Attacks on Muslim women a ‘sad indictment’ on Brisbane

It’s the ugly side of society and, of late, it has only been getting worse.

Brisbane’s Muslim population, particularly women, have increasingly been subject to both physical and verbal abuse amid terror raids and Australian military action in the Middle East.

On Tuesday Queensland police charged a 44-year-old Windsor man after he allegedly threatened to light a woman’s headscarf on fire in West End.

And Fairfax Media has been told of an attack on two Muslim women at Toowong last week, which was not reported to police.

One of the alleged victims, who did not want to be named, recounted her experience through a third party.

She said she and her friend, who had just finished shopping, were waiting a Toowong bus stop on Benson Road when some tormenters drove past and threw a ham sandwich at them.

“They were early- to mid-20s. When one of the men threw the sandwich, the other two were cheering,” she said.

“The driver was also cheering and shouted something.”

The woman, who studied at the University of Queensland, said she was “stunned and sad” about the unprovoked attack.

“I came here to study and didn’t ask to be treated like this,” she said.

“In fact, I had only arrived recently. I fear for my life even when I’m in public.

“If I didn’t have my friend there I would have cried.

It made me feel disappointed too. Just because I wear the hijab, it doesn’t make me a terrorist.

“I’m from Malaysia and many other Malaysians have lived and studied here in peace.

“I’ve studied here before and this never happened to me before and I came back because I felt like Australia was safe for Muslims in general.”

Muslim community leader and Eidfest president Yasmin Kahn said it was an unfortunate example of an increasing occurrence in Brisbane.

“The idiot wasted good food – we’re not going to eat it, but someone would have – you’ve got to look at it from that perspective,” she said.

“…The fact that you’re thinking you’re going to disturb someone’s life by doing that and that you’re going to feel good about it, get off on it, well that says more about you than the person you’re persecuting.

“That’s what bothers me. There’s this attitude to go out and harass people that wasn’t there before.

“It’s a free country but to harass and persecute people is, well I hate the word ‘unAustralian’ but that’s what it is, because that’s not who we are as a people.”

Ms Khan said Muslim women were being warned  on social medianot to walk the streets by themselves.

“I mean, this is 2014, 21st century Australia downtown Brisbane and we’re telling our women not to venture out by themselves,” Ms Kahn said.

“That’s just a sad indictment on the city and I don’t know if the city in itself is that bad.

“I know we’ve had some horrific incidents around the city in the past six to eight months and I’m not saying that’s all related, but I’d hate to think that’s becoming a natural occurrence in Brisbane.

“I think these Islamophobic attacks are just a product of their time, unfortunately, because of uneducated gits.”

Ms Khan said other migrant groups, such as the Mediterranean influx of the 1950s and the arrival of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s and 1980s, had suffered similar abuse.

“In a way, it’s an indoctrination into the Australian way of life – you come here, then we’re going to chuck shit at you for a little while but then you’re a mate, you’re an Aussie and we accept you,” she said.

“But this particular strain that is happening at the moment is particularly vicious, hateful, the vitriol is beyond good natured ribbing – it’s pretty vile, vicious stuff and that makes it a little more explosive than what previous migrants have had to go through.”

The current round of attacks, Ms Khan said, had become “more personal” because it went to the heart of Muslims’ identity – their faith.

“You see a lot of non-Muslim people coming out and saying ‘this is not who we are’, so I don’t doubt they’re in a minority, but before when you were in a minority you were a silent minority,” she said.

“Now, you’re a vocal minority because you’ve got keyboards, you’ve got airwaves and you’ve got lots of other ways to get your message out so in that regard it’s probably a bit easier to get this stuff out.”

Ms Khan said the Muslim community in Brisbane went back more than a century, so the Islamic faith was nothing new to the city.

“The Holland Park Mosque is 106 or 108 years old – it’s the second-oldest religious building in Brisbane – so it’s not as if it’s a case of ‘who are all these new people, these new foreigners? Everyone’s arrived since September 11’,” she said.

