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Warrandyte’s word wizards

THE Grand Read may not have been going for as long, but this literary event has long been the cherry on top of the fabulous cake that is the Warrandyte Festival.

Grand Read regular Jock Macneish gave a warm introduction, setting the tone for an intimate evening in the packed-out function room of the Grand Hotel.

This year’s featured writer was Arnold Zable.

He is an advocate for human rights and a lot of his work focuses on the experience of immigrants.

He has many literary accolades to his name, including: People’s Choice Award: Tasmanian Pacific Fiction Prize for his novel Cafe Scheherazade (2003), nomination for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Sea of Many Returns (2010), and Life membership to Writers Victoria (2015).

Arnold Zable writes about refugees and the plight of the human condition, he describes his writing as a “beacon of hope for those displaced, disconnected, and disorientated”.

He described his writing as “painting with words” and before every passage read he would ask the audience of close to 100 if we could “see it”.

Zable chose to read from his latest book The Fighter: A True Story.

He writes about the life of Henry Nissen, an immigrant from Germany who settled in the working class suburbs of Melbourne and represented Australia as a flyweight boxer in the 1960s and 1970s.

Zable’s words recreate the harsh world that Nissen grew up in, but he spun his prose poetically and the audience hung on every word.

The Fighter: A True Story has been shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction.

The Grand Read frequently favours poetry over prose, as the shorter form fits well with the evening’s format.

Following Arnold Zable’s poetically woven words were a series of enjoyable poems from a variety of artists.

John Jenkins read extracts from his poem The Wine Harvest, a poem that reflects on a time, in 1999, when he worked as a labourer on the wineries of the Yarra Valley.

His poem displayed some wonderful allegoric qualities as he recounted the hard life of a labourer through wine tasting terminology.

Karen Throssell, who has published a number of poetry books including Chain of Hearts, and The Old Kings and Other Poems, and who currently teaches Creative Writing classes in Diamond Creek, took the evening along a path of politics with a whimsical poem exploring her observations of Donald Trump’s youngest child during Trump’s victory party following the 2016 US presidential election.

Andrew Kennon reflected on his experiences in the High Country.

Sandy Jeffs, originally from Ballarat, is a poet who writes about her experiences living with schizophrenia.

She is an advocate for living with mental illness and author of the best-selling book Poems from the Madhouse.

For the Grand Read, Jeffs read a couple of poems: Cold Chemical Comfort illustrated the numbing effects of modern day drugs, while her poem about celebrity and the fascination with it that popular culture demands, was sobering but refreshingly chemical.

Kevin Bonnett, author of De-icing the wings, read from his poem Lake Louise as well as a series of responses to photographs.

Laurie Webb is a bush poet who spends a lot of time working with local communities in Africa.

He read from his latest poem Gratitude Journal which is based on his experience with PTSD after being involved in a car crash in the Congo.

The evening also featured a reading from Warrandyte’s own Jock Macneish, whom recounted a trip he made some years ago to Scotland, where he went on a journey to find George Orwell’s lost motorcycle.

You can read his story in the travel section of this month’s Diary.

The evening was a wonderful finish to the festival and the poetry and prose on show was stimulating and inspiring.

If you have never been to the Grand Read before, then make sure you come along next year, I certainly cannot wait to see who they will have on show in 2018.

Spot the platypus

Autumn is a great time to set up a blanket by the Yarra at dawn or dusk with a thermos of tea and gaze out at the water and now we have found the best excuse ever to do just that — Melbourne Water is calling on citizen scientists to help spot the elusive platypus.

With the sustained drought over the first ten years of this century, platypus were struggling, however researchers are hopeful that the monotreme’s population is on the rise again.

Jean-Michel Benier from Melbourne Water told the Diary that the Yarra tends to be a refuge to platypus in times of environmental stress — such as drought, flood or bushfire.

“When conditions are good we see more platypus in tributaries, such as the Diamond Creek, Mullum Mullum, and even one recently sighted in Darebin Creek for the first time in 10 years,” he said.

Research partner and wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths from Cesar Australia said that the Yarra is immensely important for platypus populations.

“Mullum Mullum creek is actually one of the creeks that didn’t show a decline during the drought, even though it is quite a small creek because it is still connected to the Yarra and there is a relatively healthy population in the Yarra — we think the animals keep coming in and out.

“That deeper water of the Yarra provided a bit of a buffer against the drought, so when a lot of these creeks dried up the animals moved into the Yarra and as the water comes back, they move back into those little creeks — so you know the Yarra river is incredibly important for these animals”, said Mr Griggiths.

The research team are pleased that platypus numbers — since the end of the drought — are beginning to increase due to increased water availability and the continuing work of cleaning up the environment.

“There is more water around which means better conditions generally and there has also been a number of habitat improvement works happening, Melbourne Water, and other community groups, do things like weed removal and revegetation, remove litter out of creeks, stabilise banks — create better habitat for them to live in,” said Mr Griffiths.

Melbourne Water have partnered with Cesar to study the health of platypus populations and they need your help.

They have released a website and a smartphone app to collect data on wild populations in the Yarra River and across the rest of the country.

