Monthly Archives: December 2014

Fireball


The successful Fireball event in October raised thousands of dollars for the local CFA groups

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Not your everyday bank

Warrandyte Community Bank notches up $1.7m in community grants

SHAREHOLDERS and representatives from organisations in Warrandyte and surrounds filled the Mechanics Institute Hall last month for the Warrandyte Community Bank’s annual general meeting and official announcements of grants and scholarships.

A total of $377,000 was allocated to almost 70 groups to go towards projects, community programs and infrastructure within the community.

Warrandyte Community Bank has now returned an incredible $1.7 million in grants and sponsorships since its inception in 2003.

With an upbeat energy in the room there was a strong sense of gratitude expressed to outgoing chair Sarah Wrigley.

Hands up who loves Warrandyte Community Bank: Staff, directors and grant recipients at Warrandyte Community Bank's AGM

Hands up who loves Warrandyte Community Bank: Staff, directors and grant recipients at Warrandyte Community Bank’s AGM

Many of the grants and sponsorship recipients thanked Sarah for the years of dedication and commitment she had made to the program and the bank itself.

One very happy recipient was Warrandyte High School, which received $25,000. In a joint submission with the Lions Club of Warrandyte, the school had sought funding to asphalt the car park behind the school basketball stadium.

Dr Stephen Parkin, principal of Warrandyte High School, thanked Sarah for her “significant contributions to the Warrandyte community and to the learning experiences of students at Warrandyte High School”.

Other major projects to receive a community grant or sponsorship included funding to acquire an inflatable rescue boat for Manningham SES.

Greg Mitchell, controller of Manningham Unit SES said it was a “great privilege” working with our community bank on the project.

“The understanding and support given by Sarah and Mark (Challen, bank manager) to our unit to help us replace a very old rescue boat was outstanding,” Greg said.

“Because of the Warrandyte Community Bank’s efforts and dedication to the community, I was honoured to collect a cheque at the AGM to purchase a new rescue boat that will support our local community and the larger Victorian community for many years to come.”

Manningham SES provides rescue services for a large part of the Yarra River from Wonga Park to Dight’s Falls and requires two rescue boats on the water in any situation.

Also in attendance was Manningham Community Health’s Jenny Jackson, who said Manningham Community Health Services was thrilled to partner with Warrandyte Community Bank to support the mental wellbeing of young people in the greater Warrandyte area.

“As CEO of the not-for-profit health service, I am constantly delighted to see the wonderful work of our local Bendigo Bank branches in bringing all members of the community together in such a meaningful way for the benefit of the whole community,” Jenny said. “Being present at the AGM was yet another opportunity to observe genuine community partnership and I urge all Manningham community residents to support their local Bendigo Bank branches so that this great community partnership work can flourish even further.”

Aaron Farr, in his address as incoming chairman, told the audience he has “some very large footsteps to follow” and in doing so looks forward to embarking on his new role.

“In continuing the role of chairman I look forward to leading our community bank in building on the foundations set in place,” Aaron said.

“With continued and ongoing growth, the Warrandyte Community Bank will be well placed to contribute more financially to the community into the future.”

Also in attendance were the bank’s scholarship recipients, Gabrielle Mitchell (2013), Mitchell Dawson (2014), Nik Henkes (2014) and Joshua McMullen (2014).

Josh said the scholarship had helped him immensely with tertiary studies.

“It took off a lot of stress normally associated with the beginning of a year at university with purchasing textbooks and other supplies, and helped me cruise on in to my year of study with a positive attitude,” Josh said.

“It’s not your everyday bank!”

Keep dogs on a leash

WARRANDYTE horse riders are urging dog owners to abide by on leash areas along the Warrandyte River Trail following aggressive attacks on horses.

Those who ride their horses and ponies along the scenic trail believe most dog owners are cautious and friendly, but say a small percentage of dog owners are putting riders and horses at risk of injury by not doing the right thing.

“Most dogs are fine but usually the most aggressive dogs have never seen a horse before,” Warrandyte rider Jane Sutherland said.

“Then there are owners who don’t abide by the on leash area signs.

“A couple of weeks ago my horse was chased by two dogs off lead. They tried to bite my horse’s leg and my friend, who was riding my horse at the time, asked the owner of the dogs to put them on lead because it wasn’t an off lead area.

“So off the lady went but then she came back the other way with the dogs off lead again and they attacked my horse again.”

In another recent incident along the trail a dog tried to bite a pony’s throat and another horse’s back legs, landing the owner a $2500 vet bill.

Jane says most dogs using the trail are friendly with horses.

Jane says most dogs using the trail are friendly with horses.

