Two of the bureaucrats tasked with leading Victoria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic claim they were not involved in placing private security guards at quarantine hotels.
Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantining of returned travellers led to the state’s horrific second wave, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of elderly Victorians.
On Thursday, two former state controllers in the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason Helps and Andrea Spiteri, both claimed they had no role in deciding on the employment of the private security firms.
The inquiry has been running for near on a month, with no-one yet to claim responsibility for the disastrous decision.
Quarantine breaches involving private security guards seeded 99 per cent of Victoria’s deadly second wave of COVID infections, which in turn has led to more than 700 deaths of the elderly.
On Thursday, the inquiry heard there was initially confusion over exactly who was in charge of the hotel initiative.
Top bureaucrats tasked with leading Victoria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrea Spiteri and Jason Helps (above), claim they were not involved in placing private security guards at quarantine hotels.
The inquiry heard there was confusion over who was in charge of the hotel quarantine
Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantining of returned travellers led to the state’s horrific second wave, which affected hundreds of elderly Victorians
On March 29, a Department of Jobs executive made an urgent request for Victoria Police to be stationed in hotels on the first night of hotel quarantine.
Claire Febey emailed Mr Helps, who was then state controller, and asked police be stationed at hotels 24-hours a day.
‘We request that Victoria Police is present 24/7 at each hotel, starting from this evening,’ she wrote.
‘We ask that DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] urgently make that request as the control agency.’
The inquiry heard that request resulted in a series of meetings that went on for days, none of which resulted in police being placed inside the hotels.
Instead, police were tasked with patrolling the surrounding areas of the hotels where they could be called in by security guards if contacted.
Documents provided to the inquiry revealed private guards were under the initial impression that police would be on site at the hotels.
In a document titled ‘Core duties at the hotel’, private security were advised their role would be to support DHHS staff and Victoria Police.
They were further advised ‘Victoria Police officers will be present at the hotel to meet quarantined guests on their arrival’ at the hotels.
Ms Spiteri, who would later replace Mr Helps in the top job, told the inquiry she had asked that police be present at the hotels.
‘My personal view is that it would have been preferable to have a small Victoria Police presence at every hotel 24/7 in addition to private security, but not to replace private security entirely,’ she stated.
‘Ring of steel’ imposed around Melbourne after lockdown restrictions eased in regional Victoria
Drivers are pulled over at checkpoints as restrictions eased in regional Victoria
‘I believe the Department’s staff would have felt safer in the hotels if this had been in place, and in turn, returned travellers would not feel intimidated or alarmed by a full Victoria Police presence on every floor.’
Ms Spiteri added that she thought a 24/7 police presence at quarantine hotels may have been helpful in setting an example for security staff as to appropriate behaviour, ‘or potentially acting as a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour’.
Reports of private security guards behaving badly have circulated for months, with allegations ranging from them sleeping on the job to sleeping with quarantined hotel guests.
Ms Spiteri said she had expressed her view verbally on several occasions to other departmental executive staff, but could not remember exactly when she had done so.
Document outlining rules and responsibilities for hotel quarantine in Victoria
She further told the inquiry that the use of Australian Defence Force personnel could not be requested while the state had access to adequate resources of its own to deal with the hotels.
‘In other words, Victoria, along with all other States and Territories must exhaust local resources before ADF assistance can be formally requested,’ she stated.
‘Decisions on the role of the ADF in the Hotel Quarantine Program had been made by others early in the initial planning of the Program, and I did not consider it was within my authority as State Controller – Health to change those decisions.’
Ms Spiteri said while she considered using ADF in late June, she did not think they were an appropriate solution long term.
She told the inquiry while returned travellers were ‘overwhelmingly cooperative and compliant’, she had been alerted to non-compliance from security guards, through unwillingness or simple lack of understanding.
Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton and his predecessor, Graham Ashton, will appear before the inquiry later today.
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Husband reunited with missing wife after she got in the wilderness for three nights
An elderly hiker has been reunited with her husband after being lost on Queensland’s Fraser Island for three nights.
