Driving towards a future of possibilities

Breaking down barriers faced by newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers on their pathway towards education and employment is the goal of a new initiative being rolled out with City of Newcastle’s support.

CatholicCare Hunter-Manning’s Refugee Hub Driving Program will provide support to 20 refugees through funded driving lessons, a NSW Driving Test and NSW Driver’s Licence.

CatholicCare-Refugee-Hub-Driving-Program.jpgImage: Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Gary Christensen, Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz, CatholicCare Refugee Hub Driving Program participants Madina and Edeni, NRMA driving instructor Jackie Chestney and Team Leader – Refugee Hub CathlicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Mirja Colding-Moran

Ward 3 Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said the worthy initiative is a recipient of City of Newcastle funding under the expanded Community and Economic Resilience Package, which aims to support vulnerable communities through the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

“Newcastle is enriched by our multicultural residents and City of Newcastle wants to ensure that all members of our community can access the services they require to seek and maintain employment, explore study options and connect with their local community, regardless of their background and language spoken at home,” Cr Winney-Baartz said.

“That’s why we’re pleased to provide support to CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub Driving Program, which will ensure that refugees can get the driving experience they require to obtain a licence.”

Gary Christensen, Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning said equipping refugees with driving skills and ultimately a driver’s licence will open future employment opportunities and provide access to study and other community services.

“We know that transport is essential to access work, study and community services, but often many refugees, asylum seekers and recent arrivals find it difficult to get a driver’s licence and car when in Australia for a number of reasons,” Mr Christensen said.

“We’re extremely grateful to have backing from City of Newcastle, as the grant funding will enable the delivery of a driving program that aims to combat the barriers faced by refugees including language, comprehension, cost and access to affordable training, by providing no-cost certified driving lessons with a qualified trainer, driver knowledge and hazard perception tests, driving test and ultimately a P1 driver’s licence.”

Driving program participant Madina, who moved to Newcastle in 2017 from Afghanistan said she is happy to be taking part in a program that will help create a pathway towards a fulfilling future.

“I appreciate the chance to participate in this program and ultimately gain my driver’s licence so I can access study and future work in the army or police force,” said Madina.

Awabakal Limited has also benefitted from funding under City of Newcastle Community and Economic Resilience Package. The grant was used for an emergency relief program to support vulnerable members of the Newcastle First Nations community through the provision of essential items including fresh food, toiletries and sanitary items.

To find out more about how we’re responding to COVID-19 visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

New ideas for improved public space coming to Darby Street

City of Newcastle is working to enhance the outdoor dining experience along Darby Street while improving safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

A six-month trial starting in spring will see the footpath widened between Sanctum and Goldbergs restaurants. This work will see a removable platform installed to increase space for outdoor dining. This will be made possible during the trial period by extending a dining platform over seven existing car parking spaces.

Darby-Street-public-space-trial-1.jpgThe project will bring new life to the Darby Headphones Courtyard with new street seating, paving, lighting and public art to encourage people to visit, stay and connect. The project will also include the installation of vibrant murals on both the walls and footpaths, celebrating local and upcoming artists in collaboration with local art festivals. A new pedestrian crossing leading to the courtyard will improve accessibility and safety.

The temporary loss of car parking spaces in the area will be offset by the conversion of sixteen existing paid all-day parking behind the Newcastle Art Gallery (which is currently closed for the long-awaited expansion) into free, two-hour parking spaces during the trial. A convenient drop-off /pick-up zone near the shops and eateries will also form part of the trial.

Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said safety improvements and beautification of the popular eat-street would bring a range of benefits to the community.

“Our local hospitality industry was hit hard during COVID-19. Investment in our local centres helps restore confidence, create local jobs and boost our twilight and after dark economy, which employed 12,000 Novocastrian and created $1.4 billion per year in economic activity prior to COVID,” Councillor Clausen said.

“Across the City, public investment into our local centres is translating into improved consumer and business confidence – delivering safer and more inviting local places for Novocastrians to shop and eat.

“Outdoor dining is more popular than ever, and this project is perfectly timed for long Spring meals at Darby Street’s quirky cafes, small bars and restaurants.

“Walkable and cycle-friendly local centres are critical to making great places. Trialling of traffic calming infrastructure will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and help create an environment where dining spaces for local cafes and restaurants can be extended.”

