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Triathletes Josh and Krystal Hockley of Mandalong to compete in Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 14video



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COMMITTED: Josh and Krystle Hockley, of Mandalong, departed for Hawaii on Saturday. They will compete on October 14. Picture: Ellie-Marie WattsTriathletes Josh and Krystal Hockley reckon participating at the Ironman World Championshipin Hawaii next week will be akin to competing in a sauna.

So the Mandalong couple went out last year and bought a sauna to add daily sweat sessions to their gruelling training regimes.

“The temperature can get up to 35 degrees in Hawaii, but it’s the humidity that gets you. It can get up to 90 per cent humidity,” Ms Hockley said.

“We have competed in similar conditions, but not quite that extreme.”

Throw in winds of around 60km/h and you begin to understand why, for 30 years, those who completethe 3.8-kilometre swim, the 180-kilometre bike ride, and the 42-kilometre run in Hawaii consider it to be theultimate test of body, mind and spirit.

“By using the sauna you can train your body. They call it heat adaptation. After our training sessions we jump in the sauna, and it helps,” Ms Hockley said.

2016 Ironman World Championship in HawaiiBuying a sauna specifically to prepare for the world championship event is another example of the husband-and-wife team’s commitment to the sport.

The Hockleys estimate that competing at Hawaii’s Kailua-Kona on October 14 will cost them $15,000 each. The entry fee alone is $1400.

“And if you include the cost of qualifying for the world championship, it’s probably closer to $20,000 or $25,000,” Ms Hockley said.

And it’s not as if the Hockleys can hope to recoup that expenditure with prizemoney: as amateur competitors in the 30- to 34-years age group, the best the pair can hope for is a trophy.

The elite professional competitors, by the way, will be chasing a share of the $180,000 prize pool.

Ms Hockley qualified for the world championship by finishing second in her age group in an event in Busselton, Western , in December.

Mr Hockley qualified when he achieved fourth place in his age group at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, in Cairns, in June.

BIG FIELD: More than 2000 athletes will compete in the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, on October 14. Picture: Donald Miralle

The couple started competing in triathlons just four years ago. At the time, Mr Hockley admitted he couldn’t swim 25 metres.

Now, the Hockleys trainfor 28 to 30 hours every week, and feel at home competing against the sport’s best.

The challenge is to find a balance between respecting the opportunity they’ve earned to compete in Hawaii, and not being over-awed by the occasion.

“The world championship race is physically no different to the qualifying races we competed in,” Ms Hockley said.

“The big thing is not letting the event swallow you up. It’s still the same distance. It’s still an ironman.

“We want to appreciate it, but still treat it like a normal race.”

The pair are at the peak of their powers, and are optimistic about their chances.

“We’ve both put in a lot of work, and we’re the fittest that we’ve ever been, so we’re both hoping for top 10 finishes. But it’s just so hard to predict,” Ms Hockley said.

Mr Hockley said the couple continued to be buoyed by the support they’d received from their community.

Businesses such as Breakaway Cycles, Central Podiatry, and Dawson Solicitors, all of Morisset, and Fit Life Health Club, in Cooranbong, had helped the pair to be the best they could be, he said.

“And even the clients that I have in my lawn mowing business, A Perfect Cut –Your Local Lawn Mowing Service, have been with us all the way. When I told some of my clients that we’d qualified for the world championships they were so happy for us that they had tears rolling down their faces,” Mr Hockley said.

Boo Seeka place world view into debut album



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LINE IN THE SAND: Boo Seeka chose to include almost all new material on their debut album to showcase their musical progression.EVER since Newcastle’sBen Gumbleton met his Boo Seeka collaborator Sam Croft in 2015 he’s been on a hectic journey travelling the world.

So it’s understandable that when the electro-indie duo finally caught their breath to release thedebut album Never Too Soon, that worldliness was on full display.

Instead of merely recording the album in a studio, Boo Seeka used various samples of vocal tracks, drum beats and guitar parts that were collected on iPhones across the globe.

They were recorded in planes, airports,Berlin cafes, Switzerland green rooms and even while sitting in a parked car in Portland, Oregon.

“No one else is going to pick that up, but in a way it’s given it a texture that you wouldn’t get sitting in a studio all day doing it,” Gumbleton said on a brief break back at his Dudley home.