“We would love for people to contribute their observations of platypus to our PlatypusSPOT program,” said Mr Bernier.

The PlatypusSPOT website and smartphone app allows users to upload photos and descriptions of platypus seen in the wild.

“These observations help us to monitor the location and abundance of platypus across Melbourne,” he said.

 How to spot a platypus.

Josh Griffiths says spotting platypus in the river can be very difficult.

“Even for myself, who has seen hundreds of them, they can be difficult to see, because they live in the water and they have a very low profile in the water — they don’t stick up like a duck,” he said.

Platypus are most often active at night, so platypus are best spotted at dawn and dusk.

“Look out for some ripples in the water to suggest there is something there, then there is the fur and the low profile to distinguish it from a duck — the thing they get confused with quite a bit is our native water rat (rakali) and they can look very similar in the water — so look for the distinctive bill of the platypus or the nice rounded tail, Mr Griffith said.

Jean-Michel Benier suggests the main ingredients for spotting platypus: “Patience and luck!”.

“It is best to sit in one place for about 20 minutes and observe any bubbles and ripples on the surface of the water — Platypus will generally dive for around 30 seconds then float at the surface to consume their food for around 10 seconds,” he said.

The PlatypusSPOT app contains more tips and photographs that can also help distinguish between a platypus and rakali.

 How to help the platypus

“Platypus need deep water, so the less water that we use the more that can go back into the environment, even though the drought is finished it is really important that people are still really water conscious,” said Mr Griffiths

At an individual level there are several ways to help the platypus.

“Platypus often get tangled in litter, fishing lines, or anything that forms an enclosed loop like a rubber band.

“Keep an eye on dogs around the waterway — at this time of the year when there are juvenile platypus starting to come out of the burrows, they are a bit naïve, they get taken by dogs and foxes,” he said.

Of major concern are opera house nets, which are used to catch yabbies and crayfish:

“Unfortunately they are illegal in public waters but they are still used very regularly, I think a lot of people aren’t aware that they pose a risk to platypus and water rats and to turtles that go in those nets and drown very quickly.

“The nets get thrown into the water and they are fully submerged and a platypus can only hold its breath for a couple of minutes, they go in there chasing the yabbies that go in there, so [the traps] basically become a baited trap for platypus – they are still very widely available and I think a lot of people just aren’t aware of the dangers they pose,” he said.

 Using technology to track platypus.

As well as using traditional methods, or citizen science projects like PlatypusSPOT, researchers are using increasingly hi-tech, non-invasive, methods to monitor platypus populations.

“We are now also using a new technique called environmental DNA (eDNA), which allows us to take a sample of water from a location and search for DNA markers that are unique to platypus — using this method, we can tell if platypus have been in the water at a given location,” said Mr Benier.

“We can go out and take a water sample and actually look for genetic traces in the water and identify platypus as well as other species in the water – it’s a lot more efficient than going out doing trapping all night and they are quite sensitive and cost effective, so that is providing another avenue where we can monitor the populations”, added Mr Griffiths.

The PlatypusSpot App is available from the Apples Store or Google Play

Road closures for Festival Parade

Warrandyte Police have issued a reminder about road closures during Saturday morning’s Festival Parade down Yarra Street.

Sergeant Stewart Henderson advised residents and visitors that Yarra Street will be closed between Kangaroo Ground Road and Harris Gully Road for the duration of the parade (1100-1200) however police traffic blocks will be in place 10 minutes prior to this.

“All side streets off Yarra Street will be barricaded for the duration of the parade and manned by emergency management personnel to prevent vehicles turning into Yarra Street and there will be reduced access across the bridge for about 10 – 15 mins as the floats and other vehicles exit Tills Road and head West along Yarra Street,” he said.

All Southbound traffic crossing the bridge during the parade will be turned East towards Ringwood, with West bound traffic along Ringwood-Warrandyte Road diverted along Falconer Street and only those vehicles going to Wonga Park and Croydon Road will be able to get through.

Police will be setting up a traffic management point at Jumping Creek Road and Ringwood Warrandyte Road where Wonga Park bound traffic can turn right but no traffic will be allowed to continue on towards Warrandyte.

“We recommend traffic travelling from Ringwood towards Warrandyte are encouraged to turn left at Falconer Road to avoid being turned around at Jumping Creek Road,” Sgt Henderson said.

For those parents dropping children off for the parade he suggested: “arrive early as there will be limited parking along Yarra Street and once the Roadblocks are in place no vehicles will be allowed through.”

Additionally, Stiggant Street will be closed to traffic for the entire weekend with the exception of residents, emergency services, St Stephen’s church attendees, 2017 Parking Permit holders and vehicles with an accessibility parking permit, while Police Street will be closed on Sunday morning during the Billy Cart Derby.

Telstra support fails Warrandyte

  • Crisis with phone infrastructure affects Warrandyte businesses and homes.
  • Lines in a plastic bag.
  • Pit covers broken.
  • Telstra support a nightmare.
  • Business without phones for over a week.

 On the weekend of February 11, Troy Hagan Managing Director of Intermax, a company operating out of Husseys Lane, noticed a Telstra contractor re-terminating the cables running down that street.

