Rehtaeh’s tragedy: teen, 17, commits suicide after photo of alleged gang rape sparks bullying campaign

Rehtaeh Parsons Rehtaeh Parsons
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Parsons

Took her own life: Rehtaeh Parsons. Photo: Screen grab, CBC News

Speaking out: Leah Parsons right, wants people to be aware of her daughter’s case. Photo: Screen grab, CBC News

It was meant to be a harmless night of teenage fun: a small group of school students had gathered at a friend’s house, to talk and joke over a few drinks.

But the tragic consequences of that night more than a year ago culminated this week in the death of a 17-year-old girl, an anguished family demanding answers and a public outcry about how the Canadian justice system could have let off her alleged attackers.

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, was taken off life support at a Nova Scotia hospital on Sunday, three days after she attempted to commit suicide at her home in Cole Harbour.

Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, says her daughter was a sensitive soul who loved art, animals and had a big heart.

“Rehtaeh stood up for others, showed compassion to animals and people. She was an amazing artist. She made my life complete,” Ms Parsons wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to her daughter.

“When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her.”

On the night of the party in November 2011, Rehtaeh had gone with a friend to another person’s house, where a number of students had gathered.

Her mother alleges Rehtaeh was gang raped by four teenage boys, one of whom took a photo of the attack. That photo was then circulated around her school, sparking a bullying campaign that ended 18 months later in Rehtaeh’s death.

In an interview with CBC Radio, Ms Parsons said her daughter had drunk a lot of vodka and only remembered “bits and pieces” of the night.

She said her daughter initially kept the incident to herself and was trying to forget about it when three days later she discovered a photo was circulating among her classmates.

“She walked into school and everyone started calling her a slut,” Ms Parsons said.

She said her daughter broke down in the kitchen and revealed to her what had happened. It was then that her mother called police to report the alleged assault.

Ms Parsons wrote on Facebook that her daughter’s life soon became “so bad she had to move out of her own community to try to start anew in Halifax”, and she began to “struggle emotionally with depression and anger”.

Rehtaeh was hospitalised for six weeks when her thoughts turned towards suicide.

Police investigating the case said they had concluded that it came down to a “he said, she said” situation, Ms Parsons wrote.

She claims investigators told her that they believed the boys raped Rehtaeh, but “the proof in a court of law was difficult to gather”.

Scott MacRae, a spokesman for Halifax Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told ABCNews南京夜网 that the investigation into the alleged rape started in November 2011 and lasted almost a year.

“At the end of the … investigation, police, along with the crown attorney, concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges,” he said.

In the wake of Rehtaeh’s death, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said he was now reviewing the case.

Hacker group Anonymous has released a statement saying it knows the identities of at least two of the four boys involved in the alleged gang rape, and has threatened to release their names unless the police “take immediate legal action against the individuals in question”.

“If we were able to locate these boys within 2 hours, it will not be long before someone else finds them,” Anonymous wrote.

“We do not approve of vigilante justice as the media claims. That would mean we approve of violent actions against these rapists at the hands of an unruly mob. What we want is justice. And That’s your job. So do it.”

Anonymous has become involved in similar cases before, most famously, the Steubenville, Ohio rape case which resulted in the conviction of two high school football players.

The group also exposed the identity of a man they said was responsible for the online bullying which culminated in the suicide of 15-year-old Canadian student Amanda Todd last year, weeks after she posted a moving video detailing her plight with online bullying on YouTube.

Dr Damian Maher, a lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney who specialises in cyberbullying, said photos on social media of a young person allegedly being sexually assaulted would constitute a crime in Australia.

Anything of that nature should be reported to police, and should also be reported to the social networking sites that they appeared on, he said.

“People have rights when it comes to images of them being circulated on the internet,” he said.

He urged people who were being cyberbullied to remove contact with the perpetrators by, for example, unfriending them on Facebook.

However, that could be difficult for younger people, whose social network online was often the same as off-line.

“Young people are very susceptible to those types of taunts,” he said.

“If someone is in a situation where they’re being bullied, I think being able to turn to someone else for support and share it with another person is the most immediate way to hep a person through that.

“Counselling also may be a way to work through the issue.”

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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Swisse sidesteps ban with relabelling

High-profile vitamins company Swisse has evaded an attempt by authorities to ban its appetite suppressant product just as the group launches a push into the US featuring actor Nicole Kidman.
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The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last week cancelled the registration of Swisse’s Ultiboost Appetite Suppressant because there was ‘‘insufficient evidence to support the indications for the product and the presentation of the product was unacceptable’’.

