Lauren O'Keefe

Journalist | Photographer | Cyclist

Author: Lauren (page 2 of 3)

Local champions now OAMs

Two Seymour residents were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in this year’s Australia Day Awards.

John Jennings received his OAM for services to the community while John Phoenix was recognised for his service to veterans and their families.

John Jennings (left) and John Phoenix (right).

Both men have dedicated themselves to the Seymour community.

One thing they share is a humility towards being singled out for their contributions.

They both believe they are individuals who are members of groups trying to make things better for Seymour.

Mr Jennings has been a resident of Seymour since 1980 when he and his wife Ginny relocated to the region so that he could take up the role of principal at Seymour Primary School.

He was quick to say that while the award has his name on it, he believes it belongs to everyone in the groups he has been involved with over the years.

‘‘Well, certainly it was a thrill and an honour and all of that but in turn I think what it does is recognises not so much me but the groups I’ve been in, the different groups over the years and certainly Ginny has been my backup all the time. So I think it goes to a lot of people,’’ Mr Jennings said.

He is best known in the community for his work at the Seymour Historical Society were he spent 21 years as either the president or the secretary.

Mr Jennings and his wife are life members of the Seymour Historical Society and last year he became a life member of the Light Horse Park in honour of the work he has done for that group.

He has been involved in numerous groups and was chairman of the Friends of the Bridge since its inauguration until last year.

If an event was organised in Seymour in the last 36 years, there was a reasonable chance that Mr Jennings was involved at some point.

He has also written 15 books, eight of them about Seymour and the surrounding towns, compiling the local histories of each area.

Mr Jennings said that volunteering is in his blood.

He grew up watching his parents volunteer in Rye where the family was based.

‘‘I just think it’s always been a part of me. Mum and dad were good volunteers. My brothers and sister were always involved in things,’’ he said.

‘‘The first time I remember doing anything, I was about 10 years old and I was the scorer for the footy club, sitting up on the roof, changing the signs and I loved that. I did that for quite a few years and then I became the reporter for the footy club when I was still at high school. I wrote the articles for the local newspaper for a couple of years.’’

His volunteering slowed a little while he was at teachers’ college but it picked up once he was appointed to his first teaching position in Framlingham, near Warrnambool, where he became secretary of the local Scouts group.

Mr Jennings believes that his life has only been enriched by volunteering.

‘‘You get more out of it than you put in because you get to make friends who are of a like mind as you and some of those friends last forever,’’ he said.

‘‘You also learn a lot as you’re volunteering. People who volunteer down at the information centre, for example, must learn a lot about the town that they didn’t realise before.’’

John Phoenix is an Vietnam veteran who served in the Australian Army from 1965 to 1991.

He has volunteered for projects in Seymour since moving to the town after leaving the army.

He was quick to say that he didn’t deserve the award but that he was simply part of a group and that the group should have been recognised, not him.

‘‘I’m a firm believer in, if you do a group project, the project should get the award,’’ he said.

‘‘I’d like to thank the people that I’ve worked with on different projects.’’

Mr Phoenix started volunteering when he was still in the army and restored a tank which he then donated back to the School of Armours Museum.

When he left the army he felt compelled to do something to pay back the support he felt he received while he was in the army.

‘‘I just feel you’ve got to pay back something to someone. And to Seymour,’’ he said.

He has been involved in a multitude of projects since permanently settling here in 1981, the first was the adding of plaques to the cenotaph.

Since then he has been involved in some large projects. The most recently completed one is the upgrade to the Hospital Memorial.

He quietly improved the hospital gates before the major restoration began and found a tradesman who could remake the lights that had originally hung above the gates but had disappeared.

Mr Phoenix was the driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Walk and Wall and is the vice chairman of the committee that maintains the memorial.

His focus now is the Seymour Memorial Swimming Pool upgrade, which is a three-stage project to turn the pool into a memorial for all the conflicts Australian soldiers have been involved in since the Boer War up to and including Afghanistan.

He has been in touch with the artists who have created the stunning portraits on grain silos around Victoria and is hoping to engage them to create a mural for the pool.

While doing this, he has also started fundraising for the refurbishment of the two guns on Anzac Ave.

Mr Phoenix saved his loudest praise for Seymour locals and businesses who have stunned him repeatedly with their generosity.

When he needed to start fundraising for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial he started near his business on Emily St.

‘‘I walked up Emily St and down Emily St and by that afternoon I had $10000 to start the walk going. They’ve always supported us,’’ he said.

‘‘When we did the memorial at the hospital, a lot of the tradies gave free labour. That was just the way it was.’’

His other abiding passion is cars and he is responsible for starting the Seymour Car Club in 2011.

He is still the club’s president.

The car club is a strong supporter of the Seymour Rotary Club and always volunteers its time for any events they have.