“We’ve been here for 150 years , for God’s sake, so we’re not a new phenomenon but the hate and the vitriol is a new phenomenon and again that’s being influenced from overseas.

“That’s not being helped by leadership, by the rhetoric, by the public discourse. That’s not being helped at all, unfortunately.”Click here for the Brisbane Times special feature: The Changing Face of Queensland.

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Dress inspired by fallopian tube goes on display in Brisbane

Brisbane artist Svenja fused a Victorian-era dress with a jellyfish mermaid look in this piece of wearable art. Photo: SuppliedA piece of wearable art inspired by a section of the fallopian tube has gone on display at Brisbane’s popular Craft and Quilt Fair.

Brisbane textile artist Svenja created the show-stopping piece Fimbria Figura after seeing a coloured, magnified image of the fimbria taken by a scanning electron microscope.

The dress is constructed from vibrant pink, purple and red silk organza screenprinted with the image and layered over a metallic foil jersey base.

Latin for “fringe”, the fimbria sits next to the ovary and sweeps the egg into the fallopian tube.

Svenja said she had represented this by distorting the dress with fishing line and stitching it into a circular pattern, with shibori-bound lame representing the finger-like cilia.

“I enjoy the freedom and opportunities that working in this medium allows,” she said.

“Textiles has it all – complete control of colour, shape, and texture that you can build into a sculpture.

“The human form provides a great framework for these works which often straddle the realms of fashion and art.”

Svenja has other work featured in the Brisbane Craft and Quilt Fair, which will take over the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from Wednesday to Sunday.

Euphony Iridacaea is a working harp created from fibreglass iris petals, and Sirens of the Sea fuses an elegant Victorian-era woman with a jellyfish mermaid.

Svenja said after studying drama she took her first textile workshop in 2002 and decided it was the perfect way to fuse art and fashion.

She won her first Wearable Art Award at the Boonah Shire SPAR arts festival in 2007.

“Recently one of my costumes was featured in billboards for an Air NZ tourism campaign and street flags for a New Zealand Exhibition,” she said.

“It was such an honour.

“I am fortunate that it is now my full time passion, and I am enjoying my current explorations of more wearable constructions at TAFE.”

Thousands are expected to attend the Craft and Quilt Fair, which features displays, workshops and a range of experts on scrap-booking, knitting, card-making, quilting, jewellery creation, mixed media and more.

Brisbane artist Tricia Smout will show off Flowers of Friendship, a 4.4 metre long collaborative wall hanging made up of 495 separate flowers contributed by artists throughout Queensland.

The Queensland Quilters Inc display will feature 300 quilts to mark its 30th birthday and there will be a special Christmas-themed section dedicated to crafting the perfect holiday accessories.

Tickets for the Brisbane Craft and Quilt Fair cost $18 for adults, $16 for concession entries and $9 for children.

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Wyndham level crossings endanger commuters, says council

Lengthy delays at level crossings are putting the safety and prosperity of residents in outer western Melbourne at risk, a local council says.

Boom gates at Wyndham level crossings are typically closed between 12 and 35 minutes in the hour during peak times, according to a new report from Wyndham CityCouncil.

Mayor Bob Fairclough said it was common to see cars lining the streets for 400 metres in the morning peak as they tried to cross the railway tracks next to Hoppers Crossing Station.

The long delays at level crossings posed a safety risk to commuters, he said.

“We’ve had accidents and near misses. People get impatient, they do U-turns to get out of the queue, they get stuck between the boom gates.”

The council wants state government funding to replace four level crossings on the Werribee railway line with tunnels underneath the tracks, or bridges over them.

Two other crossings, at Forsyth Road and Derrimut Road, were already separated but their capacity needed to be expanded as more people took to the roads, it said.

Home to 200,000 people in 2014, Wyndham, which includes Werribee and the surrounding area, is forecast to grow to more than 341,000 in 2031.

Traffic crossing the Werribee line in the area will nearly double by the middle of the century, the council found, and as the number of train services also increased, the capacity of six out of seven road crossings would be exceeded.

