Beyond the night

Off the leash: Bulldog Tom Liberatore has responded well to “tough love”. Photo: Ken IrwinTom Liberatore didn’t need to be told. He knew how worried and disappointed his family was, and that everyone at his football club would be feeling the same way. The last place he ever wants to be found again is on King Street, early on a Sunday morning, semi-conscious and drunk, with ecstasy pills in his pocket, in such a vulnerable way. “Definitely not. You don’t want to put yourself in that position, and you shouldn’t put yourself in that position. It’s not that difficult,” he said. “It wasn’t hard to figure out that people were going to be disappointed in me – it was pretty black and white. The most important thing to me was how it affected my family and how it affected the club, knowing I’d lost the respect of people. That’s what you lose control over and that’s what I wanted to gain back, their trust and respect.”
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He has made a good start. It is a little over 10 months since Liberatore made his big mistake, his only mistake. Since then he has had his third, and his best, pre-season. He is fitter than he was, arriving at stoppages earlier and with a less tired mind, able to think more clearly about what he wants to do there. He has won more hard balls than any other player in the competition.

Around the Western Bulldogs, he seems, if not happier, then more comfortable. “I think he’s figured out the sort of person he is, and how he can still be that person within footy, which is more intense and asks for more accountability every year,” said one of his teammates, Bob Murphy. “Everyone grapples with that, with finding their own space, but he just seems to be a bit more comfortable in his own skin this year. I don’t want to use the phrase ‘the footy world’ but I do think he’s starting to find that balance of doing the things that are part of the job, but still being himself within all that.”

Liberatore, 21, didn’t want to talk about that night, which left him dealing with some very adult things: an interview with police, a drug diversion program, a first strike under the AFL’s illicit drug policy and a place on the target-testing list. His club suspended him from its final four matches of last season, had him train in the mornings and at night, and put him to work on a building site. At the same time, the Bulldogs made sure he understood how much everyone cared about him, and was worried for him. The first thing his teammates wanted to know was: are you OK?

Liberatore never worried they would act any other way, because he had seen them deal with other things and it was how they had always made him feel, before anything happened. But it was what made him want to use his time away from them how they wanted him to use it: to realise what a good first job he had, and what he might be doing if he didn’t have it. It made him think about the words he wanted them to describe him with. “I suppose you come to understand how you want to be seen,” he said. “And you realise you want to be seen as someone who’s determined and who perseveres, someone who cares about their career and doesn’t want to give it up easily.”

So, most mornings, he would be at the club by 6am to train. He would do the same each night, heading back to the club, driving to a boxing gym in Richmond or meeting one of the assistant coaches somewhere. In between he would head to East Malvern, to work on a building site, at a job that allowed him plenty of time to think. “It was pretty basic labouring work, pretty standard work, just cleaning up around the site and doing what they needed me to do,” he said. “It was obviously mundane, but at the same time the other builders were really good blokes, they were all friendly to me from the first day and they made things comfortable for me, which they didn’t need to do. It did resonate with me, how lucky I am to come to a footy club, to do what we do, just around the corner from home, pretty flexible hours. It was the right thing to do, the right process to go through to be able put things in perspective and realise what the good things were in life and what I wanted do.”

It wasn’t something he spoke about much. Murphy imagines there was shock, and some fear, and remembers wanting to give his young teammate a hug, as much as anything else. “I wanted to put my arm around him. It was a mistake and I don’t know exactly how he felt, but we almost felt paternal about it. Most people in that situation only have to deal with the person standing in the room with them, but he had the whole world, the whole city on him. People will make their moral and ethic judgments about what happened, but it was like our little brother had made a blue and he needed protection. We were scared for him, but I know Tom. He’s a strong-willed person and once he decided he was going to make amends, he was going to make amends. He’s an independent person. He dresses differently to the other young guys, he listens to Hendrix, he actively seeks to avoid the mainstream. He makes up his own mind about things, and then he goes and does them.”