“So we’re really proud of that because it got to a point where we were never going to be able to recreate that back in the studio.

“It’s amazing to hear people well known in the industry ask ‘wow, where did you record that?’ and it was in the back of an RV in Portland. It’s mind-blowing.”

Boo Seeka – Does This LastThe build towards Never Too Soon was typical of today’s streaming-dominated music industry. Boo Seeka released their first trackKingdom Leader in 2015 and another three singles –Deception Bay, Fool, Oh My –to create buzz and attract sold-out audiences before they’d even released any music physically.

The safe option would have been to include the hitson Never Too Soon, but only Oh My made the cut.

“We didn’t want to give our audience half a record they already had,” he said.

“We spoke about it and it was kind of a split decision, with people going ‘Kingdom Leader, Deception Bay and Fool should be on the record’ and another part was like ‘no, let’s show the audience and the critics that we’ve got more in the bag than an extra five songs’.”

Boo Seeka have certainly provedthat. Never Too Soon has continued to showcase the duo’s rapidly-developing songwriting partnership.Everything from the EDM-inspired Gold Sail to the soulful Humans.

Boo Seeka began their national tour on Friday and Gumbleton said they’re focused on creating an organic live sound.

“A lot of the rehearsals have been about finding those gaps in the songs where we can expand and have a bit of vibe to not be exactly how it is on the record,” he said.

“We don’t want people to come to a show and think we’re just pushing a button on the songs on the record and all I’m doing is singing along to them.”

Boo Seeka playthe Cambridge Hotel (October 21), Ballarat’s Karova Lounge (November 3 and 4), Launceston (November 11) and Canberra’s Academy (November 18).

Wests Group poised to offer Knights coach Nathan Brown a two-year extension.



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THE Wests Groupare poised to show faith in Knights coach Nathan Brown by offering him a two-season contract extension.

FAITH: Nathan Brown

The new deal, which would be likely to include performance-related clauses to safeguard Wests incase they were not satisfied with the progress of Brown’s team, would take him through until at least the end of the 2020 NRL season.

“The key for us is the head coach, getting him sorted out for the next period of time,” Wests chief executive Phil Gardner said.

“I think we’re keen to sign him on those performance conditions and get him extended for another two more seasons.

“Then we can offersome certainty for the players we’re trying to attract.

“It’s very hard to say to the players: ‘He’s only signed for one more year but we’d like you to sign for three or five.’

“That’s all got to go back to the [Wests] board and be approved, but in general terms, that’s the thinking.”

Brown arrived in Newcastle at the end of 2015 and is two seasons into a three-year deal.

When he took charge, the Knights were incumbent wooden spooners and they have since finished last in both 2016 and 2017, winning only six of 48 games in those two campaigns.

There havenonetheless been signs of improvement. Newcastle won five games this season, four more than last year, and improved their for-and-against statistics by 275 points.

A two-year extension would take Brown’stenure to five years –the same time frame former Knights coach Wayne Bennett predicted it would take to rebuild the club when he left at the end of 2014.

The Knights have already locked in Brown’s staff for 2018 and, for the first time, their under-16 and under-18 coaches will be full-time positions.

“Our coaching-and-development team is super important for the young guys coming through,” Gardner said.

“We’ve decided we want to have full-time coaches for the 16s, 18s and 20s and reserve grade, so we can provide our local juniors with the best possible pathway.

“We believe having high-level, professional coaches right through the club can make a difference.”

Gardner said Newcastle’s high-performance junior program would now be“the best resourced it has ever been by the time we start next year”.

Recently retired hooker Rory Kostjasyn, whose hopes of playing for Newcastle were cruelled by a career-ending throat injury he suffered in pre-seasontraining, will coach theunder-16s.

Former Newcastle halfback Scott Dureau will coach the under-18s, and both he and Kostjasyn will oversee the elite-development program from under-13s up.

Former Newcastle, Parramatta, Melbourne, Warriors and Brisbane utilityTodd Lowrie will again coach under-20s, and ex-Canberra hooker Simon Woolford is again in charge of NSW Cup.

Newcastle have appointed former Cronulla assistant coach James Shepherd to replace the departed Kurt Wrigley, who has returned to Sydney for family reasons.