The report said there was one railway crossing every 1.8 kilometres in Wyndham, compared with an average of one each kilometre across the rest of Melbourne excluding the inner suburbs – so the area would also need new crossings.

With the renovation of each crossing likely to cost between $60 million and $100 million, Cr Fairclough admitted getting funding for all the work was likely to prove difficult.

But he said the streets of Wyndham and satellite roads in and out of the area would only become further gridlocked if no action was taken.

The state opposition has promised to replace 50 level crossings with over or underpasses. Of the 43 announced, two are in Wyndham – at Cherry Street and Werribee Street in Werribee.

Public Transport minister Terry Mulder said the government had significantly improved public transport in the outer west, including adding 1400 bus services for Point Cook and last week promising 800 more bus services per week for Wyndham.

But it had not committed to removing Wyndham’s level crossings.

The RACV and Public Transport Users Association will join the council in launching the report on Wednesday.

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Innes an award finalist

Recognition: Peter Innes has been recognised as a community leader finalist in the 2015 Victorian Australian of the Year Awards. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCEPeter Innes’s life work of striving to help people in the community has seen him recognised as a community leader finalist in the 2015 Victorian Australian of the Year Awards in the Local Hero Category.

Spreading his time between roles as a City of Ballarat councillor, primary school teacher and co-ordinator of Ballarat Secondary College’s LinkUp young parents program is no mean feat. But the Buninyong resident’s ethos is simple.

“I’ve always believed that if you think something should be changed, don’t whinge about it, do it,” he said.

Mr Innes has been a school teacher for decades and a councillor since 1993. But it is his tireless work as the co-ordinator of the LinkUp program which has seen him stand out from the rest.

The aim of the program, which is run by volunteers and teaching staff, is to support young parents to get back into education and the workforce.

“Since starting that group eight years ago I’ve had more satisfaction in my teaching career than I ever thought possible,” Mr Innes said.

“Some of these young people have had absolutely horrendous things happen to them. To be able to, along with staff, literally put them back together again and see them make something of their life is indescribable.”

Cr Innes said was humbled to be alongside the other three Victoria finalists in his category: breast cancer fundraiser Louise Davidson, humanitarian Justin Dickinson and child crusader Jane Rowe.

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Gillard to unveil bronze bust in Prime Ministers’ Avenue

File picture FORMER prime minister Julia Gillard will visit Ballarat on Thursday.

Ms Gillard will be at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens from 3pm to unveil her bronze bust in the Prime Ministers’ Avenue.

The highly anticipated visit, which will unveil the sculpture of Australia’s first female prime minister, comes after the release of Ms Gillard’s autobiography, My Story.

The sculpture has been in storage since Ms Gillard’s initial 2012 sitting in Melbourne.

The bust was created by Rubbery Figures caricaturist and cartoonist Peter Nicholson, who completed the piece in July 2012.

Mr Nicholson detailed its creation to The Courier in September.

“Creating Julia’s sculpture was just like creating any other,” Mr Nicholson said at the time.

“For me it was about showing her in light as somebody who was under extreme pressure but who wasn’t beaten down and still kept her head held high.”

Ballarat’s Collins Booksellers is also hosting a sold-out launch of her biography including a talk and book signing at the Deluxe Spiegeltent on Armstrong Street South from 6pm to 8pm.

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Drug  trafficker  avoids  jail  term

A CANNABIS-dependent drug trafficker caught with $6000 worth of marijuana avoided jail on Tuesday.

Shawn Legro, 44, was caught by police with almost 500g of cannabis at his Ballarat home on July 17, and pleaded guilty to trafficking at Ballarat Magistrates Court.

Legro, who police alleged had been trafficking cannabis intermittently for his adult life, received a 12-month community correction order.

Leading Senior Constable Pepe Brown said police searched Legro’s property on July 17 and found seven zip-lock bags containing cannabis with a street value of $6000.