Liberatore did, but he was also conscious of what was being done for him. Tom Williams was in rehab at the time, and some mornings would get up to the club early so that Liberatore had company. Other teammates had him around for dinner. Every Friday morning, he had breakfast with development coach Chris Maple and Brett Goodes, then the club’s player wellbeing manager, before heading off to university. “They were probably the two biggest influences on me,” he said, “just with how much they cared.” This year he has sensed all of his teammates start to think of each other more – to fully absorb feedback, to feel losses more deeply and to try, when games are turning against them, to remember what they need to do, then do it. “We talk about it a lot, about being outspoken, being totally honest with each other, improving morale and improving the mateship around the club,” he said. “We speak about it and train it, and now we’ve got to do it more on match days. And that’s definitely something I felt last year, just how warm people were. I let them down but they were still wanting to know how I was, and caring, and wanting to help me through it.

“We have players here like Daniel Cross and Liam Picken and Dale Morris, even Matthew Boyd. And there’s more, the list goes on at this club of players who have fought tooth and nail to get where they are. A few times, working, you’d just draw the parallels between what you could be doing at that time, as opposed to shovelling bricks or whatever it was.

“I wasn’t sitting there thinking I was at rock-bottom and I’m not making some sort of heroic return, but it was a good reminder of what I get to do every day down here and that you can’t just fall back and rely on your talent to do it well.

“I’m still best mates with my friends here, and my friends outside the club as well. But you need to know what you want, what matters to you, and what you need to do to keep doing it. It was a one-off mistake and I’ve kept things in line and I’m approaching my footy how I think I did in the past anyway – pretty focused. This just gave me my right whack, to learn how to balance every part of my life and front up every week and do everything possible to be a consistent player. You have to tick every single box if you want to last in this league and I want to last in it for as long as I can.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Surely he Kennett be serious?

DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
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It was little short of soul-crushing news this week to find David Koch – newly reinvented for public consumption as a fanatical footy fan – was intent on sharing his opinions with all Australia as Port Adelaide president.

One presumes for those present in the room, some of this would have been happily obscured, because his Power scarf was so freshly purchased it would have been making crackling noises, particularly while being surreptitiously extricated from the plastic packaging and price/security tags.

However, the majority were not so fortunate due to being exposed to Koch’s Komments via the media.

Being Australian is mostly a boon but on occasions like this it does make one a captive audience.

It doesn’t matter what he said, of course. That probably goes without saying. He said something about drugs and the “old boys’ network” that run football clubs. Yeah, you figure D. Koch would be against any “old boys’ network”.

The problem with celebrity boofheads given access to the public lughole, particularly via sport, is the “potato chip syndrome” – they won’t be able to stop at one. What makes this particularly disappointing is that it’s not all that long since we finally saw off Jeff Kennett as Hawthorn president. Not to mention that, much like anything short of having a multi-level car park installed in his throat, this didn’t stop him anyway.

However, with the Kool Mint Kid at least temporarily sidelined – i.e. with his former players suggesting he jam a cork in it following his comments wishing Alastair Clarkson an early retirement – you figure even JK might take a breather to freshen up his material.

And then in stepped “Six-Shooter” Koch.

One is strangely reminded of the sentiment expressed by Alicia Silverstone’s exasperated screen father in the ’90s motion picture classic Clueless when her new prospective boyfriend carries on like a mobbed-up 1950s wise guy, until the father erupts: “What – you think because Sammy Davis Jnr is dead that there’s an opening for you in the Rat Pack?!”

Another Kennett might be two too many.

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PSOs ‘asking too many questions’

Under no obligation: Protective Service Officers told visiting student Baljit Thind he had to give them his details. Photo: Angela WylieConcerns have been raised about Protective Service Officers collecting personal information from innocent bystanders, partly to show their superiors they have been working and, sometimes, to conduct on-the-spot criminal record checks.
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PSOs recorded the name and date of birth of more than 29,000 people last year, including those not suspected of any wrongdoing. The information may be used, at PSOs’ discretion, to conduct criminal record checks by radio.

