Monthly Archives: July 2018

Making hay the old school way

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Chaff Mill workers Graham, Al and Nick at the Smith Family Chaff Mill in Rocklyn, Victoria. Photo: Paul JeffersIn the late 1960s the three Smith brothers, Ballarat boys, had 300 tonnes of hay that nobody wanted. The produce stores were over-run with a glut of horse feed and the money wasn’t good anyway.

“Our land wasn’t good potato country, so we had to diversify,” says David Smith, now 65.

They took a punt and bought an old boiler and a chaff cutter, thinking that horse owners would rather pay $65 a tonne for bags of chaff than $18 a tonne for hay tied up in sheaves.

“We thought if we could do the work of cutting it up, adding value, it might make us a living,” he says.

It took two years of getting the word around, knocking on doors. More than 40 years later, the Smiths are still running their boiler which dates from the 1920s, maybe earlier. The boiler provides steam that toughens the hay – essentially keeps it supple – so it doesn’t crumble to dust when being cut. Curiously, the touch of steam doesn’t damage the hay. “But if you get it wet, it turns mouldy.”

From the top of an elevator where the hay is steamed, it travels on a belt through a series of mechanical knives before it’s routed into a storage cylinder attached to a double-bagging machine. A couple of workers feed the hay in at one end, a couple more seal the bags at the other.

At its peak, the Smith Brothers Chaff Mill ran for 80 hours a week. “We started the day at a reasonable hour but the days were long, we’d be going until 10 o’clock at night.”

They were turning out 150,000 bags a year.  “It’s much less now.”

Seven years ago, the chaff was delivered by the semi-trailer load. That ended when the horse flu epidemic wiped out a large portion of the local equine population.

“It never really recovered after that,” says Smith. “Now we use a tray bed.”

The Smiths, however, continue to diversify and survive. “We’re growing a few more potatoes. And we do a little bit of contracting.”

Still, their bread and butter comes from chaff. “There’ll still be a market there. It won’t go away,” says  Mr Smith. “It all depends on what share of the market you want. At my age, it’s not a large share.”

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Cruising: get on board

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Cast off: a typical small liner. Cruisers from Hapag-Lloyd’s Bremen roam an Antarctic ice field.

Crystal Symphony in Sydney Harbour.

Swimming pool deck on Green Thunder.

Watch the sunset on the Crystal Symphony pool deck.

Family on a cruise.

Shackleton Lounge.

Cruising not for you? With so many choices, you may not realise what you are missing out on, writes Sally Macmillan.

It’s a booming segment in global travel, almost a million Australians taking an ocean or river cruise each year. But, for many of us, it’s a phenomenon that seems to have passed us by, like the proverbial ships in the night.

If you somehow haven’t noticed, cruising has evolved from a rather stuffy sort of sea voyage to a holiday that offers everything from genuinely fine dining from celebrity chefs, five-star accommodation to rival the great hotels, and expeditions in far-flung corners of the globe – and a whole lot of amazing and surprising options in between.

Sailing the world’s oceans today are cruise ships that vary in size from 50 passengers to 6000; that cater for young families, extended families, couples and singles from age 20 to 80, the budget-conscious, adventure-minded and well-heeled travellers.

Then there are river cruises that ply the waterways of Europe and, increasingly, south-east Asia, India and America, yet another way to travel to fascinating destinations comfortably, easily and safely.

“In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in ships visiting our shores,” says Brett Jardine, general manager of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) Australasia, “which has meant that holidaymakers are seeing a constant parade of local and international ships.”

This piques interest, and when people discover “the great value of a cruise holiday – wrapping transport, accommodation, meals and entertainment into one fare”, they tend to come back again and again.

Yet scepticism persists. It’s with that thought in mind that we’ve prepared a special guide, based on typical traveller personalities, to prove the point that these days there really is a cruise for everyone.

So check out our guide and see what sort of cruiser you could be – and find out what the whole world is talking about.


“Nothing but the best for me.”

The Cruise Director says Five-star, ocean-going ships were made for you. They are “small” (251-750 passengers) or “mid-size” (751-1750 passengers), offer suite-style accommodation (plenty with private balconies), stylishly decorated public spaces and fascinating itineraries.

Cuisine is world-class; expect dining experiences from ultra-formal to quality casual. Attention to detail throughout is paramount, from the quality of the dining-room tableware to the thread-count of the bed linen, and service is immaculate – professional but friendly. Nothing is too much trouble.

River cruise lines offer some wonderful voyages for the discerning traveller. Uniworld’s newest vessel, the SS Catherine (launched in March), is probably the most luxurious on Europe’s waterways; APT, Scenic and Tauck also run superb river cruises on super-modern ships. Fares for top-drawer ocean and river cruises almost always include drinks, tips and more.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.

River lines: APT, Avalon Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld.

Try these

Cruise Line Crystal Cruises.

Ship Crystal Symphony.