Gardner was optimistic that Brown’s other assistant, Mick Potter, would stay with Newcastle despite speculation linking him with a vacant position at Canterbury.

“Mick’s contracted to us for next year,” Gardner said.

“If there was any reason he wanted that to change, we’d have to have some discussions with him about what he wants to do.”

Wests will assume full ownership of the Knights on November 1. They are currently partners in a transitional joint venture with the NRL.

Newcastle drivers ‘on a downer’ three months after NSW Government handed bus network to Keolis Downer



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Rail, Tram and Bus Union divisional secretary Chris Preston says there have been ongoing issues since Keolis Downer took over Newcastle’s buses. Picture: Nick BielbyThree months after private operator Keolis Downer took over Newcastle’s public buses, some drivers say they are still being underpaid.

But the company says its payroll issueshave been resolved.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union representatives met with the region’s state MPs on Monday to discuss a transition they called “far from smooth”.

“We are on a downer,” said one bus driver,who asked not to be named out of fear for his job.

Underpayments have been an issue since the first pay period after Keolis Downer took over the city’s buses from state government agencyTransport for NSW.

Some drivers have been underpaid as recently as the last pay period, the union says.

RTBU divisional secretary Chris Preston said the union had received about80 complaints about late pay.

He also said problems with staff rosters meant some drivers were working more than they should be.

For fatigue management, bus drivers are subject to strict rules about breaks between shifts.

Mr Preston said Transport Minister Andrew Constance should have ensured issues with pay and rosters would not become a problem before the government handed the reins to Keolis Downer on July 1.

“So far we’ve got workers who haven’t been paid right,” he said. “We’ve got fatigue in the rosters that the workers are driving and we’ve got stories of commuters and school children being left all across Newcastle.”

Mr Preston dismissed a suggestion that the issues could be teething problems.

“The size of the problems we’ve faced since the company [took over] is not acceptable,” he said.

Keolis Downer Hunter CEO Campbell Mason said the company hadimplemented a payroll system “that will ensure all Newcastle Transport staff are paid accurately, on time and in accordance with the conditions of their employment”.

He said a“small number” of payroll errors occurred as a result of migrating data from Transport for NSW to the Keolis Downer system, but those errors had been resolved.

Mr Mason said processes had been introduced to ensure drivers had the necessarytime off.

“No drivers have been required to work concurrent shifts without taking the required break,” he said.

Labor transport spokesperson Jodi McKay said Mr Constance needed to address the issues that had been brewing since the bus network was privatised.

When asked about the problemsand what the government did to make the transition smooth, Mr Constance said: “I expect Keolis Downer to pick up their game and make sure all staff are paid on time”.

Related content:

Keolis Downer handed the keys to Newcastle buses and ferriesKeolis Downer underpays drivers againKeolis Downer awarded contract to run Newcastle public transportNewcastle bus drivers underpaid after privatisation

Why Chinans haven’t been given a travel warning for the US



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It’s been a week since a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a concert in Las Vegas, raining bullets on them from a distant hotel room, killing 58, injuring some 500 or so. It’s a shocking event, something that has reverberated around the world.

In some ways, of course, it’s even more shocking that it was not unexpected. Mass shootings happen so often in the US that many go unreported here in . It’s only the big ones that make the news these days.

And this is big. You’d expect some sort of travel warning, naturally. If there’s a terrorist attack in Turkey, you’re warned. If there’s civil unrest in Myanmar, you’re told to be careful. The n government’s Smart Traveller website usually errs on the side of caution, scaring people when sometimes they don’t really need to be scared. So obviously there will be a warning about travel to the USA.

And yet, there isn’t. The official advice level on Smart Traveller, a week after the shooting, remains green. It’s “Exercise normal safety precautions”. That’s as safe as it gets. It’s like New Zealand.

The “latest advice” section mentions recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Nothing about a shooting. The summary of notable events in the US mostly focuses on hurricanes and travel restrictions that don’t affect n passport holders.

Tucked towards the bottom of that summary list, in between entries on regulation Homeland Security stuff, and something about Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, there’s one short paragraph: “The United States has more violent crime than , although it rarely involves tourists. Mass shootings continue to occur in public places. See ‘Safety and Security’.”