When questioned by The Saturday Age one PSO said another reason they wrote down people’s details was to prove they had been working.

The acting Victorian Privacy Commissioner, David Watts, was unaware of the practice and said he was ”seeking comment and clarification from Victoria Police”.

Jane Dixon, SC, president of Liberty Victoria, said gathering law-abiding citizens’ personal information for no reason showed police wanted a database of everyone in Victoria and was ”bringing us closer to a police state”.

Victoria Police defended the practice as standard procedure used by both PSOs and police to gain information about an area.

After beginning work in February 2012, PSOs were involved in the arrest of 1397 people up to the end of 2012. More than 60 of those arrested were breaching bail conditions and 500 had outstanding warrants.

A police spokeswoman confirmed one role of PSOs was to ”gather intelligence. PSOs can have between five and 50 contacts with commuters per shift (including those not behaving suspiciously) in the form of a greeting or a formal interaction where they obtain the person’s name and date of birth.”

Under the Crimes Act people can refuse to give their name, address and date of birth, unless police have reasonable grounds for believing they have committed or are about to commit an offence, or could aid an investigation.

The spokeswoman said when someone was not under suspicion ”a member of the public has the right to ask whether they are required to provide their details, which they would be advised that there is no obligation”. But police are not required to warn someone that they don’t have to answer.

Meghan Fitzgerald, legal projects officer at Fitzroy Legal Service, said: ”Many people don’t know to say no. Once they’ve got your details they can look up your LEAP status. All of your information, all your contacts with police are recorded in that. That includes more than criminal record information, it includes allegations, investigations.”

On Tuesday morning Baljit Thind, 21, was outside the paid ticketing area on the ground level of Southern Cross Station.

He was exploring the city, having arrived three weeks earlier from India to study in a language school, when he was approached by two PSOs.

According to Mr Thind, one PSO said: ”Just show me your ID.”

”I said, ‘why’. He said, ‘Just show me, we need your date of birth, name and address’,” Mr Thind said.

”Because I was scared I gave him my Indian licence, and then he wrote my name and my date of birth in his diary. He told me, ‘Where are you living in Australia?’ and I told him my address.”

At no stage did the PSO tell Mr Thind that he was not obliged to reveal the information. ”I asked the police officer many times, ‘Why do you need my ID?’ because I didn’t do anything wrong. He said to me, ‘We just need it’.”

Police did not disclose with whom the details were shared, but confirmed they were ”held by Victoria Police as law enforcement data”.

The spokeswoman said the data was ”generally not” cross-checked with CCTV footage ”unless the circumstances require an investigation”.

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Land of opportunity beckons city dwellers

Regional retreat: Bert Hallam at the converted silo accommodation at Lake Lascelles near Hopetoun. Photo: Jason South Accommodation will be free in the Mallee Bush Retreat. Photo: Jason South
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There is not a single traffic light or parking meter anywhere in the shire, locals say traffic jams are non-existent, and ”fancy” houses in town sell for less than $200,000.

There are jobs available for nurses, teachers, hospitality workers, farm hands, truck drivers and others. For those who want to be their own boss, there are a handful of local businesses for sale, including a couple of hotels, a post office and a supermarket.

If you live in Melbourne these opportunities are not on your doorstep. But if you feel like escaping to the country and like the wide open spaces of the state’s north-west and big Mallee sunsets, these are the kinds of attributes that the Yarriambiack Shire Council has to offer.

Next Saturday the shire, home to towns such as Warracknabeal and Hopetoun, will host its first open day in a bid to attract more residents. While Melburnians debate the height of apartment buildings and length of their shadows, Yarriambiack Shire – population 7500 – has plenty of room to grow. The shire, which straddles the line separating the Mallee and the Wimmera, is one of many country councils spruiking their towns, lifestyles and opportunities over coming months.

