News

Push for more police

IN response to the recent increase in anti-social behaviour and crime in the area, our local member Ryan Smith has launched an initiative in an effort to increase police numbers and operational hours for the Warrandyte police station.

A petition for the proposed change has been dispersed across multiple local businesses to gauge public perspective on the matter.

“I have had a number of constituents contact my office with concerns about the operating hours of Warrandyte police station and the low numbers of police stationed there,” Mr Smith said. “Warrandyte police station is not a 24-hour station and, at its full complement, has only seven police officers. Of course they are not all there at the same time but are spread out over the week’s shifts.”

Through launching the petition, Mr Smith is able to see if the wider Warrandyte community also share the view that an increased police presence in Warrandyte would be beneficial. With more than 550 signatures in less than a week, it appears the answer is a resounding yes.

Mr Smith said the rising number of crimes in the area has contributed to the community’s concern and has essentially fuelled the initiative. Several homes and local businesses have been broken into in the past few months alone, including Ruby Tuesday, Warrandyte Café and Quinton’s IGA.

“With the increasing population and this perceived rise in anti-social behaviour, there really should be more police and more operating hours,” Mr Smith said.

Julie Quinton – owner of Quinton’s IGA and advocate of the petitions – is hopeful the petition achieves its goal. After her store’s recent break-in she is led to question the level of safety in our town.

“I don’t think anything’s completely safe anymore and that’s always a worry,” Julie said. “We’re not immune from [criminal activity] here in Warrandyte, but I think people have often thought that we are immune – but we’re not.”

Julie said her No.1 priority as a storeowner is the protection of her staff and any initiative to support that is worthwhile in her eyes.

Once a significant number of signatures are attained, Mr Smith intends to take it to parliament.

“The aim of the game is to raise it in parliament, make sure the minister knows that my community wants to see some action,” Mr Smith said.

“A petition in parliament needs to be seen as serious and there’s not a finite number required, but the more names and signatures there are then the more the government should understand that there is a real need.”

“The government hasn’t demonstrated a real interest in the Warrandyte community which is unfortunate. But these things are about making as much noise as possible and if you can keep raising it in parliament, it gets to the point where the government has to give you a reason why they’re not acting, and sometimes that’s the thing that’ll push things along,” he added.

Mr Smith understands it’s ultimately the chief commissioner of Victoria Police who determines where police resources go. However, making the minister aware of the issue can lead him to direct the chief commissioner to where he believes resources are needed.

“I anticipate that the minister’s formal answer will be the allocation of resources is up to police command. However, we know that the minister has directed Victoria Police to place additional police in Bellarine, a marginal Labor seat.”

While most locals have responded positively to the petition, others have questioned if those measures were necessary.

“At the end of the day, my job is to be the voice of my community and one of the reasons why the petition’s out there is for me to gauge if there is more support for this out there then just a few anecdotal comments that I’ve heard or the emails that I’ve got,” Mr Smith said. “So my answer to people who would ask if it’s really needed – well I’m going to have a lot of signatures that say we do and my job is to make sure that those people are heard.”

To support the initiative for increased police numbers and hours, sign the petition at Quinton’s IGA, the Warrandyte Community Bank or other participating businesses in the area.

Hope for our teens with mental illness

A MANNINGHAM Youth Services project is set to launch next month in a bid to offer guidance and hope for Warrandyte teenagers affected by mental illness.

The String of Hope aims to encourage young people talk to about mental illness and reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.

It’s a taboo topic, but with research figures showing one in four young people living with a mental illness, it can’t be ignored.

What started as a youth photography experiment, highlighting the prevalence of mental illness among young people, has blossomed into a multi-faceted project with school visits, a website and a festival in the works.

The String of Hope is being led by a group of dedicated youth volunteers. The group of 15 – from Warrandyte and surrounding areas – are determined to create a safe environment for teenagers to talk about mental health issues; in the schoolyard and online.

“The fact that String of Hope has been envisioned and led by young volunteers is this project’s biggest strength,” volunteer Lauren Lowe tells the Diary. “No one under- stands what young people are going through better than young people themselves.”

The String of Hope website will provide a platform for young people to share personal stories of mental illness and connect with others. The

site aims to arm teens with information about mental illness and direct them to the relevant support services in the area.