Mr Jennings and Mr Phoenix will attend ceremonies at Government House in either April or May to receive their OAMs from the Governor of Victoria.

This article was first published in the Seymour Telegraph on February 5 2019.

Thousands left without power

A fault in an underground power line left thousands of residents without power last week.

The outage, which lasted for nearly 24 hours, affected a huge section of Strathbogie Shire with Nagambie the worst affected area.

In Nagambie alone 1253 properties were affected and another 636 properties in Avenel, 46 in Seymour and 24 in Longwood were all without power for a lengthy period of time.

An AusNet Services spokeswoman said the power went off at 8pm Wednesday, January 23, but residents reported losing power from 6pm.

The fault occurred at the point where the line goes under Hume Fwy which made it extremely difficult for AusNet Services to isolate it.

The spokeswoman said AusNet Services testers worked through the night to find the fault, and isolated it in the early hours of Thursday, January 24.

Once discovered, the crew had to dig down to confirm the location, then a repair crew was sent to the site and worked through the day to fix the fault.

The spokeswoman said the outage had nothing to do with the heat but was a case of extremely unfortunate timing.

AusNet Services hooked up a generator in Nagambie but it only supplied power to 400 properties.

While waiting for the repairs to be completed, Strathbogie Shire Council set up an airconditioned relief centre at Longwood Recreation Reserve run by the Benalla SES on the advice of the Incident Control Centre.

When approached for comment, Strathbogie Shire Mayor Amanda McClaren confirmed that no-one attended the relief centre.

About 4.30pm a post appeared on the AusNet Service Facebook page stating ‘‘The cable impacting the Nagambie and Avenel areas has been repaired and we are currently carrying out testing. We are on track to restore the power by 5pm. Being an underground cable, there can be complications but at this stage we anticipate power will be back on by 5pm. Please note, those customers in Nagambie on supply from generators, we will need to switch the power off when we start to restore full supply.’’

Residents started to report on the Avenel and Nagambie Community Facebook pages between 5.30pm and 6pm that the power had come back on.

After the initial relief of having the power back on, some residents took to Facebook to ask about compensation for the perishable food lost because of the outage.

Most were dismayed to learn that AusNet Services won’t compensate them for their losses as it’s stated on the AusNet website that ‘‘Compensation does not extend to cover consequential loss (profits, food not related to refrigerator damage)’’.

However, those affected may be entitled to a ‘Guaranteed Services Level’ payment of $120 because the outage went on for more than 20 hours and it was unplanned.

In a statement, Cr McClaren advised residents to dispose of any perishable food rather than risk food poisoning.

The shire provided skip bins in Avenel and Nagambie so that residents and businesses could get rid of any spoiled food.

Cr McClaren said the council commended ‘‘the community on their resilience and patience during what was a very trying and unforeseen set of circumstances’’.

For more details about the ‘Guaranteed Services Level’ payment visit ausnetservices.com.au/ Residential/Electricity/Service-Standards

This article was first published in the Seymour Telegraph on January 30 2019.

Greyhounds going like hotcakes

The Greyhound Adoption Program’s three-day adoption bonanza got off to great start with the announcement of a grant from the Victorian Government.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes and family with their newest member of the family.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes visited the Seymour centre with her family on Friday to announce the $50,000 grant.

‘‘This grant will help the Seymour adoption centre enhance their work, and concentrate on delivering their great program,’’ Ms Symes said.

The money will be used to make improvements to the centre which currently houses about 80 to 100 greyhounds at any given time.

Greyhound Racing Victoria deputy chair Peita Duncan was in attendance with her adopted greyhound, Blue, and thanked the minister for the grant which will allow the centre to continue finding homes for greyhounds and retired racing greyhounds.

‘‘It’s just fantastic that the government continues to support the GAP program; $50,000 will go a long way to improving our wonderful facility here,’’ Ms Duncan said.

‘‘Our aim is to see more greyhounds move to their new homes quicker and we want to do everything we can to find the right home for the right greyhound.’’

Member for Euroa Steph Ryan didn’t attend the event but is a supporter of the centre and was pleased to hear about the grant.

‘‘The Greyhound Adoption Centre in Seymour does fantastic work to give greyhounds a happy life beyond racing. This funding will mean the wonderful work Jenny and her team does can continue,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘GAP is well worth a visit for anyone thinking about getting a dog.’’

The centre decided to repeat the adoption event after the success of last year’s event which saw a recording-breaking 103 dogs find new homes.

Ms Duncan said this year they decided to waive the $75 adoption fee in the hope this would lead to a breaking of last year’s record.

The plan worked, with 70 of 115 dogs adopted on the first day of the adoption event.

Almost all of the dogs were adopted by Saturday afternoon, leading the centre to cancel the planned third day on Sunday.

Ms Symes with her media advisor Tom Whitty and their new dogs.