The day will start with a barbecue lunch on the shore of Lake Lascelles, a Mallee town of about 600 people, where ”local champions” will be on hand to champion the region. If it is country footy you want to see they will take you to a match, if you are interested in education they will host you on a tour of schools, and if it is bushwalking you are keen on they will take you there.

”You tell us what you’d like to see, what interests you, what you want to know about to make this move successful and we’ll match you up,” says mayor Kylie Zanker.

When the touring is over dinner will be cooked for visitors in a camp oven or on a barbecue by the lake. It will be followed by a bonfire, yarning around the fire and a bit of guitar.

Accommodation will be free in the Mallee Bush Retreat at the lake, in cabins that have a farming flavour. Two of them are converted grain silos, and others resemble farm buildings such as machinery sheds and a stable.

A range of jobs are waiting for people tempted by a move, Cr Zanker says.

”If you’re a panel beater you could walk into a job tomorrow, if you’re an electrician you could walk into a job tomorrow. Builders, we’re short of builders, because we do have a large amount of economic growth,” she says.

Farmer Bert Hallam, chairman of the committee that manages the lake and cabins, believes the open day is a good idea. ”It’s certainly worth having a go, because the infrastructure in Hopetoun itself can support a lot larger population than 600,” he says. ”Our medical services are excellent. We’ve got a hospital, full-time doctor and a pharmacy. We’re probably streets ahead of larger regional centres.”

But if you prefer the north-east to the north-west, Benalla Rural City will host an open day on July 27. The council, about two hours’ drive from Melbourne, will partner the Victorian Farmers Federation and appeal to people who want to farm, ”for those who have always wanted to own a piece of rural Victoria and live off the land”, says promotional material.

Visitors will be shown farms, visit a country footy match and meet real estate agents, business owners and CFA representatives.

For those who would rather live near a regional city of more than 70,000 people, Latrobe City Council in the state’s east will host an open day on May 26. Visitors will tour university, TAFE and school facilities, hospitals, childcare, galleries and sports and leisure facilities.

Latrobe, less than two hours from Melbourne, is linked to the city by the Princes Freeway and rail services.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Wood fires focus of pollution cut

The humble wood fire may soon be subject to new national standards or even a buyback program, amid concerns that Australia’s 1 million fireplaces remain a major source of air pollution.
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A Council of Australian Governments research paper, released this month, has put forward nine options to reduce particulate emissions from wood heaters, after finding most emissions were due to avoidable errors, such as using damp wood or not letting enough air in.

”Domestic solid fuel burning (including wood heaters) is among the top eight sources of particulate matter in Australia,” the regulation impact statement found.

Options being considered by COAG range from doing nothing and letting emissions decline as households moved to gas and electricity heaters, to introducing regulations that would require all new heaters to carry efficiency ratings and release just 1.5 grams of particulates per kilo of wood burnt.

The expected cost over 20 years ranges from $15 million to $39 million, but would save up to $1.8 billion through improved health benefits, according to COAG’s paper.

All the policy options include a national education program, but none recommend banning wood heaters.

The COAG action comes after a Senate inquiry into the impact of air quality on health, which heard evidence from a lung specialist that there was no safe threshold for the fine-particle pollution that results from wood-burning heaters.

In addition to irritating existing conditions such as asthma and emphysema, studies have found long-term exposure to wood smoke is an ”important environmental risk factor for dying from heart or lung disease or from lung cancer”, Dr Jim Markos said in a written submission.

But director at Heatmaster, Tony Styles, said few customers asked about the potential health impact.

”Most of the heaters on the market today are very efficient. They are quite good. The problem is the way that they are used,” Mr Styles said.

”A lot of people will close the air slot down too quickly and that is when you get a smouldering fire and emissions.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.