Jane estimates 50 riders use the trail each week.

However, horses won’t be able to use the trail for much longer.

Manningham council chief executive Joe Carbone says the Warrandyte River Trail is expected to be closed to horses in a year when another horse trail is complete.

“Council is working on an alternate horse trail along Gold Memorial Rd through Warrandyte State Park and ending at Ringwood-Warrandyte Rd,” Mr Carbone said.

“This route will be along quiet local roads and horse trails through the state park with horse and rider safety a priority.”

Removing horses from the Warrandyte River Trail was a recommendation of Council’s Warrandyte River Reserve Management Plan, following two dog attacks on horses in 2012.

However, Lauren, 19, and Eliza, 16, have been riding their horses along the trail since they were eight years old and say it would be upsetting if they could no longer bring their horses along the trail to exercise and swim in the river.

“It would be a major loss for the whole community, not just us,” Lauren said.

“Most people like seeing horses down here, kids especially. Horses

have been a part of this town for so long so it would be really, really sad if that gets taken away from us.”

Jane says many trails around Warrandyte Park have already been closed to horses, mostly due to environmental reasons.

She says the closure of a small trail near Tindals Rd, which many riders rode along to get to pony club, is just one example of how riders are being forced onto roads with potentially life threatening consequences for horses, riders and motorists.

“A couple of months ago a group of kids were riding back from pony club along the side of Tindals Rd and there was a guy on a motorbike flying up Tindals Rd,” Jane said.

“A girl, who was 12 years old, put her hand up to ask him to slow down but instead he deliberately sped up, went as close to her as he could and the horse freaked. She fell off and the horse was running up Tindals Rd without a rider.

“Thankfully there were no injuries but those sort of idiotic things happen often unfortunately. Surely these people wouldn’t put their own animals or their children in that sort of danger, so why would they do it to somebody else?”

Basketball in full swing

WARRANDYTE Basketball has been busy with all competitions and levels of basketball in full swing as we move through another season and another year of rep ball.

The Redbacks have been hotly contesting matches every Saturday, while the Venom sides are participating in VJBL grading and some additional tournaments, the Sunday night comp is operating full tilt, Wednesday night Greyburn Cup competition is in the finals process, the Venom USA trip has departed, and all four Big V sides are in the middle of an intense pre-season.

A welcome addition has been the offering of skills sessions for Under 12 and 14 Venom players for a four-week period heading into the Christmas break.

These sessions run by director of coaching, Nicole Howard, have been well received and are facilitating young and aspiring Warrandyte basketball players in extending their knowledge and ability.

These four week block sessions will be again offered in the New Year and will include some Redbacks specific sessions.

SOUTHERN PENINSULA

The 28th Southern Peninsula Junior Basketball Tournament was held on the weekend of November 22 and 23 and Warrandyte was well represented.

Among the many teams competing were Warrandyte Venom’s newly formed 18.1 Girls. It was an extremely productive weekend under the guidance of coach David Blyth, according to club officials, with the girls finishing third in Division 1.

BIG V EXCITEMENT

Big V Season 2015 can’t come soon enough for the Venom young guns who have been selected to represent Warrandyte as members of the Youth League 1 Women (YL1W) and Youth League 2 Men (YL2M).

With head coach Beau Bentley at the helm for his second season with the Youth Men’s team, he and his newly appointed coaching staff of Phil Noone and Bill Nicolaidis have put together what they believe will be a squad that can push for a finals birth in 2015.

After a finals finish last season that left the YL1W just short of another shot at the title, Warrandyte Venom has farewelled 2014 coach Damian Clarke. Recently the club welcomed Angela Heigh to the position of head coach and she will be assisted by Kellie Taylor.

Angela, having coached VJBL sides for Warrandyte Venom over the past few years, is very aware of the talent of many of the Venom juniors. She is now witnessing first hand, through tryouts and training, that there is a lot to like about these young developing players.

Although the main goal at Youth League level is to develop our athletes in readiness to move to senior basketball, our coaches will place a big emphasis on developing fundamentals in doing the little things to enable them to adapt to higher levels for the future. These teams will also be hungry to win.

It is an exciting time for the club with so many talented junior players progressing through the ranks and this is backed up by the huge turnout at tryouts, which shows strength within the club and for those not selected this time we have no doubt we will see many faces back pushing for selection in the coming years.

Robin banks on a winner

Our Living TreasureWHEN Robin and Lainey Horkings sat down with a city bank manager to apply for a loan to build their house, the manager asked incredulously,

“Who’d want to live at Warrandyte?”

The young couple weren’t deterred by his cynical remark and replied enthusiastically: “We do, we want to live at Warrandyte.”