Ms Symes and her family were among those who took home a new four-legged friend with the family adopting Clancy.

Ms Symes grew up with greyhounds and her grandfather, Roy Symes, trained racing greyhounds and had his greatest success in the late 1980s.

‘‘As someone with a proud family history in racing greyhounds, I am even more delighted to join the pet adopter club today providing a loving home to a retired greyhound,’’ Ms Symes said.

Ms Symes and her family weren’t the only ones looking for a new family member; Ms Symes’ media advisor Tom Whitty adopted Nessy.

For more information about adopting a greyhound visit gap.grv.org.au

This article was first published in the Seymour Telegraph on January 23 2019.

If cars are safer than ever, why are so many cyclists still dying on our roads?

Of all road users, cyclists are the most likely to die or be injured when they are involved in a road accident.

A examination of ten years’ worth of road fatality and hospitalisation data from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) covering 2007 to 2017 showed that cyclists are bucking the downwards trend that’s occurring in other groups, with the risk for cyclist fatalities doubling in 2017.

While cyclists make up a tiny portion of the overall number of fatalities on Victorian roads – 12 out of 259 in 2017 – they are most at-risk group, followed by pedestrians who have also seen a small rise in their risk. However, pedestrians are still on a downwards trend overall while cyclists have experienced the opposite.

The news isn’t any better when it comes to hospitalisation due to a road accident.

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Triple R Midday News

Monday October 8, 2018

Written and Produced by Evan Morgan Grahame, Richard Crabtree, Lauren O’Keefe, and Laura Mayers.

Presented by Evan Morgan Grahame, Richard Crabtree and Lauren O’Keefe.

Friday October 5, 2018

Written and Produced by: Beth Gibson, Julia Kanapathippillai, Lauren O’Keefe and Evan Morgan Grahame.

Presenters: Beth Gibson, Julia Kanapathippillai and Evan Morgan Grahame.

Bike path for Rushall Reserve in Fitzroy North

Yarra City Council has decided push ahead with plans to build a bike path in Rushall Reserve, despite objections from some locals.

Is there a future for journalism in rural Australia?

Traditionally, journalists at the start of their careers get their first job in a rural newsroom or newspaper.

But with journalists losing their jobs and publications being axed, student journalists are concerned about where and how they’re going to get their start.

Concept: Lauren O’Keefe and Siobhan McKenna
Script: Lauren O’Keefe
Presenter: Siobhan McKenna
Beth Excell interviewed by Siobhan McKenna
Camera and editing: Lauren O’Keefe
Credit music: bensound.com

Female professional cyclists fighting for minimum wage

Women’s elite cycling is a sport whose star has been on the rise in the last few years.

Unfortunately, like most female sports, sexist and out-dated attitudes are well entrenched which can make life difficult for the female athletes competing and those who aspire to compete at this level.

One such issue is a minimum wage for female professional cyclists.

Wheel woman

Women in cycling gear posing for the camera

Tina McCarthy with some of her ‘wheel women’ at the 2018 Tour Down Under. Photo: Lyz Turner-Clark

Tina McCarthy has a simple goal – to get as many women as possible riding bikes. It’s why she started Wheel Women in December 2012.

In the last five and a half years, Wheel Women has won multiple awards for its work in making cycling more easily accessible for women. McCarthy was awarded the 2018 Cycling Luminaries Award for Leadership and Wheel Women won the Best Outdoor Active Recreation Initiative at the 2017 Victorian Sports Awards. McCarthy was also selected to be an ambassador for VicHealth’s This Girl Can campaign.

Tina McCarthy. Photo: Lyz Turner-Clark

She has achieved much since starting Wheel Women and the social enterprise has helped over a thousand women get on their bikes.

McCarthy had a long and successful career in design and advertising as a graphic designer and art director. She decided to set her own design business in 1996, working with fashion clients as well as small start-up businesses.

However, things changed when she fell pregnant with her son in 1998.

“The plan was that I’d work from the home office as always, look after him and take on what work suited me while he was young. But absolutely nothing went to plan!” McCarthy said.

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Cyclists demand action on tacks thrown on Yarra Boulevard

Since January 2014 tens of thousands of upholstery tacks have been thrown on Yarra Boulevard in Kew by an unknown individual in what appears to be a vendetta against cyclists.

Handful of upholestery tacks

A handful of the thousands of tacks that have been thrown on Yarra Boulevard in Kew. Photo: John Christidis

Yarra Boulevard is a picturesque six and a half kilometre stretch of road that follows the Yarra River in Kew, surrounded by parklands and luxury houses.

The road is popular with cyclists because of its constant rolling hills and low traffic, making it an ideal training ride but since early 2014 it has become a nightmare for those who use it.

Over the past four and a half years, cyclists have experienced thousands of punctures with many being tacked multiple times which led cyclists to report what was happening to Victoria Police.

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