Itinerary 11 days, London to Stockholm, July 26-August 6, 2015.

Fare From $5045.

Cruise Line Uniworld.

Ship SS Catherine.

Itinerary Eight days, Avignon to Lyon, from March to November 2015.

Fare From $3799.

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“How many clubs are there?”

The Cruise Director says

Modern resort-style ships that have lots of bars, non-stop entertainment and clubs are perfect for people who are looking for fun, in groups, solo or couples.

The ship often becomes as much the destination as the ports; on board there’s a terrific choice of restaurants and cafes, state-of-the-art fitness centres, and spas for pampering after a hard night’s partying. Carnival Cruise Line’s Sydney-based Carnival Spirit has 16 bars and lounges, live entertainment, a karaoke bar, a comedy club, casino and nightclub.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s US-based ships are also chock-a-block with bars. Its newest ship, Norwegian Getaway, even features an ice bar that specialises in cocktails made with Svedka vodka.

Very refreshing on a hot, steamy Caribbean cruise …

Cruise lines to consider

Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean International.

Try these

Cruise Line Carnival Cruise Lines.

Ship Carnival Spirit.

Itinerary Seven nights, Melbourne Cup cruise, round-trip from Sydney, November 2, 2014.

Fare From $1523.50.

Cruise Line Norwegian Cruise Line.

Ship Norwegian Getaway.

Itinerary Seven nights, Miami to Western Caribbean (Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico), November 15, 2015.

Fare From $805.

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“I can’t stand the idea of being bored.”

The Cruise Director says

If you’re looking at an ocean cruise, choose one that has a short itinerary or plenty of port stops, physically challenging shore excursions and a ship that offers lots of onboard activities. Royal Caribbean International’s ships boast the most innovative onboard playgrounds – think ice rinks, rock-climbing walls, flow-riders and huge sports courts.

Its newest megaship, Quantum of the Seas (launches in November), even features a simulated skydiving experience.

Cruises in Alaska, the Arctic, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand take in destinations that offer extreme activities such as canyoning, jet-boating and glacier-trekking – the choice is almost limitless. Some ships, such as SeaDream Yacht Club’s two “yachts”, have onboard marinas so you can go waterskiing, jetboating, catamaran sailing and kayaking straight off the ship.

River cruises stop in different ports every day, sometimes twice a day, so boredom shouldn’t be a problem in Europe, Asia or the US. However, super-active people might find the tours a bit tame.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Hurtigruten, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, SeaDream Yacht Club.

River lines: APT, Evergreen Tours, Scenic, Tauck, Travelmarvel, Uniworld, Viking.

Try these

Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International.

Ship Quantum of the Seas.

Itinerary 3 nights, round-trip to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, June 12-15, 2015.

Fare From $949.

Cruise Line SeaDream Yacht Club.

Ship Sea Dream 1.

Itinerary Seven days, San Juan to St Thomas (Caribbean), January 10-17, 2015.

Fare From $US3299 ($3517).

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“What’s the point of an ice-skating rink on a ship?”

The Cruise Director says

You can’t get much more traditional than a trans-Atlantic cruise with Cunard – the line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, operates seven and eight-night crossings between Southampton and New York (and vice versa) from May to January.

QM2 boasts the largest library and ballroom at sea, offers afternoon tea with white-glove service, and dressing for dinner is still de rigueur.

The Cunard Insights program attracts high-profile people who present entertaining sessions on everything from filmmaking to politics.

Long-established British line Swan Hellenic, which operates the 350-passenger Minerva, has legions of fans – mainly 60-plus, well-educated and enjoying voyages to destinations that megaships often can’t reach.

River cruises in Europe and Asia are also ideal for tradition-lovers; vessels hold a maximum of 190 passengers, excursions take you to villages, towns and cities of historic and cultural importance, and the range of itineraries gets bigger by the year.

Cruise lines to consider

Ocean lines: Azamara Club Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Fred Olsen, Princess Cruises, Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery.

River lines: APT, Botanica, Evergreen Tours, Scenic, Tauck, Travelmarvel, Uniworld, Viking.

Try these

Cruise Line Swan Hellenic.

Ship Minerva.

Itinerary 16 days, Muscat to Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), March 29, 2015.

Fare From $2155.

Cruise Line APT.

Ship AmaReina.

Itinerary 15 days, Amsterdam to Budapest, departures March-December 2015.

Fare From $7795.

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“When I travel I like to learn something.”

The Cruise Director says

Choose a cruise with destinations you want to learn about and a ship that offers quality “enrichment” activities.

There are hundreds of courses and classes across an array of lines; you can make jewellery, paint, sculpt, master computer basics or advanced photography, polish your singing and dancing skills, create gourmet meals – the choice is vast.

Princess ships are renowned for their [email protected] programs; other options include Celebrity Cruises’ CelebrityLife; Crystal Cruises’ Creative Learning Institute; Holland America Line’s Explorations program; and Oceania’s Bon Appetit Culinary Centre and the Artist Loft.