The trial has been made possible with funding from the City of Newcastle Urban Centres Revitalisation Program and a $500,000 grant from the NSW Government through the Streets as Shared Spaces program (Round 2). The program funds trials that support immediate community needs and test and build the case for more permanent changes that positively impact local economies and community health and wellbeing.

Community consultation will commence tomorrow, Monday 16 May, gathering feedback on the proposed trial. This feedback will also help inform future projects in the area. Visit newcastle.nsw.gov.au/yoursay

Count Us In festival puts disability inclusion front and centre

More than 30 free events and activities aimed at raising the profile of inclusion in our community will be held over the next two weeks as part of City of Newcastle’s Count Us In festival.

Count Us In will run between 13 May – 28 May and features a wide range of activities including a nutrition wellbeing workshop, drumming workshop, accessible fishing experience, inclusive dance and art experiences, social and peer networking events, plus activations focused on education and awareness exploring topics such as workplace inclusion.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the Count Us In festival will encourage conversations around inclusion across the city.

“City of Newcastle prides itself on working collaboratively to ensure a more liveable and welcoming community for all people who live, visit and work here by increasing social inclusion and community connections,” the Lord Mayor said.

Councillor Margaret Wood, co-chair of City of Newcastle’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, said Count Us In recognises and celebrates the contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“The 2022 festival has a strong focus on working together towards solutions for employment and workplace inclusion for people with disability, which meets the actions of our recently adopted Disability Inclusion Action Plan,” Cr Wood said.

“Count Us In effectively and respectfully brings people without disabilities into contact with people with disabilities, which builds awareness, reduces prejudice and helps create future opportunities.”

This year, City of Newcastle (CN) has engaged Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) to assist with the creation and delivery of a diverse range of inclusive events, all of which are delivered with local community partners.

“We have taken a community-led approach to Count Us In festival by engaging CDAH to enhance the range of events within the program. This will highlight the skills and abilities of our local community and demonstrate a range of opportunities for participation beyond the program,” Cr Wood said.

“This festival is for everyone, and I’d encourage all Novocastrians to come and join in the many events and activities on offer over the next two weeks.”

Andrew Vodic Executive Director Community Disability Alliance Hunter says the organisation is proud to be partnering with CN on the design of the 2022 festival program.

“At CDAH, we are committed to building the capacity of peers to develop, organise and lead peer groups and develop mentor relationships that enable them to share their experiences and learn together. Count Us In 2022 assists us to promote these peer lead groups and hopefully reach more people,” Mr Vodic said.

“With over 90 per cent of CDAH staff living with a disability, the events and activities on offer have been designed by people with lived experience to create the best possible opportunities for inclusion and by reaching a more diverse mix of people.”

For a full program of events and activities, click here.

Four arrested after pursuit of stolen vehicles – Lake Macquarie PD

Four people are in custody following a proactive operation this morningby officers attached to Lake Macquarie and Newcastle City police districts.

Calls to Triple Zero (000) shortly after 4am (Friday 13 May 2022), alerted police to several vehicles being driven dangerously in the Lake Macquarie area.

Officers attached to Lake Macquarie Police District attempted to stop four vehicles – a BMW SUV, a Ford Ranger utility, a Suzuki Swift and a motorcycle – travelling along Wangi Road, Dora Creek, with a pursuit being initiated when the drivers failed to stop as directed. 

An 18-year-old man from Blackwells Park and a 17-year-old boy were arrested when the ute crashed into a second vehicle at Toronto. They’ve been taken to Toronto Police Station. Police have confirmed the ute had been reported stolen from Maitland.

A 57-year-old man from Warner Bay was examined at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics after suffering bruising in the crash with the ute. He has been taken to John Hunter Hospital to be checked as a precaution.

A short time later, two youths, aged 15 and 16, were arrested when road spikes were successfully deployed on Five Islands Road, Speers Point, stopping the Swift, earlier stolen from Dora Creek. They are also in custody at Toronto Police Station.

A BMW – which had been reported stolen from Merewether earlier today – was found dumped at Gateshead about 6am. It has been taken for forensic examination.

Inquiries are continuing into the whereabouts of the motorbike, which was also reported stolen from Merewether.

Police have also recovered a stolen BMW 3 series which was found dumped at Eleebana a short time ago.

Inquiries are continuing.

Community views to guide the expansion of Newcastle’s footpaths

Smart technology, along with community insights, are helping to guide the expansion of the city’s footpath network.

Work has started to develop the city’s Principal Pedestrian Network (PPN), which is a mapped network of existing and future pedestrian routes that support activity into and around key destinations such as neighbourhood and retail centres, schools, parks, and transport stops.