However, the company has registered a new product with exactly the same ingredient, an extract of an Indian cactus, under the name Ultiboost Hunger Control.

‘‘We’ve changed the name but the ingredients remain the same,’’ Swisse head of media Mitch Catlin said.

Chief executive Radek Sali said: ‘‘It remains a popular product in Australia and it is on the shelf at all retail outlets.”

The company claims research shows the cactus extract significantly reduces hunger, but La Trobe University associate adjunct professor Dr Ken Harvey said there was no scientific proof the product worked.

Dr Harvey, who lodged the complaint that led to the TGA taking action, said Swisse had dropped a claim it caused weight loss but continued to argue it suppresses appetite.

Kidman is the star of new Swisse commercials promoting four other products in the company’s vitamins range.

Swisse increased its use of celebrity endorsements in 2011 after hiring Mr Catlin, who was formerly head of public relations at Myer.

As part of its publicity blitz it set up a marquee at the Melbourne Cup and hired Kidman, tennis player Lleyton Hewitt, test cricket captain Ricky Ponting, TV host Sonia Kruger and others as brand ‘‘ambassadors’’.

It was also the driving force behind last month’s visit to Australia by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, which drew saturation media coverage.

On Sunday, Swisse aired the new TV commercials starring Kidman in Australia, and the company plans to roll out a big US promotional push later this month during DeGeneres’ NBC TV talk show.

It has also been mooted as a potential takeover target, with the private equity arm of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury good maker, reportedly a possible buyer.

The company is yet to file a financial report for 2012, but company records show it made a profit of $8.8 million in 2011, up from $3.8 million in 2010, after sales surged from $56.3 million to $92.6 million.

Dr Harvey said that in practice removal of products from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods ‘‘means little’’.

‘‘It takes a long time to achieve, pharmacists and others continue to promote and sell delisted products until they are out of stock, and the companies involved invariably create and list new products with the same ingredients and only slightly modified claims,’’ he said.

‘‘All of this provides little protection to consumers who continue to be ripped off.’’

Health Department spokeswoman Kay McNiece could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning.

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Norman still leaving Broncos

There will be no backflip from Corey Norman, according to Broncos coach Anthony Griffin, who has poured ice water on rumours the fullback may stay at Red Hill after all.
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Norman, 22, has signed a lucrative three-year deal with Parramatta and will leave the Broncos at the end of the season, having been involved with the Brisbane club since he was 16.

His decision has sparked a surge in form that has helped Brisbane put a spring in their step ahead of Friday night’s derby against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.

Winning changes everything and it didn’t take long for rumours to surface that Norman was rethinking his move to the west of Sydney, with Nine suggesting on Wednesday night that the playmaker was getting cold feet.

It’s not without precedent this season. Canberra’s Josh Papalii backed out after signing a three-year deal with the Eels, leaving Parramatta fuming.

Griffin said Norman wouldn’t be following suit and the Broncos had already started planning life beyond Norman, who prefers playing five-eighth but is behind 2013 signing Scott Prince in the pecking order.

“No. We’ve moved on. As you know, there was a rumour. You blokes are always writing something about us but it certainly hasn’t come from us,” Griffin said.

“He’s made his decision. We respect that and we’ve moved on from that, as he has. The important thing for him is he plays good football, which he’s doing at the moment.

“He has been one of our best. That’s what we expect from him. We just need to keep doing that this week.”

Norman’s silky touch in the backline has come at a good time for Brisbane, given the quality of opponents they have had to deal with of late and the challenge ahead of them on Friday.

It’s also made Broncos fans realise what they will be missing. Norman has been a slow burner at Red Hill but is finally showing the class that many at the club believed he possessed.

And while Griffin has snuffed out any hope of Norman staying, there was some good news at Red Hill, with captain Sam Thaiday becoming a first-time father two days before the Queensland derby.

Thaiday and wife Rachel welcomed a baby girl early on Wednesday night, but the player will still line up against the Cowboys after training in the final preparation on Thursday morning.

The name is yet to be revealed.

“He hasn’t even got a name for her yet,” Griffin said. “He might be holding out for a Woman’s Day deal.”