Cool. Wait, what? Mass shootings? In public places? Isn’t that kind of a big deal? Isn’t that something you’d want to emphasise a little higher up? Isn’t that the kind of thing that would be setting off alarm bells the size of Big Ben if it was happening in Egypt or Colombia or somewhere like that?

Of course it would. And that doesn’t mean that the US is any safer to the average tourist that those other countries. What it means is that Smart Traveller’s warnings don’t exist in a vacuum, they’re influenced by politics, by the countries we see as our allies, and the countries we see as our enemies. Warnings are not created equal.

So you need to look at those warnings, particularly for the US, and add in your own information, your own conclusions. Is the US really a “normal safety precautions” country? Are people safe to visit a place that has regular mass shootings in public places?

My opinion is yes, and no. Yes, you can visit the US as a tourist right now and there is a very high chance that absolutely nothing bad will happen to you. The only guns you’ll see will be emerging from singlets on Venice Beach. The only violence you’ll witness will be on an ice hockey rink.

The United States is a huge country full of overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming people, the type who will love you purely because you talk kind of like a Hemsworth, who will treat you as a friend, who will show you a good time and send you on your way with a smile. That’s the US I know, and it’s the US so many other visitors are also familiar with.

However, it’s also impossible to claim that the country is completely safe, that going there carries the same level of risk as going to New Zealand, or Fiji. While mass shootings of random people continue to occur in public places, you have to accept a slim degree of risk when you travel to the US, in the same way as you would in any other country that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through Smart Traveller, rates as “High degree of caution” or above.

I would never advise people not to travel to the US, in the same way I wouldn’t want people to be turned off going to Thailand, or Peru, or Iran, or any other country with a rating higher than green. These are extremely rewarding and welcoming destinations, and the actual threat levels on the ground often turn out to be extremely minimal.

But you have to have a look at that green threat level and wonder. What has to happen in the US for it to change?

Do you think Smart Traveller’s rating for the US is fair? Do you take government warnings into account when you travel? Are there other countries that have been unfairly categorised?

Email: [email protected]苏州夜网.au

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???See also: The ultimate guide to the world’s best coastal road trip

See also: America’s tipping rules just got worseLISTEN: Flight of Fancy – the Traveller苏州夜网.au podcast with Ben Groundwater

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New National Broadband Network team aims to tackle issues and provide help at a local level



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Assistance: The National Broadband Network is launching a project designed to educate and deal with NBN problems at a local level. A localised approach is being taken to problems and education around the National Broadband Network in the Hunter, NBNwill announcetoday.

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie will soon have access to NBN Local, a team tasked withaddressing concerns and educating Hunter residents about how to switch on to the federal government’s high-speed broadband network.

“By having a greater presence in Newcastle, we’ll be able to work more collaboratively with the community in order to understand the complexities of the build and local telecommunications needs,” NBN Local Newcastle team leader Amber Dornbusch said.

“With the rollout almost complete in Newcastle, it is more important than ever we continue to educate local communities on the status of the rollout, what they need to do to connect as well as how to resolve any issues.

“Although retail service providers should always be the first point of contact for any resident or business having issues with their broadband connection, the new NBN Local unit will be a dedicated team working with local stakeholders and community groups to help ensure local problems are identified early and addressed.”

The program is being rolled-out nationally, featuringstate-based teams which are then broken down into regional patches, with local managers able to access a large pool of resources for thecommunities they serve.

Like many parts of , the Hunter has a history of well-documented complaints from customers who have faced a range of issues with the arrival of the NBN. Some have been left without internet for months while transitioning to the network, others have been unsatisfied with slower-than-expected download speeds, while there have also been numerous reports of unreliable connections.

Ms Dornbusch will work alongside engineers and specialists in key regional hubs around . She said the NBN Local team’s focus was to “educate and empower”.

“We will spend time in communities to make sure they know what it is they need to do to make the switch and have all the information available to them so they can make the most of their connection,” she said.

“Each area has dedicated resources to make sure that they’re engaging with the community, to make sure that everyone has the information they need.

“There’s … the NBN Local managers who’ll work with the local community for education, and then we also have NBNnetwork engineers in the field that are constantly working on the network from a maintenance and operational perspective.”