They bought their block of land in Webb Street back in the days of pounds, shillings and pence for only £1250. (It seemed like a fortune then.)

Their house was finished just before they were married in 1968 and they have lived there happily for the past 46 years raising a brood of three children along the way, Bruce now 41, Erin 39 and Jeffrey 35.

Robin and Lainey Horkings on their wedding day.

Robin and Lainey Horkings on their wedding day.

“Although the kids live in different parts of Australia, we are still in weekly contact and are very close,” Lainey said proudly.

“And the kids are close with each other as well, our six-year-old granddaughter Myah lives in Queensland but she rings us every week with lots of questions for Grandpa.”

When Robin came to live in Warrandyte in 1953 he was only 12.

“It was rather an eye opener coming from a big city school in Auburn South,” Robin remembers. “We had four grades in one classroom and a playground that stretched from the pine plantation to Fourth Hill Tunnel.

At lunchtime we used to fish for yabbies in the dam next to Lil Whitehead’s house opposite the school.

“My classmates were Bruce McAuley, Barry Able, Darryl Pike, (the policeman’s son) Irene Hendry, Lorraine Norman and Barbara Schneider.

“Things were different back then,” he continues. “To get a milk delivery you’d leave a billycan with your order and some money in it hanging off a tree in Mitchell Ave. Along came the milkman Tiger Flowers with his horse and cart and he’d bail out the milk from a churn into your billycan and take the money.”

Robin says with a smile “the place was dominated by artists and potters in those days”. “They were a bohemian crowd, but you couldn’t hold that against them,” Robin said.

“I worked a couple of seasons at the butchers when I was still at school. My job was to link the sausages but the interesting part was the deliveries. We used to deliver as far as Christmas Hills in the van and I had to run in with the meat and collect the orders. Some of the customers used to invite us in for a cup of tea or something to eat.

“I remember one big bearded fella who wore shearer’s pants and a flannel top. He must have been a trooper back in the day because he told us that he was on duty the day they brought the Kellys in.”

Robin was the first registered scout of the newly formed Warrandyte Scout Troop.

“Our first meetings were held on the riverbank behind Ken Gedge’s chemist shop,” Robin said.

“On dark nights we met under a Tilly lamp fastened to a tree. Eventually we all bucked in and built the scout hall in the early ’50s.”

Later, Robin was able to give something back and worked as a cub leader for 20 years.

On school days Robin had a foolproof way of knowing if he was running late for school or not.

“If I heard Barry Able riding his horse across the old wooden bridge, I’d know it was 8.30am,” Robin said.

“He was as regular as clockwork and the horse’s hooves made such a racket on the wooden roadway.

Warrandyte was so quiet in those days. At night you could hear the old waterwheel on the river squeaking as the wheel turned with the current.”

Unfortunately the picturesque waterwheel that was situated above the swimming hole opposite the pub is long gone now.

Robin smiles as he talks about the old days and tells the Diary a story about Bill McCulloch who was the last mounted postman in Victoria.

“When the new postie took over Bill’s route he asked us if the previous postman was 10 feet tall because local residents had placed their letterboxes in a high position to accommodate Bill who was sitting up on his horse Silver. We replied, ‘No mate, he rode a horse!’

Things changed for Robin in 1959 when he was involved in a serious motor accident.

He was a passenger in a car that hit a tree alongside the Ringwood-Warrandyte Road. The accident affected Robin’s ability to concentrate and he changed his employment as a result of it.

Robin said: “I never really remembered anything about the accident.

No memory of it at all.”

Robin worked for 40 years at the Board of Works and then spent the last 10 years of his working life at Warrandyte Cemetery as a general hand and gravedigger.

Lainey worked as a nurse and also at a Ringwood doctor’s surgery early in the marriage but later worked in childcare.

Rob at 73 and Lainey, 68, are both retired now but keep themselves busy. Rob is still very fit and takes his dog Indie on long walks every morning right up to Eagles Nest at the top of Webb Street.

“And there’s always wood to split and grass to cut,” he says.

Lainey is heavily involved as a volunteer with Mainly Music at St Stephen’s hall and does patchwork on Thursdays.

Robin fondly reflects on his life in Webb Street.

“Everything’s been good here. There’s something about Warrandyte that gets into you and you can’t get it out of your system,” he said.

“Where else can you walk five minutes up the road and see wallabies, kangaroos and echidnas. Also parrots, wrens, kookaburras and currawongs.

“I think that bank manager got it wrong back in 1967. Warrandyte is a great place to live,” said Robin with a triumphant grin.