Some lines also offer detailed “behind the scenes” tours of the ship bridge, galley, theatre and (occasionally) the engine room.

Themed cruises are another way to go; if you want to immerse yourself in gardening, say, there are cruises that visit famous gardens and host expert lecturers in horticulture – and your fellow passengers will be just as keen on gardening as you are.

Cruise lines to consider

Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.

Try these

Cruise Line Princess Cruises.

Ship Diamond Princess.

Itinerary Nine days, round-trip from Tokyo, July 8-16, 2015.

Fare From $1869.

Cruise Line Oceania Cruises.

Ship Riviera.

Itinerary 11 days, “Artistic Discoveries” Venice to Barcelona, May 11-22 2015.

Fare From $3060.



“I love luxury, seclusion, individual style.”

The Cruise Director says

A few days relaxing in balmy, tropical French Polynesia on a small ship that caters for sophisticated grown-ups would fulfil your cravings – we’re talking about the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin. Or you could embark on a traditional tall ship. Sea Cloud Cruises and Star Clippers operate ships that combine contemporary creature comforts with old-fashioned wind-power.

Sea Cloud has two beautiful windjammers that accommodate 64 and 94 passengers. The original ship was built in 1931 and its owners’ suites are the most ornate at sea.

Star Clippers has three tall ships, the 227-passenger Royal Clipper, and the nearly identical, 170-passenger Star Clipper and Star Flyer. All sail in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

Windstar Cruises has three vessels that have sails, although the sails are computer-controlled; and Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Ponant is similar but smaller and imbued with French chic.

Cruise lines to consider

Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Princess Cruises, SeaCloud Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Seabourn, Silversea, Windstar Cruises.

Try these

Cruise Line Sea Cloud Cruises.

Ship Sea Cloud.

Itinerary Seven days, Valetta (Malta) to Piraeus, May 18-25, 2015.

Fare From €2795 ($3995).

Cruise Line Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Ship Paul Gauguin.

Itinerary Seven nights, Tahiti and Society Islands, May 9-15, 2015.

Fare From $3995.

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“Keeping everyone from grandpa to the toddlers happy is a big call.”

The Cruise Director says

Modern resort-style ships are ideal for a multi-generational holiday – family groups whose members range in age from two to 72 are taking to the ocean in droves. Ships that carry from 1751-6500 passengers fall into this category. They offer interconnecting and quad-share cabins, kids’ clubs that cater for children in different age groups, a huge range of entertainment and activities – and spas, fitness centres, adults-only pools and sun decks.

The family-owned European cruise line MSC Cruises operates family-friendly cruises on its 12 ships – children under the age of 18 travel free when sharing a cabin with their parents.

A more unusual multi-generational cruise popular with American travellers is an educational expedition with Lindblad, whose six ships aren’t bristling with cartoon characters and high-tech toys, but offer interaction with wildlife and soft-adventure experiences in fascinating destinations that suit all ages .

Cruise lines to consider

Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Lindblad Expeditions, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Un-Cruise, P&O Cruises.

Try these

Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International.

Ship Explorer of the Seas.

Itinerary Eight nights, South Pacific, Sydney round-trip, December 16, 2015.

Fare From $US1290 ($1380).

Cruise Line Celebrity Cruises.

Ship Celebrity Solstice.

Itinerary 14 nights, Sydney-Auckland, January 5, 2015.

Fare From $1704.

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“Take me far from the madding crowd.”

The Cruise Director says

Boutique, soft-adventure and expedition ships can take you to places of peace and solitude that are often accessible only by sea.

Destinations that appeal include the Kimberley, the Russian Far East, Africa, Micronesia and the polar extremes, Antarctica and the Arctic.

Travelling to the world’s wildernesses is usually an expensive exercise, but our thirst for adventure cruising is growing, particularly for the luxury variety.

Cruise lines such as Silversea Expeditions, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant and Seabourn operate four or five-star ships that travel to remote places where you can experience encounters with ancient cultures and native wildlife, while enjoying butler service back on board.

More traditional, “hardcore” expedition companies such as Aurora, Heritage, Adventure Associates and One Ocean operate smaller, more spartan ships, often as part of scientific research programs; again, demand is high, particularly for the polar regions.

Cruise lines to consider

Adventure Associates, Aurora, Compagnie du Ponant, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, One Ocean Expeditions, Seabourn, Silversea Expeditions.

Try these

Cruise Line Lindblad Expeditions.

Ship National Geographic Orion.

Itinerary 12 days Antarctic, departing Ushaia, December 7, 2015.

Fare From $12,350.

Cruise Line Silversea Expeditions.

Ship Silver Discoverer.

Itinerary 10 days, Norway to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, July 2-12, 2015.

Fare From $9050.