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Fantasia quits Bulldogs for Hawks role

James Fantasia has become Hawthorn’s general manager of football. Photo: Vince CaligiuriWestern Bulldogs general manager of football James Fantasia has resigned and taken up the same position at Hawthorn.
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Fantasia replaces Mark Evans, who recently left for a role as football operations manager with the AFL.

Fantasia headed the Bulldogs’ football department for six years after a stint as recruiter for Adelaide between 1995 and 2007.

He previously held roles with Norwood Football Club in the South Australian National Football League, and as general manager of game development with the SANFL.

Hawthorn chief executive Stuart Fox said his club was thrilled to welcome Fantasia to the Hawks, saying his ”wealth of experience and industry knowledge will be of great benefit” to the club.

”We have been impressed with James’ leadership style and we’re confident he will fit into the high-performance culture at Hawthorn well,” Fox said.

”James is a quality operator, an outstanding character and is highly respected within the football industry, and we look forward to having him join our team.”

Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick paid tribute to Fantasia’s work in transforming its football department.

”James has played a significant role in the evolution of the Western Bulldogs Football Club, both in his role as general manager of football and as a valued part of the club’s executive management team,” Garlick said on Thursday.

He admitted to SEN radio that there was a “tinge of regret” in the departure, but his club was realistic about the AFL, where such movement between clubs was common.

He said the Bulldogs were now in the “enviable” position of having a “real depth of experience in their football department.”

“We’ve got really good coverage there,” Garlick said.

He said Fantasia’s contribution to the club would be an enduring one.

”Perhaps the greatest contribution James has made to the club is best reflected by the strength of the football department he has been integral in building and the calibre of people that have been brought into footy on his watch,” Garlick said.

He would not be drawn on speculation that former Geelong player and NFL punter Ben Graham would be a leading candidate to fill the vacancy.

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Mobile photography at fashion week

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers. Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.
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Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

Mobile photography at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia by Getty Images photographers.

THEATRE: Head over heels in lust with a married woman

‘‘Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong … The behaviour of the characters results from the fact that no one wants to be alone’’
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THE title character in An Absolute Turkey is a man who falls head over heels in love with a beautiful woman he sees on a street and follows her home, setting off an increasingly chaotic and very funny chain of events.

The man, Edmond Pontagnac, finds that he knows the woman’s husband, Crepin Vatelin, through their membership of a club.

But that doesn’t stop him from lusting after the ravishing Lucienne, even when she tells him that she would only betray her husband if she found out that he had cheated on her first.

So that starts Pontagnac, who is himself married, trying to prove the man is a two-timer.

An Absolute Turkey is a classic French farce by one of the masters of the genre, Georges Feydeau, in a 1994 translation by British theatre director Peter Hall and his wife, Nikki Frei, that has been a hit worldwide since its London staging.

Newcastle Theatre Company director John McFadden saw the Hall production in London and put the play on his must-stage list. McFadden, whose previous productions include Major Barbara and Pygmalion, has finally achieved his dream, with An Absolute Turkey beginning a three-week season at NTC’s Lambton theatre on November 17.

The play has a large cast, with several couples making their way through a hotel bedroom in its fast-paced middle act.

Rebecca Cuttance is the much-desired Lucienne, with Kel White as her adoring but not completely blameless husband. Carl Gregory is the eager but inept wooer Pontagnac, whose wife Clotilde (Marnie Long) makes an appearance at awkward moments.

A man-about-town bachelor, Ernest Redillon (Lewis Dixon), has long had his sights set on Lucienne, and promises to help her if she is in trouble.

The characters also include two couples visiting Paris, Mitzi and Narcisse Soldinac (Emma Wood and Brian Randell) and the Pinchards (Howard Rawlinson and Tracey Owens), whose paths have previously crossed those of some of the others, and a lady of the night (Tracey Gordon) who leaves her client waiting in a hotel room when she goes off with a handsome visitor.

The actors also include Greg Gascoine, Sam Watson, Craig Lindeman, Amy Wilde, John Wood, Cassie Hart and David Murray as hotel staff, police, servants and other characters.

John Wood, who is also John McFadden’s assistant director, said that with a story full of people who were cheating on others and misinterpreting the actions of others, ‘‘everything that can go wrong, does go wrong’’.

But he noted there was a very human side to the events.

‘‘The behaviour of the characters results from the fact that no one wants to be alone,’’ he said.

The characters are also often misguided.