Madeleine Nowak, 73, was found alive and well on Sunday morning after she became separated from a tour group on the island’s Great Walk on Thursday.
After spending three nights sleeping rough, she walked from the scrub onto Eastern Beach, about 7km from where she got lost, and approached campers for help.
Acting Inspector Brooke Flood said Dr Nowak’s reunion with her husband was ‘extremely emotional’.
Elderly hiker Madeleine Nowak, 73, (pictured) was rescued and reunited with her husband on Sunday after being lost for three day’s on Queensland’s Fraser Island
‘Everybody involved in the search effort was just so relieved. It’s been a really, really long three days,’ she told reporters.
LifeFlight’s Brent Morgan said Dr Nowak left the trail after coming across a fallen tree on the track.
She decided to go around it before becoming disoriented and unable to rediscover the path.
‘The last few days she’s been heading east,’ Mr Morgan said.
A land, air and sea search and rescue commenced on Thursday evening and continued throughout Friday and Saturday.
Dr Nowak got lost after coming across a fallen tree while with a hiking group on Fraser Island’s Great Walk on Thursday
Those searches were halted at night and restarted each morning at first light.
Dr Nowak knew air crews were looking for her but was unable to wave them down in difficult terrain.
‘The bushland’s very dense and very thick,’ Insp Flood said.
‘The missing person actually said she heard choppers overhead but because of the canopy she just couldn’t get their attention.’
Dr Nowak is believed to have walked 6-7km from where she was last seen, making it harder for authorities to pin down her whereabouts.
Police have reminded adventurers to stay put if they become lost or disoriented to aid rescue efforts.
‘If you stay as near as possible to where you have gone missing, the chances of you being located during a search dramatically increase,’ Insp Flood said.
Dr Nowak is in good health and expected to be released from Hervey Bay Hospital after undergoing precautionary checks.
Dr Nowak survived on food and water rations before emerging onto the Eastern Beach, about 7km from where she got lost, and approached some campers for help
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‘I knew she was gone’: Mother’s heartbreaking reaction after running over her 17-month-old daughter
The grieving parents of a baby girl who died after being run over by the family’s 4WD have told of how they broke the devastating news to her young sister and brother.
Anna Seagren, aged 17 months, was killed when she was hit at the family’s farm on Victor Harbor Road in Mount Jagged, South Australia, at about 3.45pm on Friday.
‘I saw her as soon as I made the mistake so I knew that she was gone,’ said heartbroken mother Jessi Seagren.
Beautiful toddler Anna Seagren, 17 months, was killed when she was accidentally run over by her parents’ 4WD in Mount Jagged, south of Adelaide, South Australia on Friday
Parents Danny Seagren (left) and Jessi (right) told of the devastating moment they had to break the news to their other young children that they would never see their baby sister again
Jessi had taken the vehicle to pick up her eldest daughter, Grace, from the bus stop when the tragic accident unfolded.
South Australia Police said late on Friday night that paramedics had tried to save the girl at the scene, but sadly she could not be revived.
Jessie and her husband, Danny, then had to face the unbearable task of telling their other young children Grace, five, and three-year-old Jack that they would never see their little sister again.
‘We’ve told the other kids that she’s an angel now and she’s not going to come home anymore – but we can still talk to her and we love her, and that we were lucky to be her parents for those 17 months,’ Jessi told Seven News Adelaide.
Jessi and Danny reached out to warn other parents who think it can never happen to them, pleading with them to slow down, don’t rush and to give their babies an extra last cuddle.
‘We just didn’t see her come out,’ Jessi said.
Paramedics worked on Anna Seagren (pictured) but she could not be revived
Devastated mum Jessi said she didn’t see toddler Anna (pictured) come out
The parents told of how much they loved their beautiful little girl who completed their family and have said how much they would miss her.
‘She was really cheeky, really cuddly and affectionate. She was just a perfect, happy, boisterous, gorgeous girl,’ Jessi told Adelaide Now.
