Joel Joel residents vow to fight on

FLOOD-STRAINED: Joel Joel farmer Colin Hall with about four kilometres of destroyed fences he has cleared from his property. His farm copped damage estimated at $200,000 during a flash flood in December. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected a flood-relief grant application, which would have seen farmers including Mr Hall receive assistance up to $25,000. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERJOEL Joel's Colin Hall has had a tough six months since a December 18 flood swept across his property, but he has vowed to keep lobbying the Federal Government until he and others like him receive proper financial assistance.
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During the flood, five to six inches of rain fell on his property north of Stawell in a couple of hours.

The run-off from the Bulgana Hills and overflowing water from Six Mile and Seven Mile creeks sent a one to two metre deep wall of water across his farm, wiping out 31 kilometres of fencing and killing 120 sheep.

Mr Hall believes the damage bill was almost $200,000.

He is now disappointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard has rejected Category C grants of up to $25,000 for farmers and business owners under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

"It seems because we are from a smaller area the government can just ignore us," Mr Hall said.

He said the grants' rejection came at a trying time for farmers in the area.

"After dealing with years of drought and then floods in 2010 and 2011, this is something else we have to cop," he said. "It will be two or three years before we can stand on our own feet again.

"I don't understand how people could have made this decision."

Individual residents in Moira Shire and Greater Shepparton City were given access to $25,000 grants within weeks of floods that hit the region in early March.

"If we had a film crew covering the Joel Joel flood we might have received more attention," Mr Hall said.

He said farmers in the area had not given up.

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PM rejects Joel Joel flood recovery plea

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has rejected an application from flood-affected farmers at Joel Joel, north of Stawell, for assistance grants worth up to $25,000.
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The farmers including landholders with damage bills of more than $100,000 were devastated by the news.

A deluge in December 2011 destroyed livestock worth $264,000 and damaged farm fencing to the value of $2.8 million.

The flood was declared eligible for natural disaster relief in January, but just seven farmers received about $1000 each as part of Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

After five months of community lobbying, the State Government approved an application for the Category C $25,000 grants, subject to approval by the Prime Minister.

Northern Grampians Shire Council representatives, flood-affected farmers and federal Member for Mallee John Forrest believe the decision is unfair.

Northern Grampians Mayor Dorothy Patton said she was disturbed by the Federal Government's response.

"Our flood recovery team assured farmers they would receive assistance, so it's disappointing it has been denied," she said.

"Anyone who went to the Joel Joel area would have seen the level of devastation these farmers endured.

"The decision is completely unfair."

Cr Patton said the flow-on effects of farmers struggling to pay their bills would affect the community.

She said Northern Grampians Shire Council would decide its next move at a meeting tomorrow.

There will be a community meeting tonight for affected farmers.

The Prime Minister said in a response to the State Government, the application did not satisfy the thresholds for the activation of Category C assistance.

Council municipal recovery manager Greg Little, who has worked closely with flood-affected farmers, was devastated by the grants’ rejection.

“It’s people’s livelihoods politicians are mucking around with – it’s not good enough,” he said.

Mr Little said he was unimpressed with the Federal Government’s reasoning behind the decision.

“The lack of transparency towards why the farmers were knocked back is not acceptable,” he said.

“I’m completely dismayed by the whole situation.”

Mr Forrest said he was disappointed with the decision.

“This government is too tied up in its new-found fiscal responsibility,” he said. “And it’s making small businesses and farmers pay for it.”

State Government Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan said he was concerned the Federal Government was inconsistent with which flood-affected communities received assistance.

The Mail-Times asked the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and the Prime Minister to provide more information about the decision, but they did not respond before deadline.

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Job cuts ‘will hit services’

THE State Opposition has warned job cuts announced by the State Government last week will have a big impact on public services in the Wimmera.
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Premier Ted Baillieu and Treasurer Kim Wells announced just before 5pm on Friday where 3615 jobs would be cut in the Victorian public service during the next two years.