Coal is not the answer to energy crisis, says Chief Scientist



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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 9: Federel Energy minister Josh Frydenberg speaks at the National Energy Summit on October 9 , 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 9: Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel speaks at the National Energy Summit at the Sofitel Wentworth on October 9 , 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media)

‘s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has vigorously defended his energy review, saying the crisis can be solved within three years and that going back to coal is not the answer.

However, the states and federal governments continue to fight over the right solution to a crisis that is fueling higher power prices and the risk of blackouts during the summer.

Dr Finkel was speaking at an energy summit attended by government and energy industry heads in Sydney on Monday.

‘s chief scientist Alan Finkel, who has made a series of recommendations, said adherence to his proposed strategy and policy mechanisms could defuse energy pricing and supply issues.

“Three years from now we expect a full recovery of the energy market,” Dr Finkel said, calling his review ‘Fifty Shades of Finkel’.

“Just going back to coal is not the solution.The revolution is under way, and cannot be stopped,” he said.

Dr Finkel’s views were backed by South n Premier Jay Weatherill, who has adopted renewable energy solutions to replace coal-fired power in the state.

“Like all countries, is making the transition away from fossil fuel energies,” Mr Weatherill said.

n Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman outlined the rapidly changing generation mix during the past decade, and the shrinking role of coal compared with other energy sources.

However, former federal resources minister, and chairman of the Queensland Resources Council, Ian Macfarlane highlighted the role High-Efficiency, Low Emission (HELE) coal plants, also known as clean coal, could play in the energy mix.

However, as states and the federal government refuse to collaborate, and develop a coherent policy on coal and renewable energy, the three-year timeline is being pushed back.

Even as Dr Finkel reiterated the importance of a Clean Energy Target as a key mechanism to solve the energy crisis, the future of a CET was put in doubt earlier when federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg hinted that it may not be implemented as the rapidly declining costs of renewables may undermine the potential for clean energy subsidies.

AGL chief executive Andy Vesey refuted Mr Frydenberg’s position on a clean energy target, but not on environmental or sustainability grounds. Instead, by implementing a CET it allows for greater certainty on integrating new power sources.

“You need a CET,” Mr Vesey said.

Mr Weatherill said states could go their own way if a federal plan was not implemented.

“The commonwealth should get out of the states’ way,” he said.

“There’s no barrier to the states simply taking them and implementing [the CET] themselves.

“If it is the end of the CET, then we should get cracking.”

However, NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said a federal CET was still the best way forward.

“A state-based CET would be the second best option,” Mr Harwin said.

“Our preference is for a sensible national plan.”

Battery storage was also touted as was one of the pillars in the nation’s future energy mix with Mr Fydenberg saying it would play a key role. This was supported by AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman, who said: “It used to be going off the grid was done by a few isolated people, or tree huggers, that’s not true anymore.”

“It’s the mums and dads; companies like Ikea, Google, and Amazon, they are talking about going green and sustainable as they see it as a bottom line advantage,” Ms Zibelman said.

Mr Weatherill also pointed to the business case of the state’s Tesla Powerall project, which is the largest single battery storage installation in the world.

Government agreements with Shell, Origin, and Santos last month to secure domestic gas supply also came under the microscope.

Mr Macfarlane said the agreement had done little to cut high gas prices.

“I don’t subscribe to the belief we will see lower gas prices in the next decade,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten reiterated his calls for the government to pull the trigger on the n Domestic Gas Security Mechanism, a tool which Mr Frydenberg described as like “the ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging above [the gas companies]” to be used “if we don’t get what we want”.

Vic Boyce’s ashes to be scattered from Tiger Moth over Newcastle



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Pilot’s ashes to be scattered at sea over Newcastle | PHOTOS Aviator: Vic Boyce (right) and friend Peter Gerakiteys with Cloud Buster, which crashed near Seal Rocks in 1957.

A young Vic Boyce in a De Havilland Dragon.

Vic Boyce (right) with a De Havilland Tiger Moth.

Tracy Boyce and her dad Vic Boyce.

A prestigious award that Vic Boyce received.

Vic Boyce.

Colin, Neville, Vic and Ron Boyce.

TweetFacebookLucky EscapeIn 1954, Vic and Lou Plumbstead were flying in a Ryan aircraftwhen itcrashed shortly after takeoffat the old Broadmeadow Aerodrome.