Falling for an age-old problem

HERSELF and I were on a mission.

We belong to a Probus club and had agreed to organise the monthly outings. Choosing the outing venue is not so difficult but then comes ‘transport’ and ‘the meal’.

A few years ago, neither Herself nor I (not ‘myself’!) could have imagined ourselves sitting in a coach with a lot of other old people, all wearing name tags, going on ‘an outing’.

To be seen going on an ‘outing’, in a bus/coach with a lot of other older people, was code for the horrified thought,

“My God, he’s getting past it! I can never see us doing that!”

It’s a bit like ‘the fall’.

When you are younger and assumed to be in control of your faculties, you just ‘fall over’. You trip because of too much exuberance or because you just make a miscalculation.

When you get older, you ‘have a fall’ and that’s an entirely different thing altogether. As soon as the phrase, “Poor old X has had a fall!” is uttered, it is inevitably followed by raised eyebrows and a knowing, “Oh dear.” Not the casual, “Oh dear, that’s a bummer. I hope s/he gets better soon,” but the more sinister “Oh dear!”

Immediately everyone checks their smart phone diary to check whether X’s obviously imminent funeral might clash with their regular HRT appointment or their base jump booking.

So leaving the shuddering horror of the situation to one side, let me proceed.

Hire transport tends to come in two sizes, the 24-seater,  adequate but a bit like crossing the Himalayas in a billycart, or the 48-seater coach, the more comfortable and more expensive, stretch hearse alternative. Before hiring the 48-seater, for an outing in a month or two’s time, you need to be sure you can get the 48 participants with at least 10 on the waiting list because, as you know, at our ages, we have a lot of ‘falls’.

Then there are the outings we can get to by public transport.

This means we have to ‘do a recce’ beforehand to check the timing, the ease of access and where we might have lunch.

Now you’d think cafes and quasi restaurants would go

out of their way to attract cashed up oldies on an outing.

They have no trouble setting aside seating and tables and in some cases providing a fixed price meal but as soon as you ask, “Can we have separate billing?” so many of them throw up their hands in horror and complain that it’s too difficult. Strange, because our Dine Out and Lunch groups find restaurants that manage quite well and have received return business as a result. So we trudged from one venue to another, desperate to find somewhere that wanted our custom.

We eventually found ourselves in Federation Square and as it was Saturday, the second hand book sellers were set up in the food hall

area. Herself trawled the tables looking for titles we probably threw out when we shifted a few years ago. In the meantime, I was ordering lunch and checking out the cafes as potential lunch sites.

“I’ve found these!” she cried.

I walked over to be somewhat amazed that what she had ‘discovered’ were six titles from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. It seems that our Enid has had somewhat of a resurrection. Our grandkids are devouring her books and we were both amazed an delighted to hear from our local bookseller that Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series are also constant sellers.

“The kids can borrow these or we can read them to them,” I was informed. “And at $50 for the six, they’re a bargain!”

I suggested we check out Young and Jackson’s as a possible lunch venue before we took the train home. It was as inflexible as the rest.

We could pay $32 a head for the “express lunch’ in the upstairs posher section, but again, we would need to collect the money “to make it easier for us”.

As we walked to the train station we felt a little subdued.

Public transport to the venue was a doddle but lunch! It seems we were going to have to either collect money before the outing or go through the nightmare, on the day, of collecting money, people not having the correct money, not having change to give people who didn’t have the right money or people making addition and subtraction errors leaving us with the shortfall to cover.

On the train we decided to pre-collect the lunch money.

Then Herself rummaged in her bag and then started reading, Five Go To Smuggler’s Top. She offered me one to read but the thought of a man of my years being seen reading Enid Blyton on a train was almost worse than being seen on a

coach, wearing a badge, going on ‘an outing’.

Christmas on the edge

Village Green

OUR first proper home after we married was a tiny, pock-marked, white ant-riddled cottage, perched on an impenetrable limestone ridge on the edge of the Mallee, known officially as the Head Teacher’s Residence.

Attached to this shaky old structure was the single schoolroom. It was here we enjoyed our first years of teaching, at State School No. 4041 Wheatlands.

As the end of that first year approached, we were reminded, on a fairly regular basis:

“We’d better start practicin’ for our school concert.” We were told the concert consisted mainly of carols and “some other stuff”.

A local young pianist of some talent provided the music. She had taken it upon herself to teach the children some beautiful Australian Christmas carols. We followed this up with some bush ballads.

We decided to extend the Australian content.

We had toyed with the idea of performing a little play.

We searched the shelves of the educational bookseller in Bendigo but found nothing suitable: all too ‘English’ or too ‘soppy’ for these down-to-earth Mallee kids.

