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Reasonable force used at Mardi Gras: cops

Bryn Hutchinson is suing police after being assaulted at the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras (file).NSW Police have admitted to hammer-fisting and kicking a reveller at the 2013 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras but insist it was a reasonable use of force.

Bryn Hutchinson is suing the police for assault, battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution over the March 2 incident, and is claiming up to $275,000 in damages.

Court documents from the civil trial show the officers claimed the blows they struck were necessary and lawful to stop the 37-year-old from crossing the famous gay strip, Oxford Street, after the parade had ended.

Mr Hutchinson was charged with assaulting and resisting an officer over the incident but a judge later dismissed those charges.

The gay rights activist claims his head was punched into the pavement during the brutal, unwarranted and excessive attack which left him humiliated and with bruises all over his body.

Mr Hutchinson’s statement of claim alleges police persisted with a groundless prosecution over many months out of personal animosity, which left him with considerable legal bills and forced him to forgo work and suspend his university studies.

But in documents tendered to the court, lawyers for NSW Police suggest Sergeant Jeffrey Ludkin and Constable Goya Hedayat used necessary and lawful force when the “situation escalated” and Mr Hutchinson assaulted Sgt Ludkin.

They claim the man threw himself to the ground and wrapped his legs around Sgt Ludkin’s legs “in a scissor-type action”.

“In that process, Ludkin used no more than two hammer-strikes against the plaintiff’s left thigh and Hedayat used two knee-strikes against the plaintiff’s left outer thigh,” the documents state.

“No more than reasonable force was used.”

Police admit when Hutchinson complained to an officer who was leaning on his back that he couldn’t breathe Sgt Ludkin said: “If you can talk, you can breathe.”

But they argue those words weren’t said in hostility or aggression “but in a situation of urgency … and in circumstances where the plaintiff could, in fact, breathe”.

NRL Knights coach Nathan Brown says Brock Lamb’s selection won’t erode Connor Watson’s confidence

Knights coach Nathan Brown has dismissed suggestionsBrock Lamb’s selection on the bench for Friday night’s clash againstManly is a sign of a lack of confidence in Connor Watson.

Lamb has won a bench spot at the expense of a desperately unlucky Danny Levi, who finds himself playing NSW Cup just a few months after representing New Zealand in the World Cup.

Jacob Saifiti also missed selection in the squad of 17 for the season-opener at McDonald Jones Stadium with Brown, as expected, namingnine new recruits in his lineup.

Brown said the decision to select Lamb rather than go in against the Eagles with two specialist hookers was one of the toughest he has made as a coach.

But he claimsit was all about wanting some outside back injury insurance and hadnothing to do with any lack of confidence in Watson handling the five-eighth role outside skipper Mitchell Pearce .

“If that was the case, we would have just put Brock there,”Brown said.

“We have got confidence in Connor and as I have always said, when you compare Connor with Brock, you are not comparing apples with apples becausethey are very different players.

“It’s all to do with versatility. Just with our team, it’s a no-brainer to have Connor as the moveable piece.”

Brown is confident Lamb’s presence will not play on Watson’s mind leading into the Manly game.

“He’s comfortable with it,”he said.

“When we explaned it to him why, I think Connor knows we have confidence in him. Andthe faith we showed in him last year, I’d like to think Brock thinks we have confidence in him as well.

“If you talk to Mitchell [Pearce], he loves what Brock brings to the table and he loves what Connor brings to the table.”

Brown admitted Levi can count himself unlucky to miss out.

Once it was decided Lamb was needed on the bench, it became a head-to-head battle between Levi and Slade Griffin for the starting hooker role with the former Melbourne Storm utility winning out.

“That was probably a tough call on Danny to be fair,” Brown said.

“He’s disappointed and not happy about it but he has handled it well.It’s not to do with form.

“In both the games we played, Slade and Danny working together, we thought, was a good combination but withSione [Mata’utia] back in the centres and Joe Wardle getting homesick, we don’t have a lot of scope for movement in our team.

“Connor’s our best moveable piece.”

Insurance: Knights coach Nathan Brown in deep discussion with Brock Lamb at training. Lamb will come off the bench against Manly on Friday night as an injury safe-guard. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Family Finding Boot Camp restoring opportunity for vulnerable children

CRUCIAL NETWORKS: Kevin Campbell is in Newcastle this week to deliver a Family Finding Bootcamp for practitioners. Children develop and thrive in the context of relationship, community, faith, culture and in experiences outside in nature.

Children who grow up exposed to unrelenting stress and limited access to strong and supportive relationships must make physical, even genetic, adaptations to survive.

These changes in their bodies and genes are important to their short-term survival, but across the life course, become the foundation for early and severe health and mental health problems.