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As a wise person said to me when I was a child, only boring people get bored. You can do as much or as little as you like on a cruise. Apart from stops in different ports, which you will have a day or more to explore, there are plenty of activities on board. Whether you enjoy a rigorous gym workout, relaxing in the sun with a cocktail and a good book or learning a new skill, there’s bound to be something to suit. Check out what activities different cruise lines offer, before you book.


Going on a cruise doesn’t mean you are confined to a cabin. Whatever size ship you’re on, it will have open deck space, lounges, restaurants, cafes, a pool or two, a spa, a theatre, a library and an internet cafe. Even when you’re on a megaship with 3000 passengers, the ship is designed to ensure there’s plenty of space for everyone. If you think you’ll feel claustrophobic, book a cabin with a balcony. It costs a bit more, but is worth every extra cent.


Cruises of eight to 10 days are increasingly popular with young families, couples and singles, and recent statistics from CLIA Australasia show that nearly half of all cruisers are under the age of 50. Multi-generational cruising is a fast-growing trend, but on the whole it’s only well-heeled retirees who can afford longer and more expensive trips such as a world or grand cruise of 30 to 90 days.


If you’re like most people, who can resist anything but temptation, be prepared to work off a few extra cruise kilojoules. Cruises offer opportunities to indulge in delicious meals and snacks all day (and half the night), so if you’re likely to put on weight, make a deal with yourself to go to the gym, walk the decks, avoid the lifts or do whatever works for you. Meanwhile, try to avoid the buffet, remember that cocktails, wine and beer are loaded with sugar and don’t bring any “big” clothes.


Modern ships have stabilisers and often you barely feel that you’re sailing, but if you’re prone to motion sickness, be prepared. The cabins in the middle of the ship are the most stable and spending time in the fresh air helps banish queasiness. Try drug-free remedies, such as ginger pills, green apples or acupressure wrist bands, or check with your doctor or pharmacist about medication or patches.

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Advice service fails to woo couples

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Urging people to register for free relationship counselling: Kevin Andrews. Photo: GLENN HUNTKevin Andrews’ love revolution is a slow burner.

Almost all of the free relationship counselling vouchers under the Social Services Minister’s scheme to introduce more harmony in Australians’ love lives remain up for grabs.

With a limit of 100,000 vouchers available to couples, a spokeswoman for Mr Andrews urged people to register as ”soon as possible” when the scheme launched on July 1.

So far, only about 1400 couples have taken the government up on the offer, leaving about 98,600 vouchers going spare for sessions on parenting, conflict resolution and financial management.

Mr Andrews – who is a fan of regular marriage counselling himself – has labelled the initial take up ”very encouraging”. ”I believe as more people hear about this program, more couples will take advantage of the offer,” he said.

While the $200 vouchers are open to all committed couples over the age of 18 regardless of their marital status or sexuality, most people who have registered are between 25 and 34 years old and are engaged to be married.

The scheme is undergoing a one-year trial and the government is set to introduce a broader advertising campaign for the vouchers, spruiking them through bridal expos, marriage celebrants, churches, Centrelink and Medicare centres.

Relationships Australia spokeswoman Susan Visser said she was noticing couples starting to come in for counselling because of the vouchers. She said that while Australia had ”come a long way” over the past decade, there was still a stigma around counselling.

”We haven’t quite got to the stage where it’s seen as a normal thing to do that, should you be having problems in your relationship or want to enhance the relationship, you go for counselling,” she said.

Mr Andrews has argued his policy will ultimately save the government money by preventing costly divorces.

The $20 million cost of the trial has been found from savings within his portfolio.

Couples can register for a voucher at the Department of Social Services website, choose from a list of approved providers and make an appointment.

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My place

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

The bush retreat that keeps on giving.In 1964, my husband and I made a momentous decision; we spent our entire savings of £2500 on a half-completed, unlined fibro shack on three blocks of land in what was then a remote area near the back beach between Rye and Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.

There was electricity but no mains water and no bathroom; we depended on a water tank, a canvas-bucket shower and a ”long drop” toilet in the bush. Here, with our young family of four, we spent many happy holidays, swimming in rock pools, collecting shells and running over sandhills. No television but great family cohesion.

Over the years, of course, there have been many changes; we now have four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an extra block of land and even a garden shed, but in essence the place remains the same.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing my eight grandchildren enjoying all the same simple things that our own children did all those years ago, and last Christmas there was even a great-grandchild splashing in the rock pools.

Those grandchildren who have driving licences take their friends there, and every year my son hosts a golfing weekend. In spite of its simplicity and lack of luxury, the house is popular with all ages.

My most precious possessions are five dog-eared school exercise books which (beginning in 1964) contain the names and comments of all those hundreds of people who over the years have enjoyed My Place.

Send in your 250-word piece on the place that brings you joy to [email protected]老域名.au.

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Traveller deals: wellness in Thailand

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Club Med Finolhu Villas Maldives. Romania’s Poenari Castle.