Shattered at their loss, the Seagrens remembered the happy tot for her cheerfulness and playful nature.
‘She loved going on the motorbikes. ‘She loved the chickens. She would chase them around,’ Mrs Seagren said.
‘(And) she loved her swimming lessons. She was learning to kick her legs.’
Anna was ‘best mates’ with her brother Jack and copied everything he did.
They said their baby girl will be ‘really missed’.
One child is run over in their own driveway across Australia each week, according to South Australia’s Department for Infrastructure and Transport.
More than a third of children aged under six who died in crashes were killed ‘off road’ in yards, car parks and driveways.
ONE TODDLER IS RUN OVER IN THEIR DRIVEWAY EVERY WEEK
In Australia, one toddler is run over in their driveway every week.
On average, seven children die each year
90 per cent of those killed aged under five
60 are seriously injured after being hit by a motor vehicle at home
70 per cent of those injured are aged under five
TO KEEP YOUR CHILD SAFE YOU CAN:
Always supervise, hold their hands, when a vehicle is to be moved
Put the children in the car when you move it
Encourage children to play in areas far from the driveway
Limit access to the driveway with fencing or gates
Know your car’s blind spots
Source: South Australia Department for Infrastructure and Transport website
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Was Ned Kelly the last samurai? Japanese warrior’s costume could have inspired bushranger’s armour
The armour worn by bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang 140 years ago might have been inspired by a Japanese samurai suit tucked away in a regional Australian museum.
The Kelly Gang famously wore suits of armour fashioned from ploughs when they went into their final battle with police at Glenrowan in north-east Victoria.
Ned’s steel protective outfit attracted international attention after the gang’s violent demise in a hail of bullets and fire and has become an iconic Australian image.
But exactly what inspired Kelly and his gang to wear armour and how it was made has been speculated on for more than a century.
Six years before the Glenrowan gunfight thousands of spectators had gathered at nearby Beechworth for a carnival which featured a colourful parade of costumes.
And among those to take part in that great November 1874 carnival was a Chinese gold miner wearing a samurai suit.
The armour worn by bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang 140 years ago might have been inspired by a Japanese samurai suit (pictured) now on display at a regional Australian museum
The Kelly Gang famously wore suits of armour fashioned from ploughs when they went into their final battle with police at Glenrowan in north-east Victoria. Ned Kelly’s armour is pictured
The Kelly Gang’s armour protected the bushrangers’ heads and torsos but not their lower arms and legs. Two suits of armour are pictured after the seige at Glenrowan in June 1880
The large local Chinese community had sent hundreds of pounds to their homeland to purchase banners, costumes and ceremonial weapons for the carnival the previous year.
That memorabilia, including the Japanese armour, arrived on the ship Onward at Port Phillip Bay from Hong Kong and travelled overland to Beechworth.
The samurai suit, from the Edo period (1603 to 1868), featured cylindrical breast plates, shoulder pieces and aprons, as did the armour Kelly wore at Glenrowan.
His best mate and future Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne was from Beechworth and would have been almost 18 when he likely attended the carnival.
Kelly himself could also have seen the Japanese armour as he lived in the same district, was not in jail at the time, and was a month shy of turning 20.
Byrne, a regular opium smoker, had many friends among the Chinese miners, was interested in their history and customs and could speak conversational Cantonese.
After Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were killed and Ned Kelly captured at the Glenrowan seige their armour was mixed up for years. It was re-assembled early this century. Left to right is the armour word by Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart
Police had found five bullet marks on Ned Kelly’s helmet, three on the breast plate, nine on the back plate and one on the shoulder. His armour is pictured left. The samurai suit (right) has been held at Beechworth’s Burke Museum since 1943
However, he was apparently not keen on Kelly’s later idea to don armour for the gang’s last stand at Glenrowan in June 1880.
The heavy armour – Ned’s weighed 44 kilograms – protected the bushrangers’ heads and torsos but not their lower arms and legs. Only Ned’s suit had upper arm plates.