The court heard that Legro admitted to selling cannabis to a nucleus of friends to sustain a marijuana habit he had developed at a young age.

Defence Lawyer Mike Wardell said Legro, who used cannabis to help with his bipolar condition, had been cannabis-free for two months.

“The scope and scale (of drug trafficking) is purely directed at sustaining his habit,” he said.

Magistrate Duncan Reynolds said Legro had displayed a significant turnaround in his drug use since the offence.

“If there’s a propensity toward mental illness, cannabis continues to exacerbate that in no uncertain way,” he said.

“You sold it and you were doing no favours to your friends by doing so.”

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Living Ballarat project ready

Worth wait: Water Minister Peter Walsh speaks at a media conference on Monday.THE completion of the Living Ballarat project provides a plan for how Ballarat will use water in the future.

The project has been widely criticised for delays and the length of time it has taken to produce results.

But Living Ballarat control board chairman Dr Mark Harris said despite the criticism, Ballarat had pioneered the program for other regions, meaning the process would be easier in the future.

“It feels fantastic to have the project finished,” he said.

“The reality was that to have the science done properly took longer than we thought. It was difficult.”

The plan has a big focus on the use of stormwater and recycled water across the region to take the pressure off current water supplies.

Water Minister Peter Walsh said a key part of the framework would be setting out what source of water would be used for what task.

“It is about having the right water for the particular program and watering that you are doing and using that to increase the liveability for your particular community,” he said.

“It is an area where Ballarat has pioneered the project. It was an issue driven by the Committee for Ballarat back in the day.”

Mr Walsh said people who criticised the project had not been well informed.

“I suppose people expect something to happen in one day. This is a whole change of how you think about the management of water in urban communities,” he said.

City of Ballarat chief executive Anthony Schinck described the result as “ground-breaking”.

“With Ballarat’s population growing so significantly, we need to provide the setting in both a regulatory form and also in terms of water-smart, sustainable urban design,” he said.

“We are certainly looking at the policy context for how we use and re-use water.”

Part of the report says the City of Ballarat will establish minimum water standards for all new buildings and subdivisions by January 2016.

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Funds to introduce Living Ballarat project across the region Benefits: MP Peter Walsh with Wendouree Primary School principal Christine Branagh and pupils from Wendouree Primary School and Ballarat Grammar. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

FOUR water projects worth $1.8 million will be the starting point for introducing the Living Ballarat project across the region.

The biggest funding announcement was $967,120 to connect Ballarat Grammar and Wendouree Primary School to non-drinking water supplies for irrigating their fields and gardens.

Wendouree Primary School principal Christine Branagh said in particular the announcement would help the school with its Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program.

“I think for us it is exciting because we can maintain our kitchen garden,” she said.

“We have put a lot of effort and resources into this and we want it to be sustainable for a long time.”

Ballarat Grammar assistant headmaster Rob Gray said it was about using the right sort of water for the right task.

Mr Gray said the school had experienced some hard times during the drought and struggled to keep its fields and gardens green.

“We had been using the aquifer to water our ovals but, as you know, everyone was tapping into it and soon there was no water,” he said.

“This enables us to have decent playing fields right through a drought, should we have another drought, but let’s hope we don’t.”

Other projects included $503,900 to connect Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum and Ballarat Grammar’s Mount Rowan agricultural research facility to recycled water, $191,900 to allow Pinarc Disability Support to refurbish its office building to capture and re-use rainwater, and $132,000 for a stormwater and harvest and re-use system at Hepburn Springs Golf Club.

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Committee for Ballarat unveils logo

Thinking ahead: Committee for Ballarat chair Judy Verlin and Committee for Ballarat CEO John Kilgour with the group’s new logo. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCKTHE Committee for Ballarat has unveiled a new logo to create a better understanding of who the group is and what it does.

The rebranding includes a new tagline: “Thinking ahead.”

The change was made after a strategic review, which began in March this year, aimed at creating a greater awareness of the group’s advocacy work.