Stay 10 nights for the price of eight at peaceful, luxurious Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary Koh Samui. The deal includes Hillside room, a wellness program, return flights, transfers and massage. Costs from $4400. Valid until August 24. Phone 1300 551 353. See healthandfitnesstravel老域名.au.


Pinctada Cable Beach Resort in Broome, the baby of Marilynne Paspaley, has fab features including a 25-metre lap pool. Book 14 days in advance online and receive 15 per cent off room rates. Secure transfers and spa treatments at the same time, and get 10 per cent off those.

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Four days of free child-minding and complimentary children’s meals are offered on stays at Outrigger on the Lagoon. You get seven nights for the price of four as well. From $972 for two adults and two children. Valid for stays October 7-March 31, not over Christmas and New Year. Book by August 31. See outrigger老域名/fijifamily7.


Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island is exceptional. Get four nights for the price of three when booking with Abercrombie & Kent. The deal includes a take-home hamper, a $50 spa voucher and a $50 “Bespoke Experience” voucher. The price is $6300 a couple twin share. Phone 1300 590 317. See abercrombiekent老域名.au.



The new Club Med Finolhu Villas in the Maldives has a great opening deal, two free nights in a seven-night holiday. The package includes transfers, meals, drinks and activities. Priced from $5159 a person. For sale till September 18. Valid only for stays beginning March 14. Phone 1300 887 477. See clubmed老域名.au.


Get $1000 off early bird bookings of Bentours’ Classic Antarctic Air & Cruise package. It includes flights, eight days cruising, meals, lectures, Zodiac expeditions and two nights in Chile. Priced from $11,506 a person. Valid for sale till September 2 for departures from December 2015 to February 2016. Phone 1800 221 712. See bentours老域名.au.Tourwatch


Spend Halloween in a haunted castle as part of a nine-day tour of beautiful Romania. The small-group G Adventures holiday visits Dracula’s Poenari Castle, explores Bucharest and includes a Halloween party at Hunyad Castle in Transylvania. Transport is on trains and local buses. Priced from $1699 a person twin share. Valid for sale until September 30 for travel starting October 29. Phone 1300 939 414.

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The Cruise Director: world cruises are changing

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

An Aqua Mekong cabin. Aqua Mekong lounge.

A world cruise used to be a fairly straightforward procedure: get on a ship in a northern hemisphere port (Southampton, Miami or Los Angeles), sail around the world for about 100 days, and then disembark at the same place you got on. Not any more.

These days, world cruises are divided into sectors (for those of us who don’t have a spare three months to go all the way). A world cruise might include a “grand cruise”, which is a 30 or 40-day voyage around a specific region – and not all lines that offer grand cruises offer world cruises. Then there are boomerang cruises, which combine cruises on two ships in one trip; for example, cruising from Southampton to Sydney on board QM2, then returning to Southampton on board Queen Victoria.

Here is a selection of ships that are sailing around the world, departing the northern hemisphere in January 2015:

Amsterdam (Holland America Line): 113-night world round trip from Miami; January 5-April 30. Amsterdam offers four itineraries out of Auckland and Sydney in February.

Arcadia and Aurora (P&O World Cruising): 106 and 105-night round trips from Southampton; January 6/8-April 23.

Costa Deliziosa (Costa Cruises): 115-night round-trip from Italy; January 6-May 2. Ports of call include Rio de Janeiro, Papeete, Auckland and Sydney.

Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises): 108-night round-trip from Miami; January 15 to May 4. There’s a 21-day segment from Auckland to Perth from February 20-March 13.

All three Cunard queens are sailing world cruises round-trip from Southampton; Queen Elizabeth (112 nights) and Queen Mary 2 (113 nights) leave on January 10, and Queen Victoria (103 nights) leaves on January 20. They will offer various regional segments, including QM2’s 13-night circumnavigation of New Zealand, and a royal rendezvous of QM2 and Queen Victoria on Sydney Harbour is planned for March 12.

Princess Cruises is offering a 104-night world cruise round-trip from Sydney, which leaves on May 22 and returns on September 4; it will visit 41 destinations in 28 countries.

Smaller five-star ships such as Silversea’s Silver Whisper Seabourn’s Sojourn also offer world cruises.Shipshape


LAUNCHED: 2014, the 62.4-metre luxury river ship was designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architects.

PASSENGERS & CREW: 40 passengers (double occupancy), 40 crew.

ACCOMMODATION: There are 20 30-square-metre airconditioned suites all with panoramic windows, eight with balconies; four are interconnecting.

REGULAR HAUNTS: Aqua Mekong sails with three, four and seven-night itineraries on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

PERFECT FOR: Sophisticated families with older children, couples, singles.

DINING: Michelin-starred chef David Thompson, renowned for his take on south-east Asian cuisine, is the executive chef on Aqua Mekong. Inventive menus featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients change daily. The elegant dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows and private outdoor dining is also available.

PARTYING: Enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at one of the two outdoor lounges or on the observation deck; take in a daily lecture from expert guides in the lobby lounge; book a private movie show in the screening room; spend quiet hours in the library/games room.