I had been reading The Magic Pudding to the whole school – all eight of them. (You try holding the interest of kids from Prep to Grade 6 with the one book.) The book was highly successful – perhaps we could do a dramatisation of The Pudding?

Being a published author by this time and recognising my moral responsibility, I wrote to Norman Lindsay seeking his permission. I included a number of children’s drawings of his characters with the letter and received a charming response, granting permission.

We built the script on the blackboard with the kids all collaborating, cast the play from the steps and stairs that was the total enrolment of the school – Bunyip Bluegum, Sid Sawnoff and the rest of them – and began rehearsals.

All seemed to be going well, but by the time we were approaching performance I realised the Grade 5 girl cast as Bunyip Bluegum was not coping with Bunyip’s convoluted dialogue. At the last minute I made a drastic decision. I would have to play Bunyip Bluegum! So I donned the magical koala ears – crafted by a skilled parent from rabbit fur and wire – and gave it a run.

Problem: I didn’t know the lines! So we built a cardboard gum tree and hid the original Grade 5 girl inside as ‘prompt’.

The performance was a wild success. The combination of me with rabbit skin ears and the Grade 5 girl bellowing the lines ahead of me from inside the tree, with me following limply behind, brought the house (or rather the corrugated iron hall) down.

The following year we had to eclipse our previous effort. So we decided to write our own play – and we’d make it a musical!

Once again we constructed the story and dialogue on the blackboard, titling it Christmas at Boggy Creek.

This time we could craft the characters to the children who would be playing them.

(The Grade 4 girl who was the village postmistress who opened everyone’s mail, actually became a real postal clerk and remained so through her working life.)

We incorporated several bush ballads with lyrics tweaked to fit our story. The plot explained how it was discovered that Santa Claus was not visiting Boggy Creek that year – so something must be done. Skulduggery was discovered, but justice prevailed, the local bushranger turned from villain into hero and the ‘real’ Santa Claus appeared on stage with his bulging bag and proceeded to hand out presents – purchased by the Mothers’ Club – to every school child and preschooler in the hall.

We knew it would be a hard act to follow; but by the following February the teacher had moved on and the school had been closed due to diminishing enrolment. A neighbouring farmer bought the limestone ridge, and demolished school and residence. The site has long since reverted to wheat crops.

Footnote: A writer friend, who viewed the performance, suggested I send the script to the ABC. So I did what I thought was a creditable radio version and posted it off. It came back in due course, suggesting the work was mainly visual. Could I rewrite it for TV? This 40-minute version went to air the following Christmas with a fine professional cast, marking the beginning of my future new career.

Better ‘very’ late than never

LATE again! It’s always been a bit of a running theme at our place, despite my best efforts.

When our kids started high school they discovered that there was a Late Book in the Head’s antechamber. All entries had to be signed off by an appropriate adult. Their school was located far from here, and excuses that were standard fare in Warrandyte were decidedly novel in suburbia.

My eye ran down the page of preceding entries.

“Dentist … headache … optometrist … dentist …”

We soon changed that.

“A tree fell across our drive, and we had to wait for somebody to come with a chainsaw,” was a reason for missing the school bus on more than one occasion. I suppose I could’ve phoned somebody to ferry the kids to the bus stop but we were invariably cutting it fine and of course we didn’t find the fallen tree until we were leaving. No, we were just late. Sometimes very late.

“I slept in because I was out all night on a platypus survey.” An excuse to be used only sparingly, admittedly, but one of undeniable originality.

“I slept in because Mum’s car was being repaired and we had to get the bus home.”

That took some explaining. In those days there was no bus along Research Road after 7 p.m. so after a late finish at school we ended up having to walk several kilometres from the bridge. I seem to recall a black moonless night, too dark to see roadside puddles.

By the time we’d trudged up the last hill it was very late and we were wet through with squelching shoes. I did consider hiring a car, but doing without seemed so much more adventurous. And it was educational. I can vouch for that.

“One of our budgies started attacking the other budgies. We had to get another aviary so we could separate them. It took ages to catch her, and there was blood and feathers everywhere. I had to go and put a clean shirt on.” I remember some amusement at work as well when I phoned in late with that story.

“We got snowed in and missed our flight home.” Entirely true, Your Honour. On the last morning of a long weekend getaway, we awoke to find our car covered by a foot of snow and the only road out impassable. It took hours for the snowplough to get through. I didn’t realise that nobody at work had believed me until I took my photo album along a couple of weeks later. “Oh, you really DID get snowed in!” they exclaimed, looking amazed. I was a bit miffed by that. We seem to have excuses enough through natural causes – I can’t recall ever having to invent one.