Carl Gregory said that his Pontagnac had it in his head that he was the perfect lover: ‘‘But that’s the only place where he has that status.’’

Rebecca Cuttance sees her Lucienne as so needing her husband, Vatelin, that when she finds out he intends to cheat on her she schemes to get him back.

Lewis Dixon, as the other man lusting after Lucienne, said his Redillon wanted her because he saw her as unattainable.

Kel White, as the husband who is initially unaware that other men want his wife, said that ‘‘love prevails – maybe’’.

An Absolute Turkey opens with performances on November 17 at 8pm and November 18 at 2pm, then plays Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm, until December 1, plus a 2pm matinee on November 24.The theatre is at 90 De Vitre Street, Lambton. Tickets: $25, concession $20. Bookings: 49524958 (Monday to Friday, 3pm to 6pm).

ATTRACTION: Key cast, from left, are Rebecca Cuttance, Carl Gregory, Kel White, Lewis Dixon and Amy Wilde. Picture: Simone De Peak

MUSIC: All the week’s news

Blink-182 make bid for freedom
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ROCKERS Blink-182 have split from their record label.

Guitarist Tom Delonge took to Twitter on Tuesday to reveal that the band is now independent, uploading a snap of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart and a still from alien movie Independence Day.

‘‘Freedom!! Blink as of today, is now an independent Artist! You know what today is? Blink-182’s very own Independence Day!’’ Delonge wrote.

The group was signed to Interscope Records for the release of last year’s album Neighborhoods.

Ahlborn-Galanti arrival celebrated

SCOTS Kirk on the corner of Tudor and Murray streets, Hamilton, will host a concert at 2pm on November 4 with guest organist Peter Guy to celebrate the recent installation of a three-manual Ahlborn-Galanti organ, generously donated by Scots organist, Peter Newey.

There will be a demonstration of organ features by Ian Sell, of Pipeless Pipe Organs.

Admission by gold coin donation – all proceeds to Westcott Aged Care.

Last concert for band association

THE Hunter Regional Band Association is organising its last major event for this year. Bands in the Park will be held in King Edward Park from 11am to 3.40pm on Sunday, November 11. There will be three community brass bands, two community concert bands and two high school concert bands that will each present a program of music for free.

Doin It For The Kids event looms

DOIN It For The Kids, a concert to raise awareness of cuts to education funding, will be held at Speers Point Park on Sunday, November 11, from 10am to 8.30pm.

Organiser David Forbes has put together a line-up that includes Dave Gleeson and the Rock and Roll Brothers (Izzy Osmanovich, Steve Mac, Craig Foster and Dave Forbes will play hits from the Screaming Jets and The Angels).

Also playing will be The Blues Bombers, KISStory, Backfire, Milestones, Mr Kite, The Viper Creek Band, Punkfish, Steely Diva’s, Brian McVernon, Dave Carter, Bob Corbett and Angie Burgess.

There will also be jumping castles for the kids and food and drink vans on site.

Voices of Christmas here

ARTISTS from The Voice have collaborated for The Voices of Christmas, to be released on November 9. The artists recorded the tracks with The Voice producer, Eric J. Dubowsky.

The album includes Karise Eden singing Merry Christmas Baby, Sarah De Bono delivering All I Want For Christmas Is You, Darren Percival’s rendition of Winter Wonderland, Prinnie Stevens and Mahalia Barnes’s version of Sleigh Ride and Rachael Leahcar’s cover of Jingle Bell Rock.

Another release for Rihanna

RIHANNA will release her seventh studio album Unapologetic on Island Def Jam on November 16.

The first single from the album, Diamonds, has reached the No.1 position on iTunes in 27 countries and hit the No.1 spot on the US Billboard’s Hot R&B songs chart.

The recipient of six Grammy Awards and seven Billboard Music Awards, Rihanna has sold more than 37million albums and 146million digital tracks worldwide, and holds the record as the top-selling digital artist of all time.

Example to launch fourth album

ENGLISH singer and rapper Example will release his fourth album The Evolution of Man on November 19 ahead of his appearance at Stereosonic on November 24.

The first single from the album Say Nothing hit No.2 on the UK charts and he will release the album’s second single, Close Enemies, on November 11.

Example, whose real name is Elliot Gleave, embraced his rock side for this album and drew inspiration from music idols including adolescent heroes Blur.

He built a friendship with Graham Coxon after meeting him backstage at a War Child gig.