DOING: The ship has four boats that carry a maximum 10 passengers each on several daily excursions on the river, plus bicycles for riverbank touring. Local guides take guests to villages, temples and monasteries.

DID YOU KNOW? Aqua Expeditions was established in 2007 by founder and chief executive Francesco Galli Zugaro. The boutique cruise line operates two luxury riverships, Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon, on the Peruvian Amazon.

THE DETAILS: Fares for the seven-night cruise from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or vice versa, start at $US7000 ($7450). For departure dates, see website. Phone 1800 243 152, see aquaexpeditions老域名.



Save more than $1000 a person on a seven-night Asian fly/cruise holiday, including a five-night cruise on board Voyager of the Seas round-trip from Hong Kong. The package includes two nights’ accommodation in Hong Kong and return airfares from Australia. Costs from $1999. Book by September 10 or until sold. Phone 1300 369 848, see


UNIWORLD is offering savings worth up to $9175 on its 29-day Amsterdam-to-Istanbul cruise on board the imperial River Duchess. Choose from departures between May and October 2015; fares include beverages, shore excursions, free Wi-Fi, and start at $10,394. Phone 02 9028 5199, see uniworldcruises老域名.au.

AURORA EXPEDITIONS has new expeditions to Antarctica, on the 54-passenger Polar Pioneer, that include return airfares from Australia and accommodation in Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. The 12-day expedition, departing December 6, starts at $14,595. Phone 02 9252 1033, see auroraexpeditions老域名.au.Tip

It’s not too late to see Alaska this year; if you can take off in the next few weeks, there are some excellent fares with Holland America Line and Princess Cruises until the season winds up at the end of September. There are fewer tourists in September and bargains to be had in the souvenir shops. If that’s a bit too last-minute, check out shoulder-season cruises in May, when it’s often less rainy than in summer and fares cheaper than high season.

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100 years since birth of baby clinics

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Babies benefit from specialised clinics: The introduction of the health centres has significantly reduced the infant mortality in NSW. Photo: Janie Barrett Parenting evolved in life of baby clinics: Nurse Jenni Jones with 8 month old Ethan his mum Sharlene Pasqual. Photo: Janie Barrett

The bundles arrive as they always have.

Squawking, sleeping, starving or stuffed, mostly loved, often confounding, nothing about babies has changed in the 100 years since the first baby health clinic opened in NSW, but “parenting”, as it is now known, has washed through fad after fad.

Irene Macadie watched the mothers who brought their babies to the clinic morph from stay-at-home wives with lots of close family support and exposure to other babies when she started working as a baby nurse in 1955, into working women, unfamiliar with babies and living far from their own parents when she retired in 1994.

They worried always about settling their babies, but the later mothers were more anxious about their babies’ development, and the general tiredness that afflicts all mothers had funnelled into a single question: “When will my baby sleep through the night?”

“That’s probably the biggest question,” Ms Macadie said.

“Over the years it seemed to be an expected thing.

“Mothers who had been very much on top of their careers I think expected to be able to manage the baby like they could manage their staff.”

The first baby clinic opened in Alexandria in 1914, followed by Newtown and Darlinghurst and by the 1980s there were about 500 clinics, these days known as Early Childhood Heath Centres.

The early focus was on reducing infant mortality and the nurses provided antenatal care, breastfeeding advice, growth monitoring, development, infant nutrition and teaching “the hygiene of infancy”.

In 1914, about one in 10 children died before they turned one. Today, fewer than five children per 1000 die before their first birthday.

During that time, the centres also changed their approach towards parents, from dogmatic to collaborative.

Catherine Bye started working as a baby health nurse in 1973, following in the footsteps of her mother, the director of Metropolitan baby health.

“I could see up to 20 to 40 mothers a day and we were just basically telling them what to do,” Ms Bye said.

She told mothers to breastfeed every four hours, and to give their babies boiled water if they were hungry in between.

It was not until she had her own daughter that she realised such advice was not the panacea to all baby problems.

“It was a bit of a shock to me because I’d been preaching all this. My mum used to say, ‘Babies don’t read the books’.”

The nurses these days made suggestions rather than laid down the law, and mothers took a more relaxed approach, Ms Bye said.

“But it’s important that they set some boundaries,” Ms Bye said.

Nearly 7.4 million babies have been born in NSW over the past 100 years. Health Services are celebrating the centenary of the service with events throughout the state this month.

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Liberal marginals’ donations drought amid ICAC hearings

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

“Absolutely it’s tough for us”: Garry Edwards, Liberal MP for Swansea. Photo: Dean OslandThe NSW Liberal Party has begun pairing wealthy north shore branches as fund-raising sponsors of poorer marginal seats as it prepares to defend western Sydney and central coast electorates in the election in March next year.

But as the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigation into donations resumes on Wednesday, the party has tried to downplay the blue-ribbon “adoptions”.