“We had to find the baby Tawny Frogmouth and put it in a safe place.” It had fallen out of its nest. The parents fed it and looked after it at night, but we couldn’t leave it flapping helplessly on the ground during the day or the neighbour’s cats would have made short work of it. As it got stronger over succeeding weeks, the little beggar got harder and harder to find.

“We were in Queensland competing in Nationals and the beaches got shut down for two days because of sharks.

After that everything was running behind schedule …”

Well that was all over the TV news, with spectacular aerial footage of packs of sharks hunting a thick black cloud of sardine-like tiddlers along the shoreline. Nobody could argue with that.

But the excuse that I’ve had to use most frequently over recent years – an excuse that everybody understands, even those unfortunate enough to be buried in the wilds of suburbia – has just struck again.

“My computer won’t work – Windows keeps crashing! Damn!’

It’s obviously time to go right to the top for help.

“Dear Santa …”

Music to Isaac’s ears … and the Warrandyte community’s, too

JUST as Warrandytians gear up for another festive season, the McMullen family has something extra to cheer about this Christmas.

For this one will be the 10th Christmas that 12-year-old Isaac McMullen can hear the sound of tearing wrapping paper, can sing along to Christmas carols and listen to his family chatter over the dinner table.

Isaac is profoundly deaf and without his hearing aid and cochlear implant can only hear sounds as loud as a chainsaw or an aeroplane taking off.

“Isaac was first diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2002, so it went from being the worst Christmas ever, completely ruined, to just the happiest time when he was implanted, started speaking and could hear Christmas songs two years later,” his mother Mel told the Diary.

Mel first suspected Isaac was deaf after he slept peacefully through the loud noise of an industrial vacuum cleaner as a baby.

A worker at an early childhood centre told her she was just being paranoid, but after months of closely monitoring her son’s reactions as she intentionally dropped pots and pans around the house, she took Isaac in for an audiogram.

The McMullens at home

The McMullens at home

“After he was diagnosed, they told me Isaac could do oral deaf education, which would allow him to still develop his speech and language, or signing. However, if we wanted him to do oral our time was running out because he’d have to know all sounds before he turned two years
old,” Mel said.

His parents, determined for Isaac to have the same opportunities as every other child, had to fight long and hard to secure funding for his expensive implant, which costs thousands of dollars.

“We went through MRI and CAT scans to make sure he was the right candidate for it and they said no to start with. We had to appeal the decision.”

Mel successfully appealed the decision with the help of Professor Graeme Clark, the man responsible for the pioneering research and development of the bionic ear.

His work has brought hearing to more than 200,000 people across the world.

Mel’s great aunt, Gwen, who coincidentally had taught deaf children her entire life, also encouraged her to not give up.

Gwen lived in Warrandyte and was passionate about educating deaf children and she made Mel promise that she would keep fighting for Isaac’s implant.

“After seeing Isaac’s audiogram she burst into tears and she told me ‘get him implanted, you get this child to speak, do it for me’,” Mel said.

“She was 97 when she passed away, about eight months after Isaac was implanted. She glowed when we took him over and she got to hear him speak. She died a happy woman.”

Isaac now hears normally with his implant and hearing aid, which even has a waterproof cover, allowing him to go swimming with his three brothers.

His family says moving to Warrandyte has been one of the best things for Isaac because he gets to listen to the sounds of cockatoos, king parrots and rainbow lorikeets around their house every day.

Isaac is also doing extremely well in school at Ringwood North Primary, where his favourite subject is art.

A keen listener of music, he also plays the violin and the piano.

While it’s difficult for people with implants to perfectly mimic music, Isaac’s hearing has developed so well that he’s now starting to correct the sound as he plays sharps and flats on the violin.

“I’m really grateful for the implant because life without it would be sad, like black and white, no colour,” Isaac told the Diary.

As the first baby to receive a cochlear implant at the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital, Isaac has been credited with helping change some of the perceptions surrounding hearing impairment and deafness.

Earlier this year he travelled to Canberra where he gave a speech in front of the nation’s politicians about how his cochlear implant had transformed his life.

And after the New Year, Isaac will begin high school at Donvale Christian College.

“He will be one of the first profoundly deaf kids to go to a mainstream primary and secondary school, as far as we’re aware,” Mel said.

“It’s a pretty big thing and we’re hoping the government will have a look at and see that the path we chose for Isaac works so they can then give other hearing impaired kids the same opportunities.”

H2Pro crew take out the big one

WARRANDYTE has again trumped all other suburbs in Manningham after H2Pro Plumbing was named Business of the Year at the Manningham Business Excellence Awards last month.