This is not a truth for any one group of people. Our research has found that indigenous people are at no more risk for these consequences than non-indigenous people when they too are disproportionately mistreated in a society.

We are all the same biologically; it is in our social and economic trajectories and opportunities where the differences exist.

A child protection system that is funded and aimed at interveningafter significant neglect or abuse has happened is not a response that can have any meaningful influence on the underlying conditions that drive maltreatment of children.

The politicisation then of child protection’s “failure” to protect children leads only to more perceived failures and greater regulatory and punitive policies for the agencies involved.

All the while, persistent vilification of the poor and indigenous as being unable to safely care for children continues, and in some places, grows.

This is the reality of present day child protection systems in Western democracies, especially in post-colonial societies.

This week I am joining with Samaritans, other child protection non-government organisations and Family and Community Services in a Family Finding Boot Camp. I am working with the agencies to uncover something I have learned from previous visits to that can improve the safety and long-term health of vulnerable children.

I think of it as an untapped capability that can assist children who encounter the child protection system and restore many of the opportunities they have missed out on: relationships, friendship, teaching, access to culture and, for some, the care of the spirit.

Over four days wewill engage family members, siblings, teachers, former and present carers and other important adults to join in and connect individual networks for each child.

These networks will fill a critical role in buffering these children from loneliness, disconnection and missed opportunities to have experiences like other n children who were fortunate to be born to families who enjoy greater access to the extraordinary gifts of this country.

These networks will share the responsibility and stand watch with child protection professionals over the safety and wellbeing of these children.

This will be all that child protection and network members can do until one day when the elected leaders in this country land on policy that gives equity and opportunity to all ns, especially the First ns.

I will state clearly here the child protection agencies and professionals in NSW are not a problem to be solved – they are an opportunity waiting to be realised.

Kevin Campbell, who is Seattle based,is an internationally known youth permanency expert, founder of the Centre for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness and developer of the Family Finding model.

Girl undergoes Chinan-first robot surgery

Robotic surgery has been used to remove a cancerous tumour from six-year-old Freyja Christiansen.Six-year-old Freyja Christiansen faced a grim prognosis when doctors found a tumour at the base of her neck, but n-first robotic surgery is being credited with a miracle.

The Canberra youngster was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called clear-cell sarcoma in 2016 and she is thought to be the youngest of 40 cases ever recorded worldwide.

It was the position of Freyja’s tumour, between a main artery and the base of her skull, that posed a problem for specialists who said the situation seemed hopeless.

The prognosis didn’t stop Freyja’s mother, Liz, and oncologist Antoinette Anazondo from searching for a cure.

“I was told my daughter’s cancer was inoperable and incurable and that I couldn’t can’t even discuss options, I wasn’t going to find a cure,” Ms Christiansen told AAP.

“But Antionette would not give up and we spent the next year calling all around the world, researching possible treatments and then we learnt about robotic surgery.”

Freyja began targeted immunotherapy last year, which was previously only available to adults, while the duo searched for a surgeon who would be willing operate using a machine called da Vinci which operates a small robotic arm.

Thirty-seven surgeons across the world refused to use the technology on Freyja.

“It was during a phone call to Boston Children’s Hospital that the name of Melbourne cancer surgeon Ben Dixon came up,” Ms Christiansen said.

“It was a bit of a fluke really … we were willing to fly anywhere in the world but the fact that we had the skills and the technology in Melbourne was amazing.”

On February 28, Epworth surgeons Ben Dixon and Matthew Magarey used the robot to successfully remove part of Freyja’s tumour, with another surgery scheduled for Wednesday to remove a larger portion, dubbed the “big mama”.

“I know there’s a lot more to come, but to even get to this point, it’s really been miracle after miracle,” Ms Christiansen said.

“She shouldn’t be here, but here she is.”

Coach Wessels wants more punch from Rebels

Rebels coach Dave Wessels wants his unbeaten team to make a statement against the Brumbies.After an unbeaten start to their Super Rugby season, the Melbourne Rebels want to start to “throw some punches” as they eye a history-making win over the Brumbies at AAMI Park on Friday night.

The new-look Rebels have continued to tick off some important milestones and this week can win three games in succession for the first time to maintain their n conference lead.

Coach Dave Wessels said there was notable improvement in attack as Melbourne ran in six tries in their 37-17 win over the Sunwolves but he felt their star-laden backline had much more to offer.

The Rebels boast Wallabies Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu and the possible return from a knee injury of Test winger Marika Koroibete.

“The big key for us is probably to throw some punches of our own,” Wessels said on Tuesday.

“We’ve got some firepower in our team and we need to come up with a mindset that we want to attack games.

“There’s a subtle difference between playing to win versus playing not to lose and we want to be a team that plays to win.”