Liberal candidates in western Sydney and the central coast – former Labor heartlands – are reporting difficulties in soliciting donations, and face cutting back on their election campaigns because of the cash shortfall.

‘‘Absolutely it’s tough for us,” said Garry Edwards, Liberal MP for Swansea, one of the state’s most marginal seats. “People aren’t keen to give you $100 or $250.”

‘‘The mood for change isn’t there as much as in 2011 … there’s less money,’’ said Melanie Gibbons, another first-term Liberal MP, whose seat of Menai had been renamed Holsworthy.

An email sent by Hornsby Liberal Julian Leeser to local members said they had been asked to raise $85,000 for marginal seats, and Holsworthy, a seat based in Liverpool, was described as ‘‘our donor conference for the 2015 election’’.

Ms Gibbons was to visit the blue-ribbon Hornsby branch to talk about her campaign for a seat that had shifted west in a boundary change, limiting her ability to raise funds.

‘‘Note Hornsby has been allocated to assist the Holsworthy campaign,’’ the May 4 email said.

But Mr Leeser was now gagged by Liberal NSW head office, which told The Sun-Herald the email was wrong.

In a statement, a NSW Liberal Party spokeswoman said: ‘‘Seats are asked to raise funds for their own campaign and to support other seats. Other than local needs the extra funds are paid to the central party.’’

ICAC’s Operation Spicer heard in May the Liberal’s successful 2011 central coast campaign was partly bankrolled by tapping its wealthy Manly branch for donations and cheques were handed directly to Terrigal MP Chris Hartcher.

The NSW Liberal Party is understood to have tightened record-keeping practices of branch fund-raising since 2011 and a central computer system was now able to track donations.

The Liberals risked losing a swag of western Sydney and central coast seats that were won in a record swing in 2011 as voters rejected the Labor government.

But Labor was preparing to play the class card if volunteers and donations from wealthy branches were swung into the Liberal defence campaign in western Sydney electorates.

After Mr Leeser’s email was leaked to the media, the head office axed the Holsworthy ‘‘adoption’’.

‘‘Although Holsworthy was mentioned in the email, that is an error,’’ said a NSW Liberal spokeswoman. Hornsby would instead adopt Mr Edward’s central coast seat of Swansea.

Mr Edwards said his fund-raising would be limited to a ball and raffles, as there was no business community in the seaside village, which had previously voted Labor.

‘‘I will be relying on my donor branch at Hornsby to help me … If we can buy some radio time, that will be our top-end.’’

Both Mr Edwards and Ms Gibbons said ‘‘hard work’’ in the community would substitute for money. ‘‘Where we might have paid for letterbox drops, we will get volunteers to do it,’’ said Ms Gibbons.

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Film rental pioneer Dr What closes its doors after more than 30 years

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Atop a labyrinth of shelves, many still bursting with the faded covers of VHS tapes, Hollywood heroes watch over a landmark Sydney institution.

The royal-blue carpet is faded and worn after spending years underneath customers standing and scuffing their feet while deciding with which film to spend their Saturday nights.

It is on this same faded carpet that the Crisford family will spend their final month serving the good customers of the eastern suburbs who still support Dr What in Bondi Junction.

“In 100 years’ time people will try and explain the concept of a video store to someone and they wouldn’t have a clue,” said Neal Crisford, who has owned Dr What for more than 30 years with his wife, Carol, and son, Daniel.

“We are sad that Dr What is closing, but we understand. Obviously the future is online.”

When Dr What opened in 1981 it was one of the first video rental stores in Australia, arriving at the start of what Mr Crisford said was a “rollercoaster” ride for the film industry.

“In those days 80 per cent of the market was rental,” he said. “The theme of the ’80s was to stay home but go out, and it was a real treat.”

Mr Crisford reminisced fondly about the days when people would hire a movie, get some take away and stay in with the family.

From the advent of Beta and VHS to the introduction of DVD and Blu-ray, the film rental market has always been dictated by changing technology.

“Back in ’83 the VHS player was still over $700,” said Mr Crisford. “As more products came out, more people bought machines.”

DVD introduction revitalised the industry in the late ’90s, but it meant a hefty million-dollar investment for the Crisfords, because they had to replace their VHS library with DVDs.

In its lifetime, Dr What has become a hallmark for film in Sydney. There has been no shortage of actors and directors who have been its customers. Keanu Reeves, Ewan McGregor, Sam Neill and even former prime minister Kevin Rudd have graced the blue carpet.

The local customers, however, have been the real stars for the Crisford family.

“We’ve had quite a community build up,” said Daniel Crisford, who has worked at the store since he was eight years old. “We’re up to three generations of families that have come in.”

Ms Crisford said it was touching to see the community’s reaction to the store’s closure.

“We’ve had people cry,” she said. “Even though they might only come in now once every six months, before they were coming in weekly. You do get to know them. It’s sad, but things change.”

