Friday, 20 October 2017

HMAS Maitland Getting Freedom of Entry for First time in 11 Years


Maitland is taking a leap into medieval times tomorrow with officers and sailors from HMAS Maitland exercising their Freedom of Entry to the city.

The tradition goes back to when armed bodies were rarely allowed into cities except in special cases when the landowning nobles would grant them entry.

Granting armed bodies entry then signified a friendship between the two and the expectation the armed group would assist in the defence of the city should the situation arise.

"For a unit to conduct a freedom of entry we have the permission from the city to march through the town with bands playing and weapons drawn. And this is a symbolic evolution that we conduct to reaffirm our commitment not only to Australia but to our namesake city," said Commanding Officer Lieutenant Jonathon Little.

The crew of the HMAS Maitland with their Commanding Officer will be met by The Local Commanding Officer of Police on the corner of Bourke and High Street tomorrow at 10am. They'll then march, under police escort, to Maitland Town Hall.

HMAS Maitland Image
"The last time we were able to conduct a freedom of entry was 11 years ago. They don't come around too often but that's a testament to the government of Australia's commitment to the protection of our borders," said Lieutenant Little. 

The HMAS Maitland is 50 metres in length with a crew complement of 21 people.  

Lieutenant Litlle says the namesake ship is a small, but pivotal part of the Navy.

"We're used in a variety of missions or roles from maritime to protect our sovereign borders, fisheries, and then any other operation which the Australian Government might require is to conduct."

HMAS Maitland is currently docked in Carrington and will be having an open day on Sunday before they leave.

Australian Defence Force Meets Virtual Reality


Researchers from the University of Newcastle have been awarded a 2.2 million dollar contract to ensure the Hunter branch of the Australian Defence Force is taking the next step.

That next step is virtual reality (VR).

Defence Force Minister Christopher Pyne announced the grants to the University of Newcastle, which will go towards developing a VR program for Defence Force personnel.

The program will see Defence Force recruits experience a range of high-stress simulations, and monitor their heart rate and stress levels.

Associate professor from the University of Newcastle Rohan Walker is working on the program and says it's great to see the university working on such a great program.

"What we're doing here is really taking the best parts of innovative, engaging VR based technologies and combining them with objective assessments of stress to help cadets better control their stress levels", he said.

The simulations won't just be a fire-fight however, it's expected to include high-stress scenarios you might experience in everyday life, including car accidents and responding to incidents.

"It's our hope and the ADF's hope that this program will be embedded within their workforce in a couple of years".

The program is currently in the prototype stage and could be ready as early as next year.

Virtual Reality in the Military
Source; Virtual Reality

Nearly 800 Guns From the Hunter Handed In During Amnesty


NSW Police has received a massive haul of firearms during the National Firearms Amnesty including a whopping 778 from the Hunter region.

The three month amnesty started in July and ran until the end of September in a bid to crack down on the number of guns in the state.

Lake Macquarie has handed in the most with 266, followed by 169 in Port Stephens.

Across the state, nearly 10,000 firearms and firearm-related items including 602 handguns and 1575 shotguns have been surrendered to police.

Image NSW Police Force Facebook page.
NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner of Regional Field Operations Gary Worboys said the response in regional areas has been overwhelming.

“It’s extremely encouraging to see community members recognising the danger posed by these weapons and doing the right thing by handing them in or having them registered,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

"I think in the country areas its just a part of life out there in terms of firearm ownership and people handing firearms down through generations and these amnesties provide opportunities for people to have a look in sheds and cupboards and come forward and give those in and have them destroyed."

Surrendered items of interest include 20 SKS assault rifles, eight M1 carbine military self-loading rifles, four sub-machine guns, a Colt AR-15 rifle, a .44 calibre magnum revolver, an Adler 110 shotgun, and a Mauser model 1918 T-Gewehr-Bolt Action anti-tank rifle.

It wasn't just firearms which were surrendered to police, under the amnesty 130 prohibited items were handed in including 14 crossbows, 27 suppressors, samurai swords and knives.

Deputy Commissioner of Metropolitan Field Operations Jeff Loy is also very pleased with the number of guns which are now off the streets because he said gun crime affects everybody.

“In the wrong hands, guns are a lethal weapon so it’s pleasing to see people are keen to do the right thing and have used the opportunity to dispose of firearms and other weapons to ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands,” Deputy Commissioner Loy said.

Deputy Commissioner Worboys said while so many have been handed in, there's no question there are still some out there in the wrong hands.

"The other thing that's important today is to recognise that we still accept that firearms are a part of criminal entities out there. People have information on that and they need to make sure they bring that forward."

Local MP's sidelined on Williamtown Contamination


Paterson MP Meryl Swanson says "it's a disgrace" the NSW Government plans to exclude local MP's from the new Williamtown consultative group.

Yesterday, it was revealed an 'independent' committee will be established and members of the current Williamtown Elected Representative Group (ERG) won't be given a place.

The Government also announced plans to dissolve the ERG but Meryl Swanson says this won't stop her from continuing to defend her community.

She says the State Government is just trying to avoid answering the tough questions.

"This is an attempt by the State Government to try and shelve this, to push it back into the corner and push it back under the rug and it's not good enough. We won't have it.

"This is a disgrace and we are continuing to fight and we won't be silenced on this."

The Paterson MP also claims it's "poor form" for Parliamentary Secretary of the Hunter, Scot Macdonald to suggest the ERG isn't taking the Williamtown contamination issue seriously by listening to the concerns of residents.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson
"I was affronted by Scot Macdonald's suggestion yesterday that our community concerns are not treated with sensitivity and confidentiality. I have never once breached the confidence of a meeting.

"That was particularly poor form to suggest that politicians would misrepresent members of the community. That is not accurate."

It is not currently known what role the new committee will play.

The Williamtown community has pushed back against this announcement, saying they want their local MP's to represent them on the issue.

Merger Talks Between Dungog And Port Stephens Councils On Again


A merger between Dungog and Port Stephens Councils could be back on the cards.

Councillors on the new Dungog Council have voted unanimously to approach Port Stephens with a view to a voluntary amalgamation.

A poll taken during the recent council elections showed just over 55 percent of Dungog residents were in favour of the move.

However, the new mayor of Port Stephens, Ryan Palmer stood for election on a firm no-merger position, but it's understood he's open to looking at ways the two councils can work together without a formal merger.
Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer

Dungog Mayor Tracy Norman Picture:

Woman Charged Over Thornton Stabbing


An 18-year-old woman is due front court next month after a domestic incident turned violent at Thornton.

Police were called to Government Road just before 4.0pm on Thursday, arriving to find a 20-year-old man fleeing from the premises after he was allegedly stabbed in the torso with a kitchen knife.

Police say they also found an 18-year-old woman still holding the weapon - it's claimed she threw knife at officers as they approached her.

She's been charged with malicious wounding and assault police and granted conditional bail to face Maitland Local Court on 2 November, 2017.

The 20-year-old man was taken to the John Hunter Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

UPDATED: Man Arrested Over Alleged Stabbing Near Newcastle Post Office


Police have arrested and charged a man over an alleged stabbing incident outside the former Newcastle Post Office.

Emergency services were called to the corner of Hunter and Bolton Streets at about 9.00pm on Thursday where they found a man with a stab wound to his abdomen.

The 33-year-old was rushed to the John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition.

Police say they've now arrested and charged a man over the incident.

A 46-year-old man has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He's been refused bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court today (Friday 20 October 2017).

It's believed the men knew each other.