On the Monday morning, he noticed that the work appeared to be only partially completed and the connections were now wrapped up in a plastic bag and secured by tape.

Arriving at work, Mr Hogan found that the first of his incoming phone lines was dead.

Callers to the business received a ring tone, but the line was not connected.

As this was the first line of a rotary group and was not “busy”, the incoming calls did not rotate onto the other lines — meaning effectively the company was unable to receive any calls.

This was, of course, immediately reported to Telstra Business Faults and a reference number provided by them.

Mr Hogan has provided the Diary with a copy of a long log detailing many calls they made over the course of that week trying to get the issue resolved.

“This is so frustrating,” he said, “we pay Telstra tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

He explained that they even persuaded him to enter into an extra contract whereby Telstra would support their NEC PABX system.

“This seems to have backfired because Telstra are now blaming the fault on our NEC system, whereas it is blindingly obvious to us that the fault has occurred because of shoddy line work in the street,” he said.

The final straw for Mr Hogan was when he received a call from Telstra’s Dandenong Business Centre who said they had tested the line.

“They confirmed that there was a fault in that the phone line was no longer attached to the PABX but they could not send out a technician to repair same until we had completed a consent form to agree to pay if no fault was found — and we needed to provide credit card details in advance,” he said.

By the end of the week Telstra had finally put a diversion on the number to a mobile phone — so at least the company could receive a single incoming call at a time — even though no-one had appeared to rectify the fault.

The following week a technician did finally arrive and said he had been asked to call after enquiries by the Warrandyte Diary.

He discovered that the connection was in fact broken inside the plastic bag, so he re-made the connection and installed a proper junction box.

 Lack of support

Although the Warrandyte telephone exchange is well equipped and up-to-date it is now very clear that the infrastructure of cables in the street is showing its age and is being very poorly maintained, if at all.

For instance, the Diary has spoken to the postman covering Research-Warrandyte Road who has an ongoing battle trying to get Telstra to fix a broken pit cover opposite Bradleys Lane, which presents a safety hazard for his motorbike and for pedestrians.

The issue is compounded because the support system for faults is simply not working.

Many readers tell us of their frustration of trying to get through to Telstra’s call centre in the Philippines to log a fault — and when this is finally achieved often nothing happens.

No-one from Telstra phones back and no-one comes to correct the fault, and so the whole process has to be started again.

Customers who have left Telstra and gone to another service provider for their landline phone or internet are at an even greater disadvantage, because it is Telstra alone who maintain the infrastructure so the support case has to be forwarded on to them by the other company.

In the April 2014 Diary, after many complaints of this type, we advised that Telstra had set up a dedicated team to answer questions regarding issues in the Warrandyte area.

To test how this arrangement was working we called the number.

The person who answered told us that all the contact details had changed, and that someone would get back to us with the correct details.

This has not happened.

So the Diary tried the email address previously given for this local support, related the ongoing saga at Intermax, and asked what dedicated local support is available for Warrandyte residents and business (the following day, the technician turned up at Intermax).

James Kelly, State Media Manager Victoria & Tasmania at Telstra Corporate Affairs advised the 1800 number and email address previously given to locals was to address a set of very specific problems relating to localised network issues and ADSL availability performance some customers may have been experiencing.

“Since that time Telstra has worked to the issues and concerns raised and there are about 581 ADSL2+ ports at the local exchange available for customers to connect to,” he said.

Mr Kelly suggested locals can get in touch with Telstra in several ways, including online through telstra.com, Telstra’s Facebook page, and on Twitter via the @Telstra handle, or by calling the Telstra contact centre on 132 200.

The closest retail stores are at The Pines in Donvale, or Eastland in Ringwood.

For issues relating to fixed lines services in normal operating circumstances, Telstra has in place customer service guarantees for restoration of service; there are various categories and conditions that apply to this but in most cases the response commitments are measured in days rather than hours.

 

Innings over for old scoreboard

Around 50 years of Warrandyte’s sporting history is in jeopardy as the Warrandyte Sports Club upgrades its scoreboard.

The old scoreboard, which was reportedly built in the 1960s, was condemned several years ago and the Warrandyte Sports Group has received a $20,000 grant from Bendigo Bank to install a new LED scoreboard to replace it, which is currently under construction.

President of the Warrandyte Historical Society, Margaret Kelly, is concerned the community has not been consulted on the fate of the old structure.

“It is the only item in the precinct that gives a sense of history, the only visible link with the past, and these facilities are disappearing across Australia,” she said.

Treasurer of the Warrandyte Sporting Group John Chapman says the sports club does not have a say in retaining the old scoreboard, as the structure is owned by the Council.

The Historical Society has written to Manningham Council, querying whether the structure can be refurbished and moved to the small oval, but they are yet to receive a response.

News of the imminent demolition of the scoreboard has caused an outcry on social media:

“Hopefully they can relocate it to the small oval.

“Too many things in Warrandyte just get torn down,” said Robin Curry on Facebook.

The new scoreboard is due to be completed in time for the beginning of the football season and the old scoreboard will be demolished shortly after unless a plan can be made for its refur- bishment and relocation.