Coxon’s distinctive guitar playing can now be heard on four tracks on the album.

Example is dating Australian model and actress Erin McNaught and said in August he planned to propose to her within the next six months.

OperaMania coming to Newcastle

ONE of Russia’s best opera companies, Moscow Novaya Opera, will bring its theatrical production OperaMania to Newcastle next year.

With a selection of music by the world’s most celebrated composers including Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Mozart, Bizet, Rossini, Verdi, Bellini and Johann Strauss, Moscow Novaya Opera will take you on a journey highlighting some of the most loved operas of all time including The Magic Flute, Rigoletto, The Pearl Fishers, Tosca, The Barber of Seville and Carmen.

The show features 10 dynamic soloists and four dancers from the Russian Imperial Ballet in full costume and a brilliant 44-piece symphony orchestra.

There will be performances at 3pm and 7.30pm on April 14, 2013, at Civic Theatre Newcastle.

Tickets are on sale now through Ticketek.

CAROLS: Karise Eden will join with other artists from The Voice for an album of Christmas carols being released next Friday.

JEFF CORBETT: Regrets? I’ve had few

AT the end of every year I own up to columns that were regrettable and every year the cynics among you ask if I really really do regret offending anyone.
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Yes, there are such cynical people out there.

The fact is that I do regret offending anyone unfairly, without justification, undeservedly, and so you’ll understand that I have to pad out such regrets to fill this column space. It’s a problem every year.

Going simply by the number of people who claimed to have been unfairly maligned I’d have to regret my February column calling for people who sleep with dogs to be identified by a badge so we can avoid contact with them. I mean, who would want to order a sandwich from a woman who shares her bed with slobbering, backside-licking mutt with more smells and emissions than Orica on Kooragang!

I’ll say sorry when you get the badge.

Anything I write about soccer is going to offend those who see males chasing a ball around a paddock as something more than a distraction on a very dull day, and so it was when Newcastle Jets fans went from prancing around with feather boas to feeling that their heart was ripped out in April after Nathan Tinkler’s show of handing back the Jets licence. Mr Tinkler played them for the geese they are.

Unfair? No, but I do feel sorry for them.

That anyone who goes from school to university to school is going to be desperately in need of exposure to the real world is obvious to everyone but teachers, and they were projecting their annoyance when I pointed that out in late April. We listen in silence to their tales of taking work home, of arriving early and leaving late, of being terribly stressed, but their squealing that they’re underpaid was too much for me. Freshly armed with a soft degree, they earn more than new lawyers, accountants, vets, architects and pharmacists, who don’t, by the way, enjoy the automatic pay rises so treasured by time-serving chalkies.

I am sorry that I couldn’t use that column as a comprehension test for teachers.

My asserting in May that parents who allow their child to become seriously obese are guilty of child abuse upset some. Tough.

Remember the case of the two American staffordshire bull terriers that jumped the fence and very nearly killed a 19-year-old Mirrabooka woman?

Well, my stating the obvious, that we’d all be safer if dogs bred to fight and kill were eradicated, brought out those who used to argue that it was upbringing, nothing else, that had girls playing with dolls and boys with guns and swords. This time they were arguing that it was a dog’s treatment, not genes, that determined its likelihood to maul and kill.

It’s a pity they weren’t visiting the Mirrabooka woman on that day in May. And no, I’m not sorry for that either.

Moaning in July about retired old codgers in supermarket queues was definitely out of order and I apologise unreservedly.

A couple of days later I was foolish enough to question the logic of women who present themselves sexually crying foul when they’re looked upon sexually, and I copped the predictable sneers about rape being the woman’s fault then.

Still, it is women teetering about in heels and debilitatingly tight skirts who preserve their status as sex objects, not men, and I don’t know how I can apologise for that. And I don’t want to.

And explaining a fortnight later that it is a smaller parietal cortex that prevents most women from reverse parking efficiently didn’t make them feel any better about me. The parietal cortex is the part of the brain involved in the perception of space, not that such science matters to women who can’t reverse park. OK OK, sorry. A bit.

Sending an overweight Leisel Jones to swim in the Olympics was about as sensible as sending a smoker to run the marathon, and the truth of this didn’t appease the fatties, either. But nothing a tub of chips with gravy wouldn’t fix.

My biggest regret? Running out of time this year to again point out the idiocy of those who believe skin graffiti gives their life meaning.