Lou, a chief instructor, was flying at the time.

“They had just left the ground and there was some sort of a fuel blockage,” Bill said.

They came down in Goninan rail yards at Broadmeadow, near the Sunnyside Tavern.

The aircraft tipped onto its back, but Vic and Lou were uninjured.

“I can remember Vic telling me all the blokes at the pub came pouring out, some with cigarettes,” Bill said.

Vic was a tad worried about this, with aircraft fuel having been spilled.

But he lived to survive another day. In fact, he lived to survive another crash in a glider named Cloud Buster, which came down over the ocean near Seal Rocks in 1957.

He took off his shoes and used them as paddles.

“She started to break up in the breakers, so he had to swim for it,” Bill said.

Vic was in a heavy Kevlar suit at the time.He had to quickly get out of the suit, so he wouldn’t sink.His swimming ability and surf lifesaving skills came in handy.

The section of the glider with the name Cloud Buster washed up on the beach, “all jagged around it with plywood”.

“For years they had it in the hangar at Broadmeadow,” Bill said.

A newspaper report at the time said a Tiger Moth was towing the glider from Port Macquarie to Newcastle when bad weather drove them to sea.

“They were about two miles off the coast when the tow-rope parted. The glider came down about 200 yards offshore. It sank almost immediately and Mr Boyce, though the seas weren’t the calmest, managed to swim ashore.”

Vic became a member of the Goldfish Club in Britain. It’sfor airmen who have swum to safety after a crash.

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City of Sydney closing the gap on gender pay equity, but still more to do



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The City of Sydney has claimed trailblazer status when it comes to gender pay equity, after a recent review found more women employees were in higher paying jobs across the organisation.

Over the last financial year, the City had an overall gender pay gap of -6.8 per cent, indicating women occupied senior and well-paying roles throughout the organisation.

But when male and female employees at the same salary level were compared, there was a gender pay gap of 2.8 per cent in favour of men.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said the City still had room for improvement but added it was “committed to leading by example”.

“While we can still do more, I’m proud of the results of this year’s review, which put us ahead of the pack in terms of gender pay equity, not only within the public sector, but -wide,” she said.

The City’s 2.8 per gap at a salary-level is substantially lower than the national gender pay gap, which is 15.3 per cent, according to the federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

For public sector organisations, the gap is 10.8 per cent, and for private sector organisations it is 19.3 per cent.

The council’s chief executive Monica Barone said the City was investigating ways to retain women in roles traditionally held by men.

“In order to ensure we retain talent and expertise, and that women are not held back because they have a family, we will continue to focus our efforts on improving workplace flexibility, including in senior roles, and building our management capability to lead a diverse and inclusive workplace.”

The gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. Pay equity is when women and men performing the same role at the same performance level are paid the same amount.

The City’s numbers were crunched as part of its 2016-17 gender pay equity review, prepared by Mercer Consulting.

The City also claimed the mantle of being the first local government organisation to publicly report its gender pay equity, having done so for the first time last year.

Its reporting is guided by the same WGEA framework used by private sector organisations with more than 100 employees, which are legally required under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 to report annually against a number of gender equality indicators, including remuneration.

Farewell to a man of vision



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The eyes, it is said, are the windows to the soul.

Which is why I remember meeting John Fawcett about 24 years ago.While they were often shielded behind a pair of glasses, John’s eyes were display windows to an extraordinary soul. And, as I was to learn, they were symbols of what it meant to be given a second chance at life.

I had met John, because I was doinga profile story on him for television. I was reporting on John’swork inBali, where he was changing liveswith a mobile clinic for cataract surgery.

John had moved to Bali in the 1980s not to change lives but because he had felt his was all but over.

Johnhad been an acclaimed ceramics artist and teacher in Perth. He lived in the hills above the city with his family. Life was good. Except for a bad back. He had tried a range of treatments but there was no relief.So in May1981, he had an epidural to deal with the pain.

Something went wrong. John told me how he felt as though he was in a fish eye in the ceiling of the room, watching medical people working on him. Suddenly, he was back on the table. Then he was back up in the eye, looking down on his life ebbing away.