The victory follows hot on the heels of Quinton’s IGA claiming the title last year.

Twenty-five businesses were nominated for this year’s Manningham Excellence Awards, with categories including hospitality, innovation, retail and professional services.

The awards recognise and celebrate businesses that have introduced a new process or improved an idea, method, technology, process or application resulting in improved business profitability and or social benefit.

H2Pro’s Tristan Wise, who does a lot of the behind the scenes work for the business, says winning was a “momentous” achievement.

“We didn’t think that we would actually win our category of Professional Services let alone Business of the Year. We feel extremely humble,” she said.

“The process of entering the awards not only highlighted a lot of areas that we want to improve on but how far we have come since we started.”

H2Pro started 14 years ago and is known for giving back to the community.

This year it has donated to various local fundraisers, organised educational presentations about bathroom trends and kitchen design, and has supported Melbourne-based charity Who Gives A Crap.

As part of the Who Gives A Crap campaign, H2Pro’s plumbers leave a free specially marked toilet roll at each client’s house, along with information about the lack of sanitation and clean water in developing countries, with the hope that

people will also choose to support the cause.

Tristan says she’s proud of how far the business has come since it was first established in 2000 and hopes H2Pro’s win inspires other small businesses around Warrandyte to enter next year’s awards.

“At H2Pro we are a merry band of three, Tony, director/plumber, John another star plumber, and myself behind the scenes,” she said.

“For most of the year, we are on call 24/7 and it’s hard work. We don’t have office space and we work from a small desk in our lounge room. So to be recognised and acknowledged for all of this really is thrilling and very rewarding.”

Reduce your electricity costs

NOTICED the hike in electricity bills and the confusing world of solar? The Diary’s DAVID HOGG offers a comprehensive analysis of the current state of play and proves there are ways you can save and reduce your bills.

A COUPLE of years ago, WarrandyteCAN conducted a major initiative to attempt to get an electricity retailer to provide competitive pricing for Warrandyte residents.

Alas, the task was too difficult and has become even more so since then, with new retailers springing up and a price war that is centred around how big a discount they’ll give you rather than on the bottom-line price you’ll pay.

The discount means nothing unless you know the price. The newer retailers tend to come in with low prices to corner the market, then raise them considerably during or after the first year.

At that same time they introduce a new product that is still competitive, but leaving their existing customers stuck on the old and now-expensive product. So, last year’s bargain is not necessarily this year’s continuing good price.

As with car and house insurance, it really pays to shop around every year. Few can be bothered to do this.

Perhaps the biggest killer in your electricity bill is the so-called service or supply charge which can vary between retailers from $1 to $1.50 per day, which means you can be paying over $500 a year before you’ve consumed any electricity at all. The other charges relate to the electricity you actually use.

Most Warrandyte residents will by now have smart meters. These are now read online and are available for you to read online through the portal at myhomeenergy.com.au.

The best tariff, which hopefully most readers are on, is the “Time of Use” also known as “Peak/Off-Peak” tariff.

This provides for peak time electricity at anywhere between 25 and 45 cents per kilowatt hour, and offpeak rates from 12 to 20 cents. The peak tariff applies between 7am and 11pm AEST weekdays only, so your weekend electricity is at a much cheaper rate. Note, however, that your meter does not know Daylight Saving, so currently the cheap rate runs from midnight to 8am.

Nearly all retailers offer a discount, but again beware: with some retailers the discount applies only to the consumption but not to the service charge, whereas with others it applies to the whole bill. Most retailers give the discount off the bill in question, but a few treat it as a discount for prompt payment and apply it to the next bill. With the latter, you’ll find it difficult to get the last discount back if you change retailers. I have developed a spreadsheet with the latest tariffs, discounts and billing methods for each supplier and it is interesting to note the differences in prices.

The government website energymadeeasy.gov.au suggests that the average yearly consumption of electricity by a family of four people in postcode 3113 is 6617kWh per year. Using this, and making various assumptions… that you have no solar panels, you are on the peak/ off-peak tariff, no concession, have overnight electric hot water heating, maximum discounts and consume 2558 kWh per year peak, and 4059 kWh off-peak, then as at December 2014 your annual total electricity bill would be with each retailer as
indicated in the table below left.

Looking at this table, you may consider changing retailers; but there are pitfalls. Even though our meters are no longer “read” by a meter reader, Ausnet Services (previously SP-Ausnet) still use a notional “date of next meter reading” at three-monthly intervals, and your change of retailer does not take effect until the next quarterly date.