Major losses will be from Education and Early Childhood Development, 400 jobs; Human Services, 500; Justice, 480; Primary Industries, 200; Sustainability and Environment, 400; Victoria Police, 350; and VicRoads, 450.

Mr Baillieu said the cuts, part of a Sustainable Government Initiative, did not apply to frontline service delivery roles and there were exemptions for specialist support staff.

Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the Wimmera needed more public services, not less.

"Any job taken from a department puts more pressure on frontline services," she said. "These cuts will only hurt the Wimmera and force more people into unemployment."

Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said in his sport, recreation and veterans affairs portfolios, there would be 'very, very few' cuts in the Wimmera.

Mr Delahunty's areas are part of the Department of Planning and Community Development, which will have 140 job losses across the state. He said it was too early to specify how many Wimmera jobs would be lost in the department.

"The implementation plans are still being developed with departmental secretaries and only a couple of them have been signed at this stage," he said.

"We have not finalised ours."

The Community and Public Sector Union has condemned the job cuts.

Victorian branch secretary Karen Batt said the job losses would have a widespread effect on services across all government agencies.

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The Dancers Zone goes masquerade

ALL MASKED UP: The Dancers Zone performers, from back left, Johanna Burgess, Kate Perry, Zoe Hamilton, Sophie De Wit, Loucas Vettos and Grace Williams; and from front left, Jacqueline Hobbs, Jessika Hill and Samantha Robertson. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERTHE Dancers Zone performed to packed crowds at Horsham Theatre on Sunday.
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The Horsham-based dance school, formerly known as LA Tap and Jazz, had two masquerade-themed shows.

Click on the image below for more photos from the dance concert.

Principal instructor Lynne Johns said the audiences loved both performances.

"It was absolutely fantastic,'' she said.

Ms Johns said the students also loved the day.

"They had an awesome time,'' she said. "All the students did a really good job. They did wonderful jobs.''

Ms Johns said the older students wore masks, while the younger students had their faces painted.

She said covering their faces made it slightly difficult to tell who was who, but it worked out.

Ms Johns congratulated students on their performances.

She thanked the student teachers for their work, and for parents who helped with costumes and on the day.

Ms Johns said students would now take a break before starting work on their end of year concerts.

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Wimmera students research jobs at careers expo

TRYING A TRADE: Stawell Secondary College year 10 student Renee Bullen attempts brick-laying at the careers expo yesterday. Picture: EMMA COUTTSMORE than 2000 students had a glimpse into the future at the Wimmera and Southern Mallee Careers Expo yesterday.
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Students and parents from several schools throughout the region converged on Wimmera Events Centre at Longerenong for the annual expo.

Project manager Andrea Cross said several parents took advantage of tertiary information seminars.

Mrs Cross said it was great to see parents supporting their child's future after school.

"We're very pleased with how it's going,'' she said.

Wimmera and Southern Mallee Teachers Association president Joy Warren said more Wimmera businesses promoted themselves at the expo this year.

She said there were more than 80 exhibitors all up.

Ms Warren said the Try a Trade section was popular this year, with 19 businesses taking part.

"The whole thing's been fantastic we've pulled it together,'' she said. "Every year is different.''

A highlight of this year's expo was a new Koori Careers Program session.

Horsham College year seven student Justine Skinner Burns, 12, was involved in the session, named Dream Job not Shame Job.

She said she learnt a lot. "I liked talking with other people and about the stuff they've done in their lives,'' she said.

Horsham's St Brigid's College year 10 students Sarah Mills and Alaura McRae, both 15, said they enjoyed the expo.

"It's really good. My favourite part was trying brick-laying,'' Sarah said.

Alaura agreed with her. "It was just really fun,'' she said.

Sarah said she was considering hairdressing as a future

career. Alaura said she was interested in hairdressing or policing.

University of Ballarat automotive teacher John Rhook was part of the Try a Trade section.

The automotive team taught students how to change a tyre.

He said it was an example of practical skills.