John was revived. But not to thelife he had known. He had to spend many months in hospital and rehabilitation centres regaining his movement and coordination, his memory, little pieces of himself. He came to realise he would not be returning to who he was.

John decided to move on his own to Bali, a place he and his family had loved as a holiday destination. He figured it was a nice place to spend what was left of his life.

But something extraordinary happened. A young Balinese couple he had befriended during his previous visits heard that John was back, and that he was ill. They cared for him around the clock. Against all expectations, John regained his health. He went to Perth for back surgery but then returned to Bali.

In this culture where many believe in reincarnation, John felt as though he had been given a new life. He wanted to give as many others as he could the same opportunity at a second chance at life. He wondered what he could do. He didn’t have to look far.

John noticed a lot of people whose eyes seemed to be covered with a milky white blob. He learntan estimated 45,000 Balinese were blind, and many of them couldn’t see the beauty of their island home because of cataracts.What’s more, many simply couldn’t afford to see again. The operation to remove the cataract and insert an artificial lenscould cost a patient the equivalent of years of income. So many remained in darkness. Until John came along.

He decided to set up a mobile clinic for cataract surgery, to drive the service into the villages and have Balinese medical teams provide operations for free.In establishingthe mobile clinic, John linked two countries. A Perth school’s old mini-bus was converted into the mobile clinic, and the RAAF transported it to Bali. Rotary clubs helped fund the program, and n ophthalmologists and nurses gave their time to train the local staff.

When the bus first hit Bail’sroads in 1991, there was resistance from potential patients. John recalled how many believed it was “karma pala”, or destiny, to be blind. But then John seized destiny. When a blind man told him that reason for refusing to enter the bus, John replied, yes, but it waskarma pala that his team was there in thevillage.The man had the half-hour operation. The following day, he could see.

Word quickly spread about thisbusand, when it rolled into a village, more and more people were ushered forward by loved ones to receive what seemed doubly miraculous – to have their sight returned, and for free. The program was so successful itwas taken to other islands in Indonesia. About 50,000 people have had their sight restored through the John Fawcett Foundation.

Each time the pads were peeled off the eyes, and the realisation dawned on the patient’s face they could actually see again, John’s face would erupt with a smile. “It always gives me such a buzz to see this!,” he exclaimed, as we watched the joyous outcome of oneoperation.

Yet John did not just stop at eyes. He saw people in need all around him. As well as establishing the mobile clinic, John had set up a corrective surgery program for those with a cleft lip or cleft palate. After the 2002 Bali bombings, he arranged treatment for local victims. Indeed, when people in crisis ran out of all other options or money, they would turn up at John’s compound in Sanur, knowing he would try to help.

John was kind to all living things. In Bali, somebelieve criminals come back in their next life as dogs. That’s their karma pala. So dogs are often treated poorly. Except for a mutt called Rocky, who lived in John’s compound. Locals would ask why Rocky was so well treated, since he’d probably been a crook in his previous life. He was wrongly accused, John would reply.

John Fawcett was revered in Bali. He had the ears and support of political leaders in Indonesia and , but he had the hearts and gratitude of hundreds of thousands across the archipelago.

I returned to Bali quite a few timesin the late 1990s to write John’s biography, so I frequently saw demonstrations of that gratitude and love. Wherever we went, John stood out. Being more than 190 cm tall ensured that. But it wasn’t just his height but the depth of his compassion, and the extent to which he had transformed lives, that made him a giant. Former patients embraced him. Prospective patients stoodexpectantly before him. Everyone loved him.

John died last month in Perth. He was 85. When I heard the news, I thought about who and what the world had lost. The Balinese have lost their beloved “Mr John”. ns have lost a gentle unofficial diplomat, who brought our neighbour closer in profound ways. I have lost a mentor. John had opened my eyes to so many things, including elements of myself.

A service for John is being held in Bali next week. The Island of the Gods will be weeping.Now John’s eyes are closed, but about 50,000 windows to his soul remain open. For his vision lives on, through the lives of all those former patients.

And he remains a towering example of how tomake the most of life. I remember what he said to me once, as we satunder a full moon in Sanur: “Things happen in life that make you feel ‘that’s got to be the end’. But it’s not. No one can take away the happy memories of what has been, but it doesn’t mean you don’t open the door and step through to what is next.”