Wessels spent 2012 as Brumbies defence coach under then head coach Jake White before switching to the Western Force.

While the Brumbies have spoken of their disappointment in their shock loss last round to Queensland, Wessels said the Reds deserved some credit.

“We know the Brumbies are a quality side; they’ve been the best n side for the last few years so we’re going to have to play well.”

Koroibete trained with the team for the first time in three weeks but Wessels wasn’t concerned about his fitness.

“He’s a freak of an athlete so it’s probably more a case of the guys ahead of him are going pretty good too so we need to decide if he’s done enough to earn a spot this week,” Wessels said.

Wallabies and ex-Force flanker Richard Hardwick is also in line to make his Rebels debut after also battling a knee injury.

“I thought Dickie (Hardwick) was the stand-out player in our trial game so he’s certainly in the mix to play.”

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Heart Open is putting females in Newcastle on the stage

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Female power in Newcastle | PHOTOS Alex Morris interviewing dancer Jacinta Rose at a Hearts Open event.

Open Mic: Alex Morris interviewing dancer Jacinta Rose at a Hearts Open event. Picture: Lazy Bones

Alex Morris. Picture: Lazy Bones

Poet Laura Kebby at a Heart Open open-mic event. Picture: Justine Cogan

Poet Bastian Fox Phelan at a Heart Open open-mic event. Picture: Lazy Bones

A guest performer at a Heart Open open-mic event. Picture: Lazy Bones

Poet Katy Gray at a Heart Open open-mic event. Picture: Lazy Bones

Poet Rachael Ainsworth at a Heart Open open-mic event. Picture: Lazy Bones

The band Moonsign perform at a Heart Open event. Picture: Justine Cogan

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So, she and friend Chloe Warrenstarted abi-monthly, female-focused open-mic night in Newcastle, called Heart Open.

“I didn’t know Chloe that well [at the time], but I loved her stand-up comedy and thought she and I could be a good team,” Alexsaid.

“We got chatting with our friend and amazing local typographer Sophie Elinor Brown, and she helped us come up with the name and created our logo for us.

“Then we just invited some of the talented women we knew to come and perform in a local pub.”

Chloe’s a scientist, so she wanted to make sure decisions about where to take the event were informed by data.

“We started collecting feedback from our audiences and we hope that each show has been an improvement on the last,” Alex said.

The next event will be held on Fridayat Newcastle Museum’sBHP Gallery to mark International Women’s Day.

The night will feature artists and performers. Aspecial guest will attend to respect the location and its history.

Chloe and AlexwillinterviewJanet Murray, a former BHP chemical engineer and blast furnace operations superintendent.

“Janetworked for nearly 20 years at the Newcastle steelworks. She’s a fascinating woman with so many interesting stories.”

Alex said the event aimed tocreate “a welcoming and encouraging environment where female-identifying and non-binary people feel comfortable expressing themselves”.

“It’s also an open mic nightand we really want to be inclusive, so we encourage all people to sign up for that in between featured performers.”

Heart Open is promoted as a “bi-monthly celebration of creativity”.

Each event features fourartists “sharingthe secrets of their journey, their creative processes and inspiration”.

“We welcome poets, dancers, comedians, musicians, actors, authors, painters, sculptors, air-ukulele players … you get the gist.”

Council needs another $4.6million for Lochinvar intersection to go ahead

Cr Henry MeskauskasMaitland City Council has agreed to chip in another$4.6 milliontowards the construction cost of an intersection at Lochinvar.

As part of its 2015-2016 budget the NSW Government provided anallocation of $11.5 million towards the project through the Housing Acceleration Fund (HAF).

However areport presentedto council last week said at that time the intersection formed part of the work schedules attached to the Lochinvar Section 94 Contributions Plan and the item was subsequently removed from that plan.

“During the time that has lapsed since the funding announcement, a definitive design and costing has been developed by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)in conjunction with council,” the report said.

“Based on communications with RMS, this process has revealed the ultimate intersection design required to support development in the north eastern catchment of the urban release areawill not be achievable within the HAF funding budget,” the report said.

Councillors were advised that anadditional $4.6 million was needed to cover the cost of the project.

The report said the intersectionis a key strategic access point to the north eastern catchment of the Lochinvar Urban Release Area and is required as a direct result of proposed development within the catchment.

West Ward councillor Henry Meskauskas successfully moved a recommendation to approve the additional $4.6 millionto make up the shortfall in HAF funding by amending the LochinvarSection 94 Contributions Plan.Council will exhibit the draft plan before afinalreport to council.

Fairfax Media has reported how Lochinvar is set to become Maitland’s next boom town with the first of 5000housing lotson public exhibition anda school and shopping precinctto come.

Council has received a development proposal for 146 lots off the New England Highway, behind the Aird’s building. The lots are within the Lochinvar Urban Release Area.