Acknowledging the changes in the industry, the Crisford family will take their knowledge of film online, but the majority of their vast collection of titles will go to Quickflix, a streaming and delivery service.

The hope is that the loyal customers of the bricks-and-mortar Dr What will follow the family online.

Dr What will officially close its doors at the end of August.

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Obesity makes pallbearing too dangerous

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Obesity takes its toll on the funeral industry: Funeral directors are running out of oversized coffins. Photo: SuppliedOne of the oldest rites of respect for the dead, the shouldering of the coffin by pallbearers, is being phased out as too risky as obesity takes its toll on the funeral industry.  As Australians become heavier, the funeral industry is being forced to change traditions, introduce automation to reduce the risk of injury and upsize everything from coffins to graves. It is now routine for funeral directors to keep a stock of oversized coffins, but even those are not big enough for the increasing number of morbidly obese who required custom-built coffins, funeral directors say. Some crematoriums and mortuaries are turning away obese corpses because they do not have the equipment to safely handle these weights, and health and safety regulations discourage manual handling. “The idea of shoulder-carrying is a major occupational health and safety issue and there are real dangers attached to that,” said Warwick Hansen, who has worked in the industry for 47 years and is a former past president of the industry’s NSW branch. “We try to discourage people from that.”

The average coffin is now 182 centimetres long, 50.8 centimetres wide across the shoulders and 33.5 centimetres deep, compared with 175x46x30 about 20 years ago. Often burial plots have to be widened from a standard one-metre width. Mr Hansen’s company recently buried a Wollongong man who was 320 kilograms. “We had to remove part of the house to get him out,” he said. Because of the dead man’s size, the service was conducted at the graveside to eliminate excess handling. “Everything was done reverently and respectfully,” said Mr Hansen, regional manager with Hansen and Cole Funerals. The man was too large to fit into a standard grave site so he was buried in a wider grave at the end of the row. “It took 10 men using straps, like lowering tapes, to lower the coffin down into the grave.” A report by the National Preventative Health Taskforce on obesity forecast that as many as 1.7 million people will die from being overweight or obese by 2050 if current trends continue. That adds up to 10.3 million lost years of life for Australians aged 20 to 74, with each fat person dying an average of 12 years earlier than he or she would otherwise, said the report.  According to Daryn McKay, the regional operations manager with Invocare in Queensland, which owns the Albany Creek memorial park, the company installed an oversized cremator because it didn’t want to discriminate against the obese by refusing to handle these funerals. It has also decided to charge the same, although some people in the industry are considering charging more. Even so, staff were “rightly nervous” about the recent cremation of a young obese man when it took eight men to lift the 320-kilo coffin including corpse, said Marcus Cowie, the general manager of Austeng, an engineering company which manufactures oversized cremators, prefabricated burial sites and moving trolleys to reduce manual handling of the deceased. Staff did a trial run supervised by Mr Cowie to ensure nothing went wrong. They filled a test coffin with bags of concrete and inserted it into a cold furnace, trying to avoid the high risk of fire that could happen if the coffin were to catch fire in a 900-degree furnace before the door was closed Disposing of the corpse took four hours, more than twice as long as the average cremation,  Mr Cowie said: “Looking back, the most dangerous thing we did that day was not putting it (the coffin) in the furnace but pulling it out of the hearse.” In Europe, several fires have been started at crematoriums disposing of the remains of obese people. Mr Cowie said Austeng’s newer models of computer-controlled furnaces were more easily regulated than the older models.  “If you put in a huge fuel load, such as a really fat person, the older ones used to take off,” he said, adding that they had “real potential to burn the place down”. Last month funeral director Joanne Cummings, of Pilbara Funeral Services, was forced to store an obese man in her car overnight with the airconditioning running full blast after a Port Hedland morgue refused to take the body. Ms Cummings then drove the body 200 kilometres back to her home outside of Karratha in Western Australia. After keeping the man cool in her car, she rented a refrigerated shipping unit to store him before the funeral.   “I had to deal with his parents, and they were horrified,” Ms Cummings said. “They wanted to have a viewing and we couldn’t do it. That’s why I spoke out, it was disrespecting him.” The threat of injury associated with handling the dead is forcing the industry to consider automating every aspect of the process, said Peter O’Meara, chief executive officer of the Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria Trust. As part of an industry wide no-lift initiative, the trust was investigating the potential for fully automated coffin trolleys that would be able to navigate the narrow and often bumpy paths in old cemeteries such as Rookwood. It already has an automated process where the catafalque (the table holding the coffin) drops below the floor to a tunnel where a conveyer delivers the coffin to the crematorium without manual handling. 148,000 Australians die each year, including about 47,000 in NSW. Three out every five Australian adults are overweight or obese. That’s more than 12 million people.1.7 milion deaths are forecast from problems associated with being overweight or obese between now and 2050.Are you obese? Check here.SOURCES: ABS, Australian Institute of Health, National Preventative Health Taskforce 2009

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