Committee for Ballarat chair Judy Verlin said the new logo better represented the fact that the group worked across the region – not just in Ballarat.

“We have a strong association with them (regional councils) – a strong Ballarat is a strong region,” she said.

“I think it has gone from the City of Ballarat as the big brother that receives everything to understanding that a strong Ballarat means a strong regional influence.”

The new branding also sets the group apart from other key stakeholders in Ballarat including the City of Ballarat and Commerce Ballarat.

The change was announced at the Committee for Ballarat Annual General Meeting held on Tuesday night.

“I think this is building on the proud history and the successes of the Committee for Ballarat,” Ms Verlin said.

“It is an indication of how we are moving on to the next stage of development.”

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Helping kids in hospital

Visitors: Run Ballarat ambassadors Tracie Kaye and Steve Moneghetti talk to Liam Dagon in the Ballarat Health Services’ children’s ward. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCERUN Ballarat ambassadors Tracie Kaye and Steve Moneghetti saw first-hand what it was like to be inside the Ballarat Health Services’ children’s ward on Tuesday.

The pair toured the ward ahead of the October 19 fun run, where all proceeds will go the redevelopment of the children’s ward.

Darren Hutchinson, who has been in hospital too many times to count, including eight times this year, was one of the patients they visited.

The 14-year-old suffers from epilepsy and was spending the night in the children’s ward.

Two of his brothers have already signed up to Run Ballarat, and he hopes to participate on the day if he’s well enough.

Liam Dagan was in hospital for the second time, staying for a few nights with a bacteria infection. The ambassadors also spoke to him about what Run Ballarat aims to do for the hospital.

A brand new children’s ward will be built and fitted out to give children and their families the most welcoming environment possible during their time in hospital.

Construction is expected to start on the new area in 2016 and be ready in 2017.

The run will take place in less than two weeks, with options of a 12km and 6km run, a 6km walk, or a 1km run for children. The city’s main streets close for the event as joggers and walkers take over.

Paediatric and adolescent nurse unit manager Clinton Griffiths said with only four patients on Tuesday, it was a quiet day.

The children’s ward averages about 200 patients a month and will hold about 20 patients on a busy day, ranging from medical and surgical cases for infants to adolescents.

“We aim to be the centre of excellence for Victoria, we’re leading the country in some areas,” Mr Griffiths said.

“But right now we’re developing a strong plan so that our environment can match our excellence.”

He said they were talking to children and families to see what the ideal ward would be.

“We’re going to have an outdoor play space, lots of colour and single bedrooms.”

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No licence since 1987, says driver

A MAN who drove unlicensed for almost 30 years was sentenced to one month in jail on Tuesday.

Malcolm McNeight, 52, was caught twice driving illegally in the past year and on the second occasion told police he had not held a driver’s licence since 1987, Ballarat Magistrates Court heard.

Police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Pepe Brown said McNeight was pulled over by police in the Belmont area last November, later admitting he was unlicensed but wanted to “get to a 21st (birthday party)”.

McNeight, who told police he had three cans of bourbon and coke prior to driving, had a zero blood alcohol limit imposed on him for previous offences.

On February 26, McNeight, who served a prison sentence in 2004 for unlicensed driving, was apprehended by police driving in Sebastopol and later told officers he had been unlicensed since he was 24.

Defence lawyer David Taminika told the court McNeight, a single parent, was “feeling the pinch” of not having a licence.

In submitting for a now-defunct suspended sentence, Mr Taminika said McNeight’s deteriorating health made him unsuitable for a termof imprisonment.

McNeight was eligible for a suspended sentence as he was charged before September 1.

In sentencing McNeight, magistrate Duncan Reynolds said unlicensed and unregistered driving was entrenched in the accused’s daily life.

“Over the years there’s been numerous instances of you driving unlicensed or disqualified and unfortunately the threat of prison hasn’t deterred you,” he said.

McNeight, who was granted appeal bail under strict reporting conditions, was also fined $1500 and had an 18-month suspension placed on his licence when he becomes eligible for it.

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