City of Newcastle civil construction trainee Mitch Curry at work on the construction of a 320-metre long section of footpath on the northern side of Newcastle Road in Jesmond.

City of Newcastle maintains 1,000 kilometres of footpath across the city and adds to this network each year to address missing gaps.

To support the expansion, the PPN will guide how new footpaths are prioritised to deliver the best benefits for the community. The PPN will build on the extensive amount of existing information on Newcastle’s pedestrian infrastructure, which is based on previous community submissions, public works, surveys, and known projects around the city.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said community feedback is important to ensuring our pedestrian networks cater for everyone including older residents, people with mobility or vision impairments, school children, tourists and recreational pedestrians.

“Encouraging greater participation in active transport and improving pedestrian safety are key objectives of City of Newcastle,” Cr Clausen said.

“We need to ensure that the community is provided with suitable pedestrian facilities for daily activities. Our footpaths help children travel safely to school, commuters get to the bus stop, parents walk with prams, and dog owners exercise with their pooch.

“Community views will help us better understand what’s working well, and where improvement is needed. This initial engagement will help us understand why some people choose to walk, and others don’t, which will help us plan the future of our city.

“We’re asking the community to provide input via an inclusive survey designed to better understand community attitudes and behaviours around pedestrian accessibility in Newcastle, including non-infrastructure related enablers and barriers to participation.”

Once the draft PPN is finalised, City of Newcastle will proceed with a second round of community consultation that will allow users to view and add their thoughts to an interactive map of the PPN.

To complete the survey, visit newcastle.nsw.gov.au/yoursay. The engagement period closes on Friday 10 June.

Training the new energy workforce of the future

An Albanese Labor Government will partner with the University of Newcastle to build a new facility to test and invent solutions to global challenges when it comes to the use of hydrogen and other new energy industries.

The Hunter has a proud history in the resources sector, and we know its future can be proud and resource-rich too.

With its skilled workforce, abundant resources, industrial expertise and rail and port infrastructure, the Hunter region is poised to take full advantage of the energy industries.

The one link still missing is the testing facilities with the settings, equipment and scale to problem solve and invent solutions – including hydrogen storage, compression and dispensing capabilities – as well as to enable training pathways in new energy industries.

That is why an Albanese Labor Government will invest $16 million in the University of Newcastle to provide the enabling industrial scale infrastructure needed to get a New Energy Skills Hub off the ground.

The skills, techniques and technologies developed by this project will enable local industry – including hydrogen investments at the Port of Newcastle – to grow to their fullest potential.

Newcastle and the Hunter – having powered our nation for generations – are ideally placed to become a renewable energy superpower, delivering power long into the future. Labor has the vision and plans to ensure we seize this moment.

Only an Albanese Labor Government will partner with local industry and universities to deliver the skills of the future to Newcastle and the Hunter.

Three charged with drug supply in state’s Hunter region – Strike Force Bunks  

Three men have been charged with drug-related offences following an extensive investigation in the Hunter Valley region.

Strike Force Bunks was established in December 2021 by Hunter Valley Police District to investigate the alleged supply of prohibited drugs in the Scone area. 

Following extensive inquiries, detectives attached to Surry Hills Region Enforcement Squad attended a hotel at Barangaroo, Sydney, and arrested two men – aged 30 and 42 – about 9.30am yesterday (Wednesday 11 May 2022).

During a subsequent search of the men, police allegedly located cocaine and cannabis, which were seized for forensic examination.

The men were taken to Surry Hills Police Station where they were charged with knowingly take part in supply of prohibited drug (indictable quantity) and possess prohibited drug.

Both men were granted conditional bail and will appear at Scone Local Court on Wednesday 15 June 2022.

About 3.00pm the same afternoon, detectives attended a licenced premises on Kelly Street, Scone, and arrested a 37-year-old man.

Search warrants were executed at the licenced premises and two homes in Scone, where a number of items were seized for forensic examination.

The man was taken to Muswellbrook Police Station where he was charged with three counts of possess prohibited drug, three counts of supply prohibited drug, one count of supply prohibited drug on an ongoing basis, goods suspected stolen in/on premises, and licensee permit sale of prohibited drugs.

He will also appear at Scone Local Court on Wednesday 15 June 2022.

Call for community input on proposed new recycling facility at Summerhill

City of Newcastle (CN) is seeking community feedback on its proposal to construct a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) at Summerhill Waste Management Centre.