Add to this a couple of weeks for paperwork to progress through the system, and a further 10-day cooling-off period, and it can be anything from one to four months before you will actually change. By then, the prices may have changed again.

This is a volatile market. It may also be worth researching whether your prospective new supplier’s customer service desk speaks a language you understand.

Some retailers may lock you into a two or three year contract. This is not a problem as the fees for breaking the contract are small, usually in the range of $20 to $40.

Tips for non-solar users:

If your retailer is one of those in the bottom half of the table, or if your bill is considerably higher than in the table, ring them and tell them you’re considering changing supplier. Ask if you’re on their best plan and suggest that they offer you a better deal. They may well do this.

Your retailer may give you a slightly bigger discount if you elect to pay automatically by credit card or direct debit, or if you elect to receive your bills by email, or if you are an RACV member.

If you are a concession card holder, tell your retailer and you’ll get a useful government rebate.

If your washing machine, clothes dryer or dishwasher has a “delayed start” function, consider running it after midnight or before 7am during the week.

If you have a pool pump, put it on a timer and operate it at night for filtering.

Do not be persuaded to change to a “Flexible Pricing” tariff in which you have three rates – Peak, Shoulder and Off-peak – with some seasonal variations and differences at the weekend, unless you have really researched your usage. I have yet found an instance where “Flexible Pricing” would be cheaper than “Peak/Off- Peak” in a residential situation.

Think very carefully before you consider putting in solar panels; you’ve missed the boat. They’re paying you 6.2 cents for the electricity you sell them and charging you 18c at night and 30c or more during the day to buy it. It will cost you $6000 to $10,000 for a 4kW system installed, and you’ll be saving some $400 to $600 per year in bills at current rates with no guarantee of future pricing, making a 10 to 18-year payback period.

For concession card holders, there are two Victorian government concessions that apply. These have both been quietly watered down in the past 18 months. The “Annual Electricity Concession” now gives you 17.5% discount off the consumption and service components of your bill after discounts have been applied and any solar credits deducted, and excluding the first $171.60 (the Carbon Price Threshold) of billing in any year. The “Service to Property Concession” is only good for grey nomads or those who are away from their property for most of a billing period, and pegs the service charge for that bill to be no more than the consumption charge.

Now we’ll look at the rates for those with solar panels, and here is a right old muddle. Those people with foresight who installed their panels before 2012 receive the premium feed-in tariff (PFIT) for electricity they export to the grid at the rate of 60c per kWh guaranteed until November 1, 2024. Those who installed panels in 2012 receive the transitional feed-in tariff (TFIT) at 25c per kWh until the end of 2016.

Those who installed after 2012 would have benefitted from the falling price of purchase and installation, but get bugger all for their electricity export, currently 8c per kWh (FIT) dropping to 6.2c from January 1 next year.

Some retailers claim that they “top up” the government rates by an extra 6 to 10 cents, but often this is a smokescreen. The catch used to be that you get the promised discount off the whole bill, “not just the consumption like other retailers but with us, madam, it’s off the whole bill so it includes the service charge as well”.

Yes, but what he fails to tell you is that the “whole bill” also includes your solar credit which they’ll deduct before they apply the discount, so you’re not getting the implied benefits at all. Recently they’ve changed tack. The latest scam is that the discount plan offered by some retailers (three at the current count) in advertisements does not apply to customers with solar power; they get a very reduced discount on their consumption or none at all.

I have run the spreadsheet again for those with solar export. Again it makes various assumptions – that you own a 4kW solar system, it generates 5300kWh per year of which 1800 is used in the home and 3500 exported to the grid, you purchase 1817 kWh peak and 3000 off-peak from your retailer, and other assumptions as before. Then at January 2015 your annual total electricity bill would be with each retailer in the table below right.

Tips for solar users:

Most of the tips for non-solar users above apply.

If you are on the PFIT or TFIT, try to run as much as possible at night or weekends. It’s better to export during the day and get paid 60c or 25c and then buy it back at night at 18c. The reverse will apply when your tariff expires at the end of 2024 or 2016 respectively; then you’ll be better using your solar to power the house during the day If it’s not in the fine print, check whether they are giving you the promised discount on everything you buy from them, or whether they are deducting your export refund first.

Check that the discount you expected actually applies if you have solar.

Finally, remember that this is a rapidly changing market, and that prices and tips quoted here can be out of date very soon. It pays to compare prices annually.

Merry Christmas


Anderson’s Creek Primary School Grade Sixers Jordan, Tayah, Alicia C, Roxy and Alicia H get into the Christmas spirit at the school’s annual Christmas carols night. The Warrandyte Diary wishes all our readers a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year! The Diary returns in February.