes.”

Ms Steel will attend Lake Ginninderra College.

ACT Minister for Education Yvette Berry said the awards represented a year of effort, and also the culmination of many years of hard work, dedication, success and community service.

“Today’s winners have been recognised by their school for their commitment to their school and to their local community,” Ms Berry said.

“They are being recognised because they are exceptional young people.

“The recipients have demonstrated qualities of academic excellence, creativity, sporting prowess and a keen desire to contribute to the world, beginning in their own backyards.”

The 2016 Year 10 Excellence Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the High School Years winners are:

Alfred Deakin High School

Katrina McHenry – a successful learner

Aruna Anderson – a confident and creative individual

Kai Scott – an active and informed citizen

Amaroo School

Joanna Chung – a successful learner

Abraham Peters – a confident and creative individual

Piper Roberts – an active and informed citizen

Belconnen High School

Mikayla van der Sterren – a successful learner

Hannah Smyth – a confident and creative individual

Allison Breummer – an active and informed citizen

Black Mountain School

Charlotte Bailey – a successful learner

Will Smith – a confident and creative individual

Dylan Suitor – an active and informed citizen

Calwell High School

Grace Buckmaster – a successful learner

Kim Ha – a confident and creative individual

Amanda Joyner – an active and informed citizen

Campbell High School

Patrick Miller– a successful learner

Elisabeth Dykstra – a confident and creative individual

Nikolay Miroshnichenko – an active and informed citizen

Canberra High School

Hamzah Badri – a successful learner

Caitlin Johnstone – a confident and creative individual

Shaylah McClymont – an active and informed citizen

Caroline Chisholm School

Erin Carter – a successful learner

Felicity Maloney – a confident and creative individual

Kay Liddiard – an active and informed citizen

Erindale College

Benjamin McKeahnie – a successful learner

Balthazar Lai – a confident and creative individual

Terence Stamp – an active and informed citizen

Gold Creek School

Shams Mehry – a successful learner

Holly Thorpe – a confident and creative individual

Kimberly Abraham – an active and informed citizen

Gungahlin College

Aden Pulford – a successful learner

Adam Purvis – a confident and creative individual

Jessica Storrar – an active and informed citizen

Harrison School

Anna Balaguer – a successful learner

Ronan Gotch – a confident and creative individual

Aimee Green – an active and informed citizen

Kingsford Smith School

Deanne Milward – a successful learner

Riz Asuncion – a confident and creative individual

Chanvadee Ngep – an active and informed citizen

Lake Tuggeranong College

Hunter Dinning – a successful learner

Lanyon High School

Tamara Vucic – a successful learner

Ashlee James – a confident and creative individual

Tanya Chaophrasy – an active and informed citizen

Lyneham High School

Ryu Callaway – a successful learner

Peter Gedeon – a confident and creative individual

Laura Mobini-Kesheh – an active and informed citizen

Melba Copland Secondary School

Kassandra Stewart – a successful learner

Shanmalee Teys – a confident and creative individual

Shannia Afele – an active and informed citizen

Melrose High School

Erin Cowey – a successful learner

Marwa Fahiz – a confident and creative individual

Sibusiso Sithole – an active and informed citizen

Mount Stromlo High School

Keira Joyce – a successful learner

Neve Foxcroft – a confident and creative individual

Grace McMurtrie – an active and informed citizen

Namadgi School

James Maala – a successful learner

Mayhaylea Peters – a confident and creative individual

Mansib Zaman – an active and informed citizen

Telopea Park School

Rosa Mason – a successful learner

Sam Parkinson – a confident and creative individual

Olivia Baldwin – an active and informed citizen

The Woden School

Kevin Tran – a successful learner

Francisco Rodriguez – a confident and creative individual

Jesse Bartlett – an active and informed citizen

University of Canberra High School Kaleen

Lauren Riddle– a successful learner

Hayley Steel – a confident and creative individual

Rebecca Haisman – an active and informed citizen

University of Canberra Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra

Matthew Sutton – a successful learner

Bryce Bafford – a confident and creative individual

John Roberts – an active and informed citizen

Wanniassa School

Gabrielle Clarke – a successful learner

Sara Leuii – a confident and creative individual

Kisa Iftakhar-Hussain – an active and informed citizen

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