“Projects like the String of Hope are essential in an era where mental health is too often neglected and stigma- tised. This is especially true for younger generations, with poor mental health being one of the top ranking issues fac- ing Australian teens. We love the String of Hope because it empowers these young people to take control of their mental health and talk about their struggles and progress,” Lowe says.

The project has already launched in schools in the district with Warrandyte High School the first to experience the education sessions.

“Students participated in positive mental health activities, sports and music. They actively discussed and shared positive mental health strategies with the facilitators and each other. Lots of them seemed excited and engaged,” Manningham YMCA employee Kim Nguyen says.

The String of Hope team is putting their months of hard work on display at a festival next month during Mental Health Week. There’ll be activities, live music, food, a photography exhibition and more.

VIDEO: Sweet Valentine

SARAH Valentine is Warrandyte’s musical pride and joy. The 22-year-old wedding singer is a regular on Warrandyte’s main street and, in recent times, a regular on hundreds of thousands of TV screens in living rooms across the country.

Sarah’s just wrapped filming for Channel Nine’s The Voice, the hottest reality singing show on Australian television. As Sarah tells the Diary, there’s a big difference between busking at the local market and recording a TV performance watched by over a million people.

“My experience on The Voice was not what I expected it would be. I didn’t think that I’d get very far—but it just kept going and working in my favour,” Sarah said.

It’s been a wild ride for Sarah, who travelled between Sydney and Melbourne for months to film the fourth season of the show. Her blind audition has racked up tens of thousands of views and The Voice regularly tops the ratings, boasting over a million viewers every night. But it’s not all glitz and glamour, and Sarah assures the Diary that so much more goes on behind the scenes compared with what we see on our screens.

“The TV world is very different to anything I expected. The power of editing is second to none. It sur- prised me a lot,” she said.

“I’d done about seven auditions prior to even getting to audition in front of the coaches. One day, they took 10 hours to audition eight peo- ple. It’s crazy!”

Despite all the waiting, long hours, nerves and sitting around in hair and make-up, Sarah wouldn’t change a thing.

“It was very, very intense. But I loved every minute of it.”

The community of people working on the show ended up feeling like family for Sarah.

“Your backstage crew are the people that you latch onto. They’re the ones that show you the most support,” she told the Diary.

“I loved my stylist. She gave me the most amazing outfits—I remember coming out of the wardrobe each time and everyone else would say ‘Oh, Sarah’s got the best outfit again’. You literally feel like a rock star. It’s so awesome.”

So, what is it like working with the Madden Brothers? Are they as cool, calm and collected, as they seem on TV?

“They were so great. Their strength was setting the atmosphere and making it a relaxed environment. They treat you like friends. You’d never feel like there’s a status difference and they don’t act like celebrities—they talk to you like they would their pals.”

Sarah cites the support from her family and friends as one of the best parts of the experience and the support from her local Warrandyte community as “second to none.”

“I actually posted on the Facebook about my audition and everyone was commenting and wishing me luck.

“It was like ‘Team Sarah!’ and ‘Team Warrandyte!’ It was so cool.

“A week after I got booted from the show, I did a busking gig at the Warrandyte market. It was so great to interact with people who had followed my journey just because I was from Warrandyte, like I became their pride and joy. I loved that and I soaked it all up!”

What’s next for Sarah?

“I’m doing some gigs and the moment. I got a lot of work and traction from the show. I think next for me though is writing some songs and releasing an EP,” Sarah told the Diary.

She might not be on our TV screens any more, but one thing is for sure: you certainly haven’t heard the last of Sarah Valentine.

VIDEO: Rare block sells for $2.03 million

The Diary team heads to the auction of the rare vacant block on Keen Avenue. The 2.7 acres of untouched land is one of the few remaining allotments in Warrandyte which permits subdivision, selling for an impressive $2.03 million.

VIDEO: Jock Macneish’s life in cartoons

The Warrandyte Historical Society presents ‘A Cartoonist’s Insight into Living in Warrandyte,’ an inspiring and amusing presentation by Jock Macneish. The Diary captured the event and spoke to Jock and a few people of interest about his presentation.