OPINION: City scores high with world-class events

IF you could give Newcastle an award for having a world-class feature, what would it be? World-class beaches? Definitely. World-class recreation areas? Without a doubt. A world-class place to live, work and play? For sure.
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But world-class events? It is probably not the first thing that springs to mind about Newcastle. But it should be.

The people of Newcastle have mastered the art of celebration. And the city has now been globally recognised, by the International Festival and Events Association (IFEA), for its ability to stage world-class festivals and events.

The IFEA awards recognise the best in community leadership as well as festival and event partnerships around the world.

Newcastle has been awarded the accolade of 2012 World Festival and Event City in the category of cities with a population under 500,000 people.

Sydney also took out this year’s award in the category for cities with a population of more than 1million. This is unexpected – but a great honour.

Cultural tourism is a growing market, and Newcastle is in an excellent position to take advantage of these opportunities.

Festivals and events create tremendous community and economic capital. And any city needs support from the local community to sustain existing festivals and events, let alone attract and encourage new events.

Newcastle can now fly an internationally recognised flag to show that we have the capacity to provide an environment conducive to successful festivals and events.

Our award bid was prepared by the City of Newcastle and Destination NSW. It featured events such as the Fat as Butter music festival, Surfest, a rugby union Test match we hosted in 2012, the Australian National Beach Volleyball Championships, the Nutri-Grain Iron Man Series, the Australian Surf Rowers League Championships, the NSW State Netball Championships, Civic Theatre’s Inspirations season, and exhibitions at Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Art Gallery. These provide just a snapshot of what we are capable of.

The state government, council, event partners, local industry and community groups, all play a major role in the success of events staged in Newcastle and the Hunter.

Newcastle received nearly 3.3million visitors in the year ending March 2012, of whom around 6.7per cent arrived specifically to attend an event.

With this new emphasis on developing existing events and attracting new major events, we are reaping the benefits of an industry worth about $700million to local economies.

The success of events and festivals in Newcastle is due in no small part to the strong support provided by local residents, volunteers and non-government organisations.

Newcastle embraces events, and the local community consistently goes out of its way to provide many of the services necessary for success. The Hunter Volunteering Centre (HVC) in Newcastle provides direct support to event organisations and encourages and empowers volunteers to contribute. For example, more than 128 student volunteers helped to make Surfest 2012 a success.

The Newcastle business community provides outstanding sponsorship support for major events, whether as financial investment, services ‘‘in kind’’, marketing and media expertise, or event brand enhancement.

The major events of Newcastle could not survive without strong sponsorships. Although this generally comes from international and national companies, local businesses of all sizes in the Newcastle area regularly sponsor events – either financially or through providing services or products.

In 2013 Newcastle will host the Asia Pacific Special Olympic Games, in which 28 countries will compete in a week-long program of events. An estimated 5000-plus visitors will inject more than $21million into our local economy.

The city is also working on attracting more high-profile international events to add to its major events roster.

Our challenge for the next decade is to ensure that we can host events and festivals.

We also hope to attract new tourism operators to the city. This will in turn help build our range of accommodation, activity and destination options.

Phil Pearce is general manager of the City of Newcastle.

LETTERS: Sad events need welcoming room

We are writing in response to comments by Robyn Cotterell-Jones, of the Victims of Crime Assistance League (‘‘Intimidating interview’’ Letters 22/10).
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Ms Cotterell-Jones expressed concern that the interview room at the new office of the Newcastle Joint Investigation Response Team (JIRT) appeared to be ‘‘sterile and cold’’ and devoid of ‘‘toys and colourful appointments’’.

We want to assure people that the facility is child-focused and child-friendly.

It houses a staff with many years’ experience and dedication in the field of child-abuse investigation. The welfare of children attending our office is our number-one priority.

It was also a key consideration in the design of the new facility.

While the waiting room is brimming with toys, books, colouring-in pencils and DVDs, we purposely keep those items to a minimum in interview rooms.

When interviewing children, our job is to find out important details that will help protect them from further harm and put their abusers before court. That could be difficult if a child was distracted by toys.

And there is only ever one interviewer in the room with a child. If he or she wants, a support person can also be present. Our focus is to make the process as non-threatening as possible.

We encourage anyone with information about child abuse to report it via Crime Stoppers, on 1800 333 000 or the Child Protection Helpline, 132 111.

Newcastle Joint Investigation Response Team

NSW Police Force