Byrne, Ned’s brother Dan and fourth gang member Steve Hart all wore armour under their oilskin coats at Glenrowan and were killed during the gun battle with police.
‘I always said this bloody armour would bring us to grief,’ Byrne reportedly told Kelly during the siege.
Ned survived but was hanged on November 11, 1880. Police found five bullet marks on his helmet, three on the breast plate, nine on the back plate and one on the shoulder.
The samurai suit is now held at Beechworth’s Burke Museum where guide Graeme McIntosh tells visitors it would have been widely noted at the 1874 carnival and remembered for years.
‘We also know that Joe Byrne was friendly with many of the local Chinese because of his opium addiction and probably had ready access to the armour for close scrutiny,’ he said.
Ned Kelly is pictured left shortly before he was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on November 11, 1880. Joe Byrne (pictured) was Ned Kelly’s best mate and a well-read opium smoker
Thousands of Chinese miners came to Beechworth during the gold rush
The 1850s Victorian gold rush saw thousands of Chinese miners converge on Beechworth, 280km north-east of Melbourne.
Mining camps sprang up as gold was discovered at Spring Creek, Reedy Creek, Silver Creek, the Nine Mile Creek and Woolshed Valley.
At the height of the Ovens Goldfields rush, the Chinese population in Beechworth was about 7,000 out of a total of 30,000 to 40,000 people.
Colonial prejudice meant the Chinese were not allowed to live in Beechworth.
Instead, the town had a permanent Chinese camp, temple, shops and a section of Beechworth Cemetery where some 2,000 Chinese were buried.
Towers built at the cemetery in 1857 were used by relatives and friends for burning paper money in memory of the dead.
A memorial in recognition of the Chinese contribution to society in Australia was erected in the Chinese section of the cemetery n 2010.
Source: Explore Beechworth
‘It has been said that the construction contained wood and bamboo but this is incorrect as the construction consisted of leather and metal.’
Ian Jones, the late Kelly expert and author of the definitive biography Ned Kelly: A Short Life, believed Byrne had seen the Japanese suit, which he wrongly described as Chinese.
‘Even though Joe didn’t like the idea he may have helped design the suits – basing the body armour… on a set of ancient Chinese armour imported for the Beechworth carnival of 1874… ‘ he wrote.
Tom Thompson is a historian who has described and verified Kelly memorabilia for leading auction houses and published three historical books on Ned.
‘Joe Byrne was well read and literate,’ Mr Thompson said. ‘He had several Chinese friends from his early teens, so it is highly likely that Byrne was party to the 1874 Beechworth event.
The Kelly Gang seized the town of Glenrowan in the Warby Ranges on June 28, 1880 with failed plans to derail a police train coming from Melbourne. Kelly (in sketch above) confronted police in a suit of armour but was shot in the legs
‘Considering what the basic armour looks like, it is pretty clear that the Kelly armour had the pattern of the Japanese, with the addition of the full helmet.
‘If this piece went to auction, with the Byrne link, it would sell for $30,000 to $40,000.’
Dan Kelly’s armour consisted of a breast plate, back plate, apron and helmet
Jones suggested Kelly may also have been inspired by something he read in his favourite book, Lorna Doone, a historical romance novel by R.D. Blackmore published in 1869.
That book includes a memorable passage in which a notorious band of outlaws rides with their plunder back to a valley stronghold.
‘Heavy men and large of stature, reckless how they bore their guns or how they sate their horses, with leather jerkins and long boots, and iron plates on breast and head,’ it says.
Mr McIntosh suggested yet another theory. ‘Like all Kelly stories there is always a contrary anecdote to muddy the waters,’ he said.
Descendants of German/Austrian miners from Beechworth claim the Kelly armour design was taken from a European Cuirassiers outfit of helmet and breast plate worn in the same 1874 procession.
‘But this outfit was worn by mounted cavalry and did not use the plate worn as protection for the groin area that the samurai warrior did and is represented in the Kelly armour,’ Mr McIntosh said.
‘So it would appear that the samurai armour has the greater claim to being used as the design model.’