Speed zones cut on busy Newcastle roads

REDUCED speed limits will be introduced between Wallsend and Hamilton on Thomas Street, Newcastle Road and Griffiths Road, the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS)says.

A RMS spokesperson said, after a recent speed zone review, the existing 70km/h speed on the route along Thomas Street, Newcastle Road and Griffiths Road will be reduced to 60km/h, from 460 metres west of Lake Road at Wallsend to 100 metres west of Beaumont Street at Hamilton.

The changes will be introduced on Sunday.

“The safety of motorists and pedestrians is important to the NSW government which is why steps are being taken to improve safety along this very busy stretch of road,” the spokesperson said.

“In the five years between July 2011 and June 2016 there were 382 crashes, including 272 injury crashes along this 8.5 kilometre section road.

IN OTHER NEWS:Lost wallet leads anit-bikie squad to cash

“The injury crash rate per kilometre is almost five times higher than the typical rate for an urban arterial road with a 70km/h speed limit which is why action is needed.

“The reduced speed limit will provide significant road safety benefits to the 40,000 motorists who travel along the route each day.

“In addition to this, the changes will also improve safety near Hamilton North Public School for students and their families, including the Newcastle Showground which becomes very busy when events are on.

“Electronic message signs will be in place to advise motorists of the changes and will remain for at least a week after the new speed limit signs have been installed.

“Motorists are reminded to observe the new speed limit and are advised to drive to conditions.”

More work for women in NSW workforce

Tanya Davies says 37 per cent of senior leadership roles in the NSW public sector are held by women.The number of women in senior leadership and traditionally male-dominated roles across NSW is steadily increasing but there’s still more work to do, according to the NSW minister for women.

The latest snapshot on the status of women in the NSW workforce was released on Tuesday as part of the Then and Now report.

The report, based on NSW workforce profile data, shows women now fill almost 38 per cent of leadership roles in the public sector. The government wants to increase that to 50 per cent by 2025.

But the situation is worse in the private sector where women fill just 26 per cent of board directorship position of ASX 200 companies. That’s up from almost nine per cent in 2009, according to the n Institute of Company Directors.

“At the end of last year in the public sector more than 37 per cent of senior leadership roles were held by women,” NSW Minister for Women Tanya Davies said in a statement on Tuesday.

“While this makes the NSW government more progressive than the private sector there is still more work to do.”

Meanwhile, the number of women working in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as mining and construction, continues to grow at between two and five per cent every year.

However, women are still more likely to be employed in health care, social assistance, education and training, according to the Then and Now report.

Ms Davies noted that in 1973 there was only one female member of the NSW Legislative Assembly but today that figure has increased to 28.

“It’s imperative that women are represented at decision making tables across government and business to ensure the best outcomes for both men and women, in their public and private lives,” she said.

Vic woman strangled with cord, court told

Mehmed Solmaz is charged with murdering Fatma Solmaz, 61, last May at her Sunshine West home.A Melbourne woman was hit on the head with a wooden table leg and strangled with electrical cord by her former husband, a court has heard.

Mehmed Solmaz, 61, has been ordered to stand trial for murdering Fatma Solmaz, 61, at their Sunshine West home last May.

He entered a plea of not guilty, claiming to police his former wife assaulted him with the same wooden table leg and he acted in self-defence.

A forensic examination of Solmaz after his ex-wife’s death found he had minor injuries that were expected to heal.

Despite being divorced, the former couple lived together up until Ms Solmaz’s death.

Their two adult sons were in court for Tuesday’s committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Police allege that after Solmaz assaulted his ex-wife with the table leg and strangled her, he fled to Queensland.

He was arrested after Ms Solmaz’s body was found and extradited to Victoria.

An autopsy showed she suffered blunt force trauma injuries to her head, which rendered her unconscious, before she was strangled, forensic pathologist Dr Michael Burke told the court.

The defence suggested Solmaz spoke of noises in his head in the aftermath of Ms Solmaz’s death.

However, detective leading senior constable Joseph Strachan said he had no concerns about Solmaz being unfit for interview and his only complaint was a sore back.

Magistrate Luisa Bazzani said the case against Solmaz was “overwhelmingly strong”.

“Ms Solmaz was in no position to threaten or harm Mr Solmaz at the time she died – she was unconscious,” she said.

“She posted no risk at all to you (Mr Solmaz), according to the evidence.

“It’s an overwhelmingly strong case.”

Ms Bazzani said from the accounts given, Ms Solmaz was a hard working woman devoted to her family.

“Tragically she died in her own home,” she said.

Solmaz, who was aided in court by a Turkish interpreter, was remanded in custody to appear in the Supreme Court for trial directions on Thursday.