The facility will allow plastics, paper, cardboard, glass and metals collected from kerbside recycling bins to be recovered at the Summerhill site, which will reduce transport costs and greenhouse gas emissions and allow Newcastle’s red, yellow and green-bin domestic waste to be processed at the one location.

Recyclables collected from Newcastle households have been transported to the Central Coast for processing since the only MRF in the Hunter closed in 2020, affecting City of Newcastle and several other Hunter councils whose recyclables were also being processed locally.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the project would deliver major environmental and financial benefits for the city and community.

“Combined with the organics processing facility, the MRF will be an important foundation for achieving our vision for a circular economy where recyclables can be processed and remanufactured into new products locally,” Cr Nelmes said.

“The proposed design features state-of-the-art sorting technology to produce clean and well-sorted recyclable streams of plastics, paper, cardboard, glass and metals.

“Up to 28 full-time equivalent jobs will be created at the facility alone, with additional employment generated through the emergence of downstream business incentivised by the local supply of recycled materials.”

The proposed design is scalable to process up to 85,000 tonnes of recyclables per annum, creating a regional solution for recyclable waste from across the Hunter that offers economies of scale plus greater certainty for residents that their recyclables will continue to be collected and recovered without disruption into the future.

The project received $5 million from the Federal and NSW Governments in August last year and is included in the draft 2022/23 Budget as one of four city-shaping projects that will deliver key outcomes for the community.

CN has prepared concept designs in conjunction with site master planning to ensure the optimal location of the facility alongside other waste diversion projects.

Information sessions will be held to provide an opportunity for the community to ask questions and give feedback on the project and its proposed design.

Residents can attend a drop-in session on Tuesday 31 May 22 at the Minmi Progress Hall between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, while an online information session will be held on Thursday 2 June 2022 from noon to 1pm.

Interested residents can find out more about the project, provide feedback and register to attend an information session at newcastle.nsw.gov.au/yoursay

Labor will reopen the Kaden Centre

An Albanese Labor Government will invest $1 million over four years to revitalise the Kaden Centre cancer exercise oncology clinic.

The Kaden Centre delivers custom, targeted exercise programs, prescribed by allied health professionals to drastically improve the long-term health outcomes for people living with cancer.

Tragically, this essential service for people living with cancer and chronic illness was forced to close its doors indefinitely in February, leaving the Newcastle and Hunter Region bereft of a world-class facility and model of care.

The Kaden Centre has developed a ground-breaking model of care delivery for patients undertaking chemotherapy, involving a personalised exercise program to optimise a patient’s fitness prior to definitive cancer treatment.

The program has seen a 50% reduction in major complications, shorter length of hospital stay, reduced readmissions, and more patients returning to complete their intended oncological treatment.

The Kaden Centre has been a lifeline for more than 1,200 people with cancer and chronic illness since its inception four years ago. Under an Albanese Labor Government, the Kaden Centre will be able to support thousands more cancer patients on their pathway to recovery.

Unlike Mr Morrison who denied this essential service support, Labor has heard the message loud and clear and an Albanese Labor Government will deliver funding as a priority.

Labor built Medicare, we will protect Medicare and we’ll strengthen Medicare if the Australian people elect an Albanese Labor Government.

Man charged over alleged assault – Newcastle 

A man has been charged over the alleged assault of a supermarket employee at Newcastle yesterday.

Emergency services were called to a supermarket at a shopping village on Kokera Street, Wallsend, about 2.30pm (Monday 9 May 2022), following reports of an assault.

Police have been told a staff member confronted a male customer before he was struck with a shopping basket. The customer was escorted from the store by staff.

NSW Ambulance paramedics treated the 52-year-old man who reportedly suffered a medical episode following the incident. He was taken to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition; however, he is now reported to be in a serious but stable condition.

Officers from Newcastle City Police District attended and commenced an investigation into the incident.

With the assistance of the Dog Squad, a 36-year-old man was arrested on University Drive at Birmingham Gardens about 7.15pm.

He was taken to Newcastle Police Station before being transferred to the Mater Hospital for treatment, under police guard.

The man was later returned to the station and charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault person with intent to resist/prevent apprehension, armed with intent to commit indictable offence, custody of knife in public place, break and enter house and steal, and attempt stalk/intimidate intend fear of harm (personal).

He was refused bail by Newcastle Local Court today (Tuesday 10 May 2022) and is due to appear on Monday 16 May 2022.