Paul O’Keefe’s great-great grandmother Ettie Williams was Steve Hart’s younger sister and according to family lore, Ned Kelly’s fiancee or wife.
‘I’m not convinced that the Kelly Gang armour was inspired by Japanese samurai armour seen at a parade some years earlier in Beechworth,’ he said.
‘To the point, this theory is totally contradicted some six years later when Joe Byrne was overheard at the siege at Glenrowan yelling at Ned Kelly, “I told you this bloody armour would bring us to grief”.
‘This conversation was overheard after the initial volley of shots were exchanged between the Kelly Gang and the police.
‘So in my opinion, the armour was Ned’s idea. Who or what really did inspire the building of these iconic armours we will never know.
‘But I do know it was an ingenious use of what they had at hand to protect themselves against the latest state of the art weaponry the police had at that time.’
Amateur historian and Kelly enthusiast Bill Denheld also cited the Byrne quote from Glenrowan as evidence the armour was not his idea. But he still thought the samurai suit was significant to the story.
‘Joe lived in the area and very likely Ned, Dan and Steve Hart as well attended the Beechworth carnival,’ Mr Denheld said.
Tour guide Graeme McIntosh said it was a mystery how the samurai suit (pictured in case) found its way from Japan to China but it may have been souvenired after a skirmish in Korea
A police officer adjusts the helmet of Dan Kelly’s armour which is displayed alongside that of Steve Hart at the Victoria Police Museum. Ned Kelly’s armour belongs to the State Library of Victoria and Joe Byrne’s is in private hands
‘Their seeing war armour from the ancient Orient would have made an impression on any young person especially those that were of lower classes, which the British autocracy wanted to retain.’
Items featured in the 1874 parade and subsequent carnivals were donated to the Beechworth District Hospital and Ovens Benevolent Society committees in 1910.
The hospital committees gave the suit of armour, banners and ceremonial weapons to the Burke Museum in 1943.
Mr McIntosh said it was a mystery how the samurai suit found its way from Japan to China in the first place but it may have been souvenired following a skirmish in Korea.
‘The samurai cause was lost with the banning of the armour by Japanese law in 1876,’ he said.
‘Little did they know that a folk hero would resurrect the tradition four years later in a little known town called Glenrowan on the other side of the world.
‘Like the samurai warrior Kelly’s cause was also lost, but dare I say it, Ned Kelly was the last samurai.’
How four outlaws in armour rode their way into Australian history
Ned Kelly (pictured) led a gang of outlaws including his brother Dan, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart
The Kelly Gang – Ned Kelly, brother Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart – caused havoc across Victoria’s north-east in the late 1870s.
Descended from Irish convicts and immigrants, they were supported by other poor farming families persecuted by police and downtrodden by colonial rule.
In October 1878, after the Kellys’ mother had been arrested, the gang shot dead three policemen who had been hunting for them at Stringybark Creek.
In December 1878 they held up a station near Euroa, taking its occupants hostage. The next morning they robbed the local bank after cutting the town’s telegraph wires.
In February the following year the gang took over Jerilderie in southern New South Wales for three days, robbing the bank and locking the local police in their cells.
Back in their home state Ned decided the gang would need armour for his further plans of robbing more banks and rebelling against authority.
He chose to fashion the armour from plough mouldboards – broad and slightly turned steel blades that sit above and behind the cutting edge, or share.
The armour was designed primarily for close-range action on foot but could be worn on horseback.
There is some dispute about whether the four suits were made by sympathetic blacksmiths, fashioned by the gang using a bush forge, or a combination of both.
Once armoured, the gang seized the town of Glenrowan in the Warby Ranges on June 28, 1880 with plans to derail a police train coming from Melbourne.
Byrne, Dan Kelly and Hart were killed in a siege waged from the Glenrowan Inn and Ned, whose armour had saved him from death by police bullets, was captured the next morning. He was hanged on November 11, 1880.
Ned’s suit is now owned by the State Library of Victoria. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart’s armour is held by Victoria Police and Byrne’s is in private hands.
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