"It gets students engaged,'' he said.

University of Ballarat TAFE program co-ordinator Peter Kennedy taught brick-laying in the Try a Trade section.

He said girls along with boys often had a go at brick-laying at careers expos.

Mr Kennedy said it was always a popular event.

"There have been quite a few experiments and interest,'' he said.

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Rainbow teen leaps out of moving vehicle

POLICE believe a Rainbow teenager who sustained serious head injuries jumped from a moving car on Saturday.
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The woman, 19, was in a serious condition in the Royal Melbourne Hospital yesterday after earlier being admitted as critical.

The woman was a front seat passenger in a car being driven by a second Rainbow woman whose three children were rear seat passengers.

The car was travelling from Yaapeet towards Hopetoun when it approached the Hopetoun-Yaapeet and South roads intersection on Saturday before 9am.

The driver was turning right into Hopetoun-Yaapeet Road at 30 kilometres an hour when the front seat passenger wanted to leave the car.

Hopetoun Senior Constable Irene Guest said the woman decided to jump out of the moving car. She said the incident was not a car crash.

An ambulance crew drove the woman in a critical condition to Rainbow Hospital where she was put into an induced coma before being airlifted to Melbourne.

The car's other occupants were uninjured.

The female driver was 38 and her three children, two girls and a boy, were aged between 11 and 13.

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Rupanyup school bus to keep running – for now

THE State Government has reprieved a school bus run at Rupanyup until the end of the year.
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The bus would have stopped running in term three, but State Government authority Public Transport Victoria told Rupanyup Primary School it would fund the bus for another two terms.

Students and preschoolers from the eastern Rupanyup farming area who attend Rupanyup Primary School, Murtoa College and kindergartens in Minyip and Rupanyup use the bus.

Under the authority's regulations a school bus with fewer than seven eligible students will not be funded, but the Rupanyup bus has eight students and two kindergarten children.

Rupanyup Primary School council president Rodney Weidemann said the decision gave more time for the community to lobby the government to keep the bus.

"Our backs are still against the wall, but the fight's not over," he said.

Mr Weidemann said a State Government kindergarten program at Rupanyup and Minyip could have motivated the authority to delay cutting funding for the bus.

"The decision to cut the bus is still ridiculous," he said.

"On one hand the government wants 15 hours a week of kindergarten for pre-school kids," he said.

"But on the other hand the government is cutting the means to make that happen.

"It doesn't make any sense."

Last week Shadow Minister for Children Jenny Mikakos tabled a petition with about 200 signatures in State Parliament lobbing to keep the bus.

Mr Weidemann said the bus campaign had plenty of support.

"We have a sympathetic ear from the State Opposition and Yarriambiack Shire Council has been right behind us," he said.

"We won't throw in the towel we just need to target our energies at the government."

"It just makes it hard when we are in such a safe seat."

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Urgent legislation to safeguard local government funding

AUSTRALIAN Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery has requested an urgent response from the Prime Minister to protect local government funding.
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The Federal Government planned to rush legislation changes into Parliament late yesterday in an attempt to validate federal funding models.

The High Court ruled last week that the chaplaincy program funding model exceeded the government's power, placing in jeopardy hundreds of other government-funded programs as well.

The government wants the changes passed before Parliament's winter break starts next week.

Ms McCaffery told the Mail-Times that local government funding which came direct from the Federal Government was vulnerable, despite legislation.

"We're doubly caught by last week's High Court ruling," she said.

"The court ruled that the Federal Government had no power to provide direct funding in areas and to organisations outside its constitutional responsibility.

"Local government is not recognised in the Constitution and we have been told that legislation won't fix this.

"There is already legislation for the Roads to Recovery program."

Ms McCaffery said she wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday, requesting the government urgently take the advice of an expert panel, which recommended that local government be recognised in the Constitution.

Minister for Local Government Simon Crean had already promised the government would decide before October if it would take the issue to a referendum at the next election.

But Ms Caffery said a referendum needed to happen sooner.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur, an Australian Local Government Association board member, said the ALGA would seek advice from Professor George Williams, a constitutional expert, to clarify a direction for funding to councils.

"If programs are backed with legislation, it is fine to fund them, but there needs to be an ongoing definition of what can be funded, because it's all up in the air at the moment,'' he said.

"Local government needs to be recognised in the Constitution and this might be the trigger point to help gain some momentum."

Mr McArthur said until ALGA and the government were sure of their advice and took action, councils would remain in a vacuum of uncertainty.

But Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown said council had no immediate concerns.

He said the High Court decision had the potential to affect programs including Roads to Recovery, but said most funding came through the State Government.

"The Federal Government and the Opposition have taken a bipartisan approach to this," Mr Brown said.

"They will find a way around it."

Editorial - see Opinion.

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Super awesome for ‘local girl’ Monique Le Bas

ON-STAGE PRESENCE: Minyip's Monique Le Bas performs in last night's semi-final of Australia's Got Talent on Channel Seven.MINYIP soprano Monique Le Bas received high praise from all three judges in her semi-final performance on talent show Australia's Got Talent last night.
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Le Bas auditioned for the Channel Seven show in April as an opera singer.

Her big voice and even bigger personality drew praise from the judges Dannii Minogue and Brian McFadden and secured her a spot in the semi-finals.

Le Bas recorded the semi-final effort on Sunday and it aired last night.

She said her performance went much more smoothly than her original.

"I did a better job this time,'' she said.

"I had everyone giggling. That's a good thing.''

The excitable Le Bas giggled and snorted her way through her audition, which McFadden noted, calling her 'giddy and hyper'.

She said she had as much fun the second time around.

"It went so quickly,'' she said. "I wore a very special gown in a colour I don't normally wear.''

Le Bas said the judges, this time including Kyle Sandilands, reacted positively to her performance.

McFadden congratulated her on her efforts.

"The acting was brilliant, the vocal was exceptional, the delivery,'' he said.

"It was just 100 per cent a perfect performance.''

Le Bas said Minogue was her favourite judge. She said she would love to catch up with Minogue socially.

"That'd be lovely, that would be really nice. We'll talk shoes,'' she said.

Le Bas said she was also having fun getting to know her fellow contestants.

"I shared a dressing room with a person named Andy and I've been with the comedic twins and there have been a couple of little kids there,'' she said.

"Everyone was so nice. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect.''

Le Bas could not predict which contestants could make the finals.

"I just love them all,'' she said. "I wouldn't want to be the judges.''

Le Bas said after tonight's show people could vote her through to the finals.

She said she expected to go well.

"I always like to be positive about everything in life,'' she said.

"People should vote for me because I'm a local girl putting Minyip back on the map.

"My aim is to be performing, performing, performing.

"It's all been super awesome.''

People can vote for Le Bas by calling 1902 55 75 03 or texting ‘MONIQUE’ to 1977 88 88 before noon tomorrow.

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Horsham Saints legend Jim O’Connor dies after short illness

HORSHAM Saints footballers wore black armbands on Saturday in honour of the club's Hall of Fame legend Jim O'Connor.
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Mr O'Connor, 86, died in Wimmera Base Hospital on Friday after a short illness.

He was one of the founders of St Michael's Football-Netball Club, and helped cut down trees to create Coughlin Park recreation reserve.

He was also in the club's Team of the Century.

Mr O'Connor worked for much of his working life at the Wimmera Mail-Times, as a hand machine compositor, job printer, foreman, commercial printing department manager and proof-reader.

His nephew Chris O'Connor said he was a father figure who never asked anyone to do something he would not do himself.

Mr O'Connor leaves his wife of 62 years Maureen, children Lorraine, Michael, Christine, Anthony and Gerard, nine grandchildren and one great grand-daughter.

A Requiem Mass will be in Ss Michael and John's Catholic Church, Horsham